Automation has changed the self storage experience, cutting costs for owners and providing convenience to customers. Of course, some interaction between renters and tenants is still valuable, however automation offers sophistication that’s making self storage more attractive to people of all ages. And while automating a self storage facility does take an initial investment on the part of owners, the rewards can pay off big time in the long run.
What are Automated Storage Solutions?
There are many types of automated self storage solutions, such as the NOKĒ® Smart Entry system (NOKĒ, as in “no key”). This system, and others like it, are Bluetooth electronic lock and total access control systems that allow customers to access their self-storage facility and individual self-service storage unit from their smartphone. That means no more lost keys, no more forgotten gate codes – customers simply use their phones to gain access to their unit.
There are other useful automation technologies for self storage facilities as well, such as online apps. These apps can provide owners with valuable customer data, but also allow users to pay bills, see move-in and move-out dates, report an issue via photo, view a live feed of their units, and more.
Benefits of Automated Storage to Owners
Automation may seem expensive, but it pays off in the long run when it comes to saving time and money. Here’s a look at five benefits of automated storage.
Less Overhead Costs
Getting automated can really help reduce overhead costs. Think about it: With automation, you really don’t need to maintain daily office hours (or you can reduce them significantly) because tenants can securely come and go as they choose and take care of a lot of business online. This reduces the amount of money you will spend on the payroll for employees. In addition, since there won’t necessarily be an on-site manager, there doesn’t necessarily need to be a large office or bathroom for employees either. This offers you more rentable square footage, which can be used to add more automated storage units, increasing your revenue!
Of course, if you want to run a successful retail business as well, offering self storage products such as packing and shipping supplies, this space and an employee will be necessary. In addition, someone will still need to clean out units, hold auctions, and be available via phone to deal with customer issues. With an automated facility, however, you have the option to have an off-site call center, a part-time manager who stops by occasionally, etc.
Manage Units Remotely
If you don’t have to be on your facility’s grounds all the time, you can complete your work from anywhere, such as managing unit access. If someone is past due on their rental payments, you can simply lock them out (from the main entry, their unit, or both) through your automated system. Once they’ve paid up, you can grant access once again.
You may be wondering, “what about removing the yellow lock when someone new rents a unit?” Well, with many self storage automation systems, the electronic lock sits on the inside of the door. So, when someone rents a unit on your facility’s website, they receive a digital key on their smartphone through an app that provides access to the unit. So, it’s no longer necessary to walk them to their unit and physically remove the yellow lock!
Improve Your Security
Some owners and operators feel that an automated self storage facility is more susceptible to break-ins since there’s no one on-site at most times. However, most automated systems are locked from the inside, making them virtually impossible to break into. So while it’s true someone could tailgate to gain access to a facility, once they're inside they have no way to access units and steal from them. On the other hand, paying tenants will still be able to access gates, man-doors, and elevators using their Bluetooth-enabled device. Studies show that 62% of renters are looking for appropriate security at a storage facility, and by offering this, you can attract these renters.
Enjoy Tax and Insurance Incentives
There are a few other ways automatic storage systems can save you money. For one, they can be a tax write-off, making them more affordable upfront. Then, once the installation is complete, they can save you money through insurance discounts. Several insurance agencies are willing to underwrite more favorable costs for facilities that utilize this technology as it has been proven to prevent both thefts and fires by monitoring thermal activity within each smart unit.
Smart access systems offer an excellent way to track data about unit usage. What’s valuable about that? Well, it allows you to monetize units by tenant visitation by giving owners and operators an accurate picture of daily customer activity. For example, you could increase rental rates for customers who use the facility more frequently than others. Or, you could charge higher rents for different access hours (such as $5 per month for each entry after posted access hours, or a flat $15 per month for 24-hour access).
Want to keep a manager on-site but reduce their hours to reduce payroll? Data tracking can show you the facility’s peak hours so you can adjust office hours accordingly. Even shaving off just an hour per day can really add up over time.
Benefits of Automated Storage to Tenants
Automation doesn’t just benefit owners-operators, but tenants as well – and it’s all about convenience. Consumers can do almost anything online these days, whether it be banking or grocery shopping. They’ve come to expect this from businesses, and it’s no different for self storage. Allowing tenants to rent, pay, open, and move out of their unit from their smartphone gives them the everyday comfort they are used to. Plus, they don’t have to worry about losing keys, forgetting codes, and sharing a physical key with family or friends (simply granting them temporary access online).
You may wonder if all this technology will alienate older tenants. The answer is no. While baby boomers, an important self storage audience, may like some one-on-one interaction, research into baby boomers' use of technology shows that they support digital innovation. While the pandemic helped increase tech adoption among older generations, usage of digital channels was already trending upward before COVID-19. Pew Research Center data from 2019 shows that the majority of baby boomers now own a smartphone (nearly 70%). So, don’t worry about alienating the older generations, and look forward to attracting the younger generations who expect this type of technology!
Get Automated and Grow Your Self Storage Business!
Through fully automated self storage facility systems, owner-operators can stop fixating on day-to-day issues and focus on marketing and other activities that actually grow their business. And, tenants gain the convenience of paying online for new rentals, existing rentals, and more. So, if you’re considering investing in a new facility, or you’re taking over an existing one, consider investing in automated systems. Don’t forget to download our case study, Securing Profits with Nokē Smart Entry System, to see firsthand how automation pays off!