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Geointelligence: The killer app for the self-storage industry

By Corné van Rooyen, Head: Residential, Commercial, Education, Hospitality, Mixed-Use

A lot has been written about how technology has changed various industries. In particular, the data generated by these technologies has formed the foundation of these disruptions – and even industries that people would never have expected are using different kinds of data to gain a competitive edge. The self-storage industry is one of them.

Self-storage may not seem like a high-tech industry, but it has jumped on the benefits technology can offer. From improved marketing, to reduced risk of theft and minimising vacancies, self-storage operators have been leveraging data-driven solutions to optimise their operations.

In addition, self-storage has become a globally recognised and specialised property investment. Data, in the form of geolocation data, is therefore becoming increasingly important to the setup and construction of self-storage facilities. The need for storage units is increasing as older generations downsize and younger generations build new homes. In order to match this growing demand, real estate investment trusts (REITs) have poured an enormous amount of capital into constructing hundreds of thousands of new square footage.

Data-driven decisions

Storage unit operators can base decisions on the abundance of data available to them. Many storage facilities can track data related to daily activities, rentals, income and sign ups. This allows tracking of profitability, and since customers can now easily rent their own units from their phone, complete the checkout process and even request a pickup of their items, the volume of data being collected means that self-storage operators can gain even more insights to grow their business.

Similarly, the choice of where to base a new self-storage facility relies on data-driven decision-making. Many facilities are built on land in areas where a need for additional storage in the area has been identified, but that identification is usually based on anecdotal evidence or incomplete research. Without using the whole range of geointelligent data available to developers and self-storage operators, and new development runs the risk of staying empty.

In the past, doing the legwork to investigate a potential self-storage site was cumbersome. Once a parcel of land met some basic criteria, a developer would spend days doing additional research before he’d be ready to make a purchase offer or pay for a feasibility study. Fortunately, geolocation data has significantly improved the speed by which we initial research on prospective projects can be performed.

Some of the geolocation data available to help the decision-making process includes data on existing facilities in the area, the location of competitors, drive-time maps, and specific information about the population in the area. Self-storage demand varies from province to province and even area to area, so having a good understanding of customers is essential to success.

Predicting profit

One of the biggest advantages that geointelligence can offer self-storage site owners or operators is being able to forecast how renters are going to behave. In a business that relies on a constant flow of regular monthly rental income, understanding customer trends can offer new opportunities for growth.

Geolocation data can add to internal data sets to provide a more complete view of customers. For example, knowing that traffic in the area increases on specific days or at specific times, combined with information about when customers visit the facility and how long they tend to stay while they’re on premises, allows the business to better service customers. Knowing how and why customers behave the way they do at specific times of the week, the month, or even the year will help ensure the operation is staffed sufficiently, or when extra security measures might be needed.

Geointelligence can also help operators provide better service to prospective customers. Helping to target new customers in unique ways, geolocation data can help ensure that target audiences are marketed to in the right way, at the right time.

Despite being a mature industry, self-storage is experiencing innovations and growth that continue to make it a worthwhile investment and an interesting area to do business. Self-storage facility owners wishing to remain competitive, therefore, have to keep up with technological developments that impact their business directly. Advances in digital, keyless entry systems, web-enabled security cameras, and better, more secure types of storage unit locks that are resistant to tampering are all important weapons that a modern self-storage facility needs to have in its arsenal when it comes to keeping your customers happy.

Yet there’s another toolset that a self-storage business needs to keep its competitive edge. Geolocation. It’s often overlooked because it’s both an emergent trend and because it doesn’t seem to, at first glance, have as direct a benefit, but the truth is that there are a number of customer-focused geointelligent applications that can have a positive effect, not only helping the business gain new customers but also to keep existing ones, leading to a major positive impact on the bottom line.

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