EQT makes major investment in Storable to become the lead investor alongside existing investors, Cove Hill Partners and the Storable management team.

Austin, Texas — December, 16 2020 — Storable, the self-storage industry’s leading technology provider, today announced that global investment organization EQT has joined Cove Hill Partners and the Storable management team as an investment partner in the Storable business. The investment made by EQT’s Private Equity division, moves them into the lead investor position where they will support Storable’s continued growth and innovation.

EQT brings highly-sophisticated technology, business optimization, and digital transformation expertise — all at a global level — which will be critical as Storable moves into its next stage of growth. Through this new partnership, Storable will tap into EQT’s in-house resources, digital expertise and vast global advisory network as the Storable team continues to pursue the objective of raising the bar for product innovation and customer experience in the self-storage technology space.

As part of this move, Storable CEO, Chuck Gordon and his management team will remain in place to continue leading all business operations. Additionally, there will be no changes to operations within the Storable family of companies as a result of this partnership.

“The entire Storable team is excited to partner with EQT to continue doing what we do best – helping our self-storage owners run better businesses with technology,” said Gordon. “EQT’s expertise will enable us to further enhance our existing products and launch new technology tools to help our storage clients increase their bottom line. Our clients should expect the same high standards of innovation, data privacy, and support going forward.”

Arvindh Kumar, Partner at EQT Partners, said: “EQT is thrilled to invest in Storable. The company is a true industry leader, offering best-in-class software solutions. We look forward to providing global expertise and resources to Storable, as they continue to innovate and grow in partnership with their customers.”

William Blair acted as exclusive financial advisor to Storable on the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in 2021, subject to customary conditions and approvals. For more information contact info@storable.com.

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About Storable

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Storable offers the self-storage industry’s most comprehensive suite of technology products known as the Storable Platform. The Storable Platform delivers management software, marketing websites, tenant insurance, payments, and the industry’s largest storage marketplace all in one integrated solution, designed to help storage operators increase efficiency, enhance occupancy, and improve profitability. The Storable family of companies includes SiteLink, storEDGE, Easy Storage Solutions, SpareFoot, Select Merchant Solutions, Storsmart, and Bader Insurance. Storable is backed by EQT and Cove Hill Partners and led by Co-Founder & CEO, Chuck Gordon.

More info: www.storable.com

About EQT

EQT is a purpose-driven global investment organization with more than EUR 75 billion in raised capital and over EUR 46 billion in assets under management across 16 active funds. EQT funds have portfolio companies in Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America with total sales of more than EUR 27 billion and approximately 159,000 employees. EQT works with portfolio companies to achieve sustainable growth, operational excellence and market leadership.

More info: www.eqtgroup.com

It seems just like yesterday when your customers were discovering your business in that trusty, dense, phonebook. You remember the Yellow Pages, don’t you?. 

Fast-forward to today, and customers are finding your business online and most likely from their mobile device. A lot has changed in a short period, the world becoming more and more digital. And, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this shift toward digital has only accelerated. 

According to Alliance Data, 89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine. This means a potential customer’s first impression of your business is almost guaranteed to come from your online presence.

The Internet, and Google, in particular, has replaced the Yellow Pages. If your storage operation’s online presence isn’t maintained correctly, it could have a detrimental effect on your business. And managing this digital presence consists of two main pillars; your online listings and your online reputation. 

Successfully managing both separates you from your competition, setting you on a path to continued success. 

Benefits of Online Listing Management

SEO 

The main benefit of optimizing your listings management strategy is its impact on your SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. The general goal of SEO is to have your website appear as high as possible in the organic section of Google search results. One of the most important things Google considers in reviewing your website is current and accurate business information, such as your business name, address, and phone number (also known as NAP).

By merely keeping your listings accurate and up-to-date, you’ll be rewarded with a higher ranking on Google. It’s also worth noting that the inverse is true; if you have inaccurate NAP data across these listings, Google will count that against your quality score, potentially ranking you lower in search results.

Brand Awareness 

The more times you appear on the first page of a Google search result, the more likely a customer will have the confidence to check out your business. This is one of many ways to quantify brand awareness. If you’re appearing in the Paid Ads section, the Google Map Pack (thanks to Google My Business), and ranking high on organic search, you’re at a considerable advantage. 

