Self Storage’s Smart Future

Jana Haecherl of storEDGE details how technology is transforming the sector and offers a market outlook.
Jana Haecherl, marketing communication specialist, storEDGE
Jana Haecherl, marketing communication specialist, storEDGE

Self-storage facilities used to be defined as dull, old warehouses. Today, technology is opening up new opportunities for both owners and renters. Due to the thriving high-tech world, it’s now possible to talk about smart storage units, cloud-based access control and other automated features.

Commercial Property Executive interviewed Jana Haecherl, marketing communication specialist at storEDGE, a Kansas-based storage company serving more than 4,000 facilities around the world. Haecherl talked about how technology is reinventing the industry and also revealed her predictions about where self-storage technology is heading.

What kind of technologies are popular in the self-storage industry?

Haecherl: Automated time-savers like smart storage units, cloud-based access control, online move-ins and reservations and automated tenant communication—like texting and emailing—are really popular in the industry right now, especially among owners with unmanned or remotely managed properties.

Please list a few of the benefits automation brings to the business.

Haecherl: There are tons of benefits to automation. Owners can manage their business with less overhead and eliminate costly errors through automation and also reduce their potential legal exposure. Automation that improves security like smart storage units and cloud-based access control gives owners great flexibility when it comes to remote management and can improve their on-site safety and deter crime. Additionally, automation frees up time and reduces busy work for managers, so it is great to see brands embracing technology to improve their day-to-day processes.

How does storEDGE’s recently introduced Cloud Access Control work? Please point out some details about the system’s security.

Haecherl: storEDGE Cloud Access Control is a cloud-based access control system that is seamlessly integrated with storEDGE facility management software. Because it’s completely cloud-based, all tenant and unit data transfers and syncs with the software instantly and owners can automatically send delinquent tenants an SMS message with a payment reminder and link when they try to access their unit. Then, that tenant can pay their delinquent balance from their phone while sitting at the gate and their access code will work immediately—since it’s a cloud-based system, there is zero lag time. The in-software tools also allow owners and managers to track and monitor entry activity, check gate status and grant entry access from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

(The system) improves security by bringing all facility access data directly to owners and managers in their software using detailed access logs and pop-up notifications that let users know when anyone attempts to enter an access code.

What are the costs of implementing such technologies?

Haecherl: Pricing can vary, but there are affordable technology solutions for every facility size and budget. If you’re trying to make every dollar stretch, it’s important to seek out vendors who offer connected solutions to save on integration costs, fees and setup.

What are the main challenges in the self-storage sector at the moment?

Haecherl: Owners are struggling with consistency between disparate technology platforms. New technology in self storage has led to an influx of data, but right now it’s difficult for owners and managers to bring it all together in a useful and meaningful way that can propel their business forward. Along with that, overbuilding and a saturated storage market have made online competition even tougher for small brands, meaning creative online marketing is more important than ever before.

How do you see self-storage technologies evolving?

Haecherl: In the future, we can expect to see more integration among technology solutions such as the blending of security tools like surveillance cameras and unit alarms, marketing tools like paid advertising and targeted online rates, and property management tools like smart smoke alarms and Nest thermostats into facility management software. With the growing interest in remote property management, owners are also consistently seeking more automation in their day-to-day tasks like move-ins and overlocking, so we can expect to see more innovation in that area.

Tell us your predictions for next year in regard to the self-storage business.

Haecherl: In 2019, competition will be even more fierce—owners are going to be focusing more than ever on marketing their business online and creating a winning business strategy to stand out from the crowd. With that, we can also expect to see more emphasis on improving the tenant experience with things like easy-to-use online tools, improved customer service, manager training and automated communication like email and text reminders.

We also expect to see even more connectivity among owners’ disjointed technology solutions, making it easier than ever before for them to make educated business decisions and save time while working on everyday tasks.

Image courtesy of storEDGE