Additionally, suppose you’re on all of the leading listings management websites – or apps. Even if the customer isn’t searching on Google, there’s a really high chance they’ll find you at those other locations. Another interesting stat worth considering is that Google noticed 50% of customers who conducted a local search on their mobile phone visited the store within the same day. One way or another, enrolling in listings management is gonna provide a lot of value for your brand.

Customer Experience 

Providing an excellent customer experience is really what it all boils down to when it comes to your digital presence. And it’s especially crucial during COVID-19. If you’re altering your office or access hours during the health crisis, you’ll want to make sure they’re accurate across all your online listings. If not, you risk having a customer come into your facility with no one to help them. This increases the likelihood they opt for a competitor and possibly even leave a bad review online, which could deter other potential customers. Happy customers lead to positive reviews or referrals, which leads to more business. 

Ways to Manage 

DIY

It’s possible to claim and update your local listings on your own, especially if you only own one or two locations. If you have multiple facilities, this process can quickly get out of hand. This is especially true if any of your business information changes for any of your locations. 

As for how you do it, each listing service handles the claiming or creation of listings differently, so we’d recommend visiting each website to learn the nuances, whether it’s Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, or something else. Most of them are as simple as creating an account and providing proof of ownership.

Listing Services

If you don’t have the budget or time to handle your listings management yourself, there are plenty of services and software available to manage the process. In addition to the time savings, these folks typically keep their finger on the industry’s pulse, so if you need to make a change to your listings to attract more customers, they’ll be the first ones to know.

Reputation Management 

Now, ensuring your online listings are current and accurate is only one element of managing your online presence: the other, and possibly most important piece is your online reputation. Which, when boiled down, is word-of-mouth on the Internet. 

As we’re sure you know, word-of-mouth is nothing new. In fact, it’s always been one of the most effective ways to market your business. And while positive and negative reviews of your business could spread quickly before the Internet, now they spread faster and broader than ever. And potential customers rely on these reviews more than ever in their purchasing decisions.

At the end of the day, reputation management means taking control of the online conversation. 

Good Reviews = Good Business

According to G2.com, 85% of people trust reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations. And 92% of buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review. 

Additionally:

  • 86% of consumers read reviews as part of the buying process 
  • 57% of consumers won’t use a business with fewer than four stars
  • 85% of consumers feel that reviews older than 3 months are not relevant.

It’s also important to note that positive reviews play a significant role in Google’s search algorithm, especially for local searches. 

Clearly, the better and more often reviewed your business is online, the more likely you are to attract new customers. Now, you might say that customer reviews online aren’t something you can control. This isn’t exactly right because, if you’re running a trustworthy business with exceptional customer service, well, those reviews may write themselves. 

This is crucial to remember, as reputation management is not a process to manipulate or remove bad reviews. Instead, it’s a process to encourage satisfied customers to leave good reviews while responding and attempting to resolve bad reviews. 

Want a Good Review? Ask For It 

Like we stated earlier, one of the most important ways to get good reviews online is by operating a trustworthy business with exceptional customer service. Do right by the customer, and they’ll likely do right by you. However, a common trend online is that customers who had a bad experience are more likely to leave their negative reviews versus satisfied customers leaving their positive reviews. 

So, often, your best course of action is to ask your customers for positive reviews. You can easily do so through text, email, or in-person conversation. 

Respond to Negative Reviews 

Negative reviews are inevitable. For whatever reason, people that feel slighted in one way or another are going to try and shout it from the rooftop. We all know that each customer experience is different, and miscommunication or misunderstandings will happen. Regardless of what leads to a negative review, your best plan of attack is to respond to it and resolve it. 

Firstly, that’s just excellent customer service. Secondly, other potential customers will likely see that you don’t shy away from bad reviews and are willing and able to work things out. Plus, there’s also a chance you can turn that negative review into a positive one. 

Manage Success

While the Yellow Pages still exist, that’s not where your customers are finding you. They’re typing a search into Google, like from their phone. If your business doesn’t appear near the top of said search with a positive reputation, chances are you’re missing out on their business. That’s what managing your online listing and reputation boil down to. When it’s done correctly, on your own, or through a service, you’ll continue to find your operation in a strong position to succeed and gain new business. 

Your digital marketing efforts are more important than ever. In recent weeks we’ve discussed how, even before COVID-19, consumers were far more likely to discover your business online than in-person. Throw in that global pandemic and the new normal looks more like even more of your customers will discover you online. So, it’s a no-brainer to have a solid digital marketing mix in the works for your business.

Two of the biggest pieces of any digital marketing strategy should include optimizing your SEO and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. We discuss the essentials of SEO in this webinar and this article. This piece will solely focus on PPC advertising, or Paid Search.

There are multiple search engines, but we’ll primarily focus on Google when discussing SEO and other digital marketing like PPC. Why? Google dominates the search business with 76% of all desktop searches and 86% of all mobile searches. Google is simply the best search engine for your business to gain visibility.

What is Paid Search?

Every Google search populates with three main elements. Google Paid Ads, the Map Pack, and organic search results. The paid ads section is what we’re talking about when we refer to paid search or PPC advertising. As indicated by its top-of-the-page listing, it’s incredibly valuable to be one of the first things a potential customer sees during their search. If customers are confident that your advertisement can meet their needs, why would they even scroll further?

Much like SEO, Paid Search is also a cost-effective marketing strategy but only when your website is optimized to convert leads into lease. Mostly because you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Hence, the “pay-per” terminology. We’ll dive more into how that exactly works later in this article.

Getting Started with Paid Search

The first step to launching a paid search campaign is to establish an advertising account with Google Ads. Which is organized into four components: your account, campaigns, ad groups and keywords.

Account

Your account is simply where you access everything to create and run your paid search advertising from the company level. The other components of your account are where you’ll get to work in driving visibility for your business. Your account is associated with whatever email address you set it up with, ideally your business email.

Campaigns

Your campaigns have their own budget and settings that determine where your ads appear. Within your campaigns are your ad groups, which contain a set of similar ads and keywords. Unless you’re an enterprise-level business, you will typically only run a few campaigns at once. An easy way to think of campaigns is representing your different locations and facilities. 

Ad Groups

Your ad groups are much more focused and can be categorized by which product or unit type you’re promoting. So, an ad group for smaller units and one for larger units, etc. You can have as many ad groups as you want but, again, depending on the size of your operation you’ll want to keep them at a manageable number. Ad groups contain keywords – usually about 10-20 per ad group is recommended – you can definitely have less though. These keywords will trigger your text ads and then direct the searcher to a relevant landing page.

Keywords

Keywords make up each ad group and are very important to controlling which ad is shown when someone searches Google. It’s important to do your keyword research and understand what people are actually searching for. For example, if you’re trying to promote your 10×10 units don’t rely on the keyword alone as people are likely not specifically searching for 10×10 units.

Negative keywords are an important, and often overlooked, element to paid search. They allow you to block your ads from appearing during similar, yet unrelated searches. For example, the keyword “storage” is very broad and could possibly mean your ads show up in a search for cloud storage or free storage. But labeling those terms as negative keywords will prevent your ad showing up where you don’t want it.

Customer Experience

You’ve set your budgets, created your ad groups and selected your keywords. However, you’re still not quite ready to hit launch on those paid search ads. You ultimately still need to create your ads. With paid search, that’s simply just creating the ad copy that communicates what you have to offer. When it comes to crafting your ad copy, it’s best to think of how your potential customers will experience the ad. This simply means, write copy that clearly expresses what a customer stands to gain or benefit from doing business with you. With that in mind, you’ll want to draft a number of copy options and test and test and test and then test again. There’s no way of knowing what works best until you’ve published the ad and can see results. A huge benefit of paid search is that it is a nimble enough platform that you can quickly try new ads out and see what really drives traffic.

Another thing to consider in regard to the customer experience is the landing page your ads direct customers to. This can simply be your website’s homepage, or it can be a unique landing page created specifically for your ad campaign. Either way, it’s important that the page your ads drive to include the right information as it relates to the ad they clicked on and has a strong and clear call-to-action. Preferably, a reserve or rent now option 

Bidding

This is where we get into the nuts and bolts of how and why your ads will appear when and where they do. As much as we all wish it was simply a matter of hitting on the right keywords, as is true with any advertising, it comes at a cost. And in the case of paid search, it’s a bidding process

Every time a search is entered into Google it triggers an auction to determine which ads are shown for this search. The results of that auction are based on a number of factors, each of which play a big role on whether ornot your ad is served. Those factors are your bid amount, quality score and any ad extensions. Also, these factors only come into play if the search is against any of your chosen keywords.

Bid Amount

Bids play a large role in determining whether your ad is shown for a keyword. Essentially, you’re competing against other people bidding for similar keywords. We won’t get into the specifics of bidding today because Google offers so many customizable ways to approach it. Basically, whoever is willing to pay the most per click is who will get their ad served against those keywords.

Quality Score

Google has placed more of an emphasis on relevancy over the years. And the quality score is an algorithm that scores your ads for relevancy, showing how relevant your keywords are to your ad and how closely your ad relates to your landing page content. Google’s goal here is to provide the best user experience for the searcher.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions also play into Google’s aim of providing searchers with the best possible user experience. There’s a call or phone number extension where you can list your phone number so people can call you directly from your ad. Another is location extensions which allows you to link your campaign to Google Maps or your Google My Business listing so searchers can get directions directly from the ad.

Measuring Success

As with any marketing campaign, measuring success is crucial to determine whether or not it’s working for your business. Google provides a number of tools and metrics for you to track to determine success and return on your investment. There are four basic metrics that every operator should review.

Impressions

 Impressions are when someone searches for one of your keywords and your ad shows up and they see it. Each time your ad is served, it counts as an impression.

Clicks

This is when a searcher sees your ad and actually clicks on it. This requires the searcher to take action and click through to your site.

Conversions

This is when a click becomes someone taking an action on your website. This can include filling out a contact form, clicking the phone number to call your facility, or clicking the Move In or Reserve buttons. One caveat to this is that you must have the proper code built into your website to track these conversions. 

Spend

This is the amount of money you spend each month, or budget. How much your spend should be is determined by several factors – one of them being what your overall marketing budget is in any given month. You will also need to take local factors into consideration, like how aggressive some of your competitors are spending in the same space. You will want to determine what amount suits your business needs while allowing you to still be competitive enough to gain a good share of the demand. 

 

As competition stiffens in the market and more people search for and rent storage units online, your digital presence and marketing are vital elements to any future success. The advantages of digital marketing are clear; there are a number of cost-effective tactics to reach your customers where they are online. And paid search ranks right near the top of that list and is a must-have in any digital marketing plan.

 

 

While the internet disrupted most tried and true methods of marketing, it created a few of its own in doing so. And, arguably, SEO ranks at the top of that list. SEO stands for search engine optimization. When we say search engines, we’re talking Google, Bing, or Yahoo. It’s also a term most business owners have heard over and over again. And rightfully so. Pound for pound, SEO is the most cost-effective marketing strategy a business owner can deploy. 

Almost all purchasing decisions, from renting a storage unit to buying a home, begins with an online search, most likely on Google. Making sure your business appears above your competitors is critical for long-term success.

To help you better understand the importance of SEO and its effects on your business, we’ll break down some basics of SEO in the following sections.

Elements of a Google Search

There are three main elements of a Google search result and it’s important to understand each of them as context for SEO. Those elements are Google Paid Ads, the Map Pack, and organic search results. The paid ads section is where people pay to have their business listed at the top of search results. This form of advertising is called pay-per-click, or PPC. It’s an effective way to market your business, one which we’ll cover more in future articles.

Below the paid ads is typically the Map Pack. This is powered partially by Google My Business which is a service provided by Google. If you haven’t created a listing for your facility using Google My Business, we’d highly recommend it, as it’s another great way to get visibility for your business.

And, finally, the last element is the organic search results. This is the list of results the algorithm determines best meet the criteria of a particular search. When we talk about ranking high on search this is what we mean. And your approach to SEO plays a major role in getting you to the top of this list. 

Sum-Of-Its-Parts

Each of these elements plays an important part of any SEO plan as you shouldn’t simply rely on one more than the others. Building a plan that takes advantage of each element can lead to a successful SEO program. Meaning your website is discovered more often by the people searching for your service and/or products. This organic traffic means more organic leads for your business and can even lead to more revenue. Generally, organic traffic produces higher quality leads than those captured through an ad.

So, while it’s absolutely critical to rank high on those organic search results, it’s also important to have a presence in the maps section and possibly even the paid ads section.

First Page Envy

It’s important to rank high for one central reason: the average user wants their answer fast and accurate. They don’t want to spend their time going through pages of results to get the answers they are looking for.  In fact, most searchers rarely go beyond the first page.  First page results are the envy of business owners everywhere. The data behind just the top five listings on a search make it clear why.

Percentage of Total Clicks by Search Ranking

First: 27%-35% of total clicks

Second: ~15% of total clicks

Third: ~10%

Fourth: ~5%

Fifth: >5%

As you can see, it pays to rank high. And, unfortunately, even ranking just outside of the top five won’t drive a lot of volume compared to being in the top three. Now, you’re not going to achieve these high rankings overnight. Honestly, going from a rank of 100 to a rank of 20 for a competitive key phrase is a strong sign of progress. So, it’s important to celebrate those small wins along the way as scaling the rankings isn’t necessarily easy. However, at the end of the day, traffic results won’t really start to take off until you’re on the first page.

Set it, Again and Again 

If SEO had its own catchy tagline it’d be something like, “Set it. Again. And again. One more time. Ok, again.” You get the point. SEO is by no means, a set it and forget it process. Strong SEO performance requires you to constantly optimize and re-optimize your website and other digital assets. Google is constantly changing their ranking algorithm, your competitors are constantly doing different things, and there’s almost always a way you can further tweak and improve something – so it’s important that you are able to respond to those items as soon as possible when they require your attention. Otherwise, you risk losing some of your search visibility.

Stay Patient

We’re sure your grandmother, or even mother, harped on the importance of patience in your younger years. And while we’re not talking about patiently waiting your turn to open gifts on Christmas morning, it’s vital that you remain patient throughout your SEO journey. Like we mentioned earlier, SEO is not a set it and forget it process. It takes time and effort. It requires you to constantly reevaluate your digital assets and to stay current on the latest changes/updates to search algorithms. So, yes, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to mastering your SEO.

It’s crucial to remember that, pound for pound, SEO is the most cost-effective marketing tool you can utilize for your business. Realizing and then addressing any SEO issues you might have is a gigantic step in the right direction. As many business owners think they can still rely on other tactics to drive sales. But in an ever-more digital world, if consumers can’t find your business online, well, you don’t stand a chance at converting them. 

For an even more detailed breakdown of some of the important essentials of SEO, check out our Operator Imperatives webinar on SEO here.

Four Actionable Steps to Strengthen Your Business

Operators faced a number of challenges at the onset of 2020. Several years into the largest development cycle in the history of self-storage , the industry was staring down the barrel of an oversupply issue. As it always does, oversupply brought with increased competition and downward pressure on rent prices. 

Fast-forward to March of 2020, and the world was thrust into a global pandemic which created a sudden and severe economic downturn. As cases of COVID-19 increased and jobless numbers peaked at ~40 million, storage operators now faced a potentially sharp drop in demand and the ongoing issue of an oversupplied market. The downward trend in rental rates intensified.

Pre-COVID, we released a series of e-books based on four imperatives that operators could use to strengthen their businesses and combat these market forces. With the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, we believe these four imperatives are more important than ever. Over the next several months, our bi-weekly webinar series will go in-depth on the fundamentals that make up each imperative. You can sign up for those webinars here. 

Below, you’ll find a brief overview of each of the four imperatives from our e-books that we’ll cover more in-depth during the webinar series. 

Optimized Marketing Spend

This imperative is all about identifying the most effective marketing vehicles you possibly can. You need to be thinking about all available sources of marketing – including some you don’t even need to pay for – to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Optimizing your marketing spend is a sure way to keep your operation competitive against other operators and market forces. 

Rethink the Tenant Experience 

We’ve seen that even before COVID-19, there was an increasing shift to digital channels for interaction – whether it’s paying bills, checking records, or online move-ins. With COVID-19, we’re seeing an acceleration in this space. You’ll need to utilize a combination of technology, process, and people to meet the evolving needs of your customers. We believe the changes operators implemented to continue operating during lockdown orders will remain a permanent feature of the storage industry. 

Simplify & Automate Processes 

This Imperative is all about three main concepts – to get more from your people, to make their jobs easier, and to give them more time back in their day to focus on other important tasks such as working with your customers. We also believe in a concept called practical automation – which is our belief that not all facilities will be fully automated tomorrow. Rather, there’s a middle ground where we believe most operators are going to be spending their time. It’s important to be in that middle ground and find the right balance of automation and people-powered processes.

Amplify Operative Revenue

In particular, each operator needs to evaluate this Imperative for themselves. How are you pricing vacant units? What about occupied ones? How is the rest of your market handling this? Are you looking into ancillary revenue streams that make sense for your business? It’s important to think about each of these items to tailor a solution that makes sense for your business.

We’ll continue a more in-depth breakdown of these imperatives over the coming months. We hope you’ll continue to join us on this journey. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for our webinar series here. 

As always, we hope you’re staying healthy and safe. 

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak led to a current global pandemic and a recession triggered by nationwide lockdown orders, certain market forces were already working against the storage industry. Mainly, an unprecedented growth in supply since 2015. On top of that, we’ve seen over the last couple of years that consumer demand has not kept with that growth in supply. And operators were already  thinking about how to operate  even more efficiently.

And then, the pandemic hit and turned life and the economy upside down. The pandemic and nationwide lockdown orders accelerated the gap in consumer demand. The balance of the industry was shifting to one of increasing supply and decreasing demand. Despite the combination of those market forces and the unforeseen force of nature that COVID-19 has been, it has not created a doom and gloom situation for the storage industry. As many of you know, our industry continues to perform well compared to other industries.

However, challenges remain, and no one knows what the next six to eighteen months and beyond have in store. To help operators combat those market forces, our next series of webinars will outline four imperatives that will position their business for success.

But before we do that, we invited our friend Cory Sylvester from Radius to discuss what was happening in the market pre-COVID, how it reacted during the outbreak and what to prepare for and expect in the market beyond COVID-19. You can view that webinar, here.

Pre-COVID State of the Market

As we mentioned earlier, there were already market forces in motion within the storage industry that were going to make 2020 a potentially challenging year for operators. According to Cory, as we entered 2020 self-storage was just coming down from the peak of our largest development cycle in the industry’s history. This led to market oversaturation where 40% of the top 100 markets passed equilibrium. In other words, supply had exceeded demand.

Cory also added that this was further illustrated by lease up times consistently lengthening as we moved through the development cycle. The compounding supply growth has a strong correlation to long-term rental rates, leading to a decline in areas that were oversupplied as operators had to more aggressively compete for leads, often by racing to the bottom on price.

The market forces at work before the pandemic meant operators were likely going to have to evaluate and fine-tune their operational and marketing plans.

COVID Impacts on the Market

Along came the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. This really turned all of our worlds upside down. At first, personally and then professionally. The economy experienced the shock of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown orders. Entire industries had to either reimagine how they operate or shut down entirely. However, the storage industry was fortunate and deemed essential in all 50 states. While being allowed to remain open was good news, it presented a new set of challenges for us to solve.

Operators across the nation scrambled to create safe, contactless experiences for both their employees and customers. At Storable, we quickly shifted our engineer’s focus to release a number of features to assist in the transition to contactless operations.

Aside from the safety concerns of both their employees and customers, which were incredibly important, the next concern for operators was what impact would all of this have on their business. While many businesses saw an immediate plunge in demand, like retailers and restaurants, storage actually saw a huge increase in demand during the early weeks of the lockdown. This was largely due to the fact that most colleges across the country sent students home early. Meaning the usual summer uptick in student customers came months earlier than usual.

Another interesting trend we found early in the pandemic was that while searches for storage decreased, the intent to purchase based on those searches increased. Another major factor in how well your facility has fared during the crisis is by your ability to offer contactless move-ins. In fact, nearly 80% of reservations on our SpareFoot Marketplace go to contactless facilities. It’s safe to say that the consumer desire for contactless operations will not be temporary and, in fact, will become a defining element of our industry moving forward.

By late April we started to hear from many operators that it felt like the shock and adrenaline of the health crisis had started to wear off. Not only had they solved a lot of the COVID-specifiic business challenges, but many states were starting to lift restrictions and consumers were getting back out into the market.

Post-COVID State of the Market & Beyond

The truth is, we’re still far away from a post-COVID world and market. While lockdown orders have expired and parts of the economy have gotten rolling again, we still won’t really be in the clear until there’s a viable vaccine or effective treatment.  Even still, our industry has shown we can not only operate safely during a pandemic, but also successfully.

And while our industry is certainly feeling the economic impacts of these market forces compounded by the COVID-19 health crisis, it’s clear that the floor hasn’t dropped out from under us.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know there could be long-lasting effects on the economy that won’t rear their ugly head until further down the road. For example, if the unemployment rate remains at historically high levels, that could negatively affect operators well into 2021. There have also been some early signals in the markets, including a historic jump in retail sales for the month of May, that could indicate a more V-shaped recovery. Again, a lot remains to be seen but there are positive indicators out there.

We will continue to operate from the conservative position of, “we simply don’t know what’s going to happen.” Because of that, our next round of webinars is focused on The Four Operators Imperatives that we believe will continue to position your business for success while preparing you to combat any other expected, or unexpected, market forces.

Storable helps storage owners do more with the industry’s most powerful technology. And our scope of solutions has just widened with the addition of Easy Storage Solutions to the Storable family of companies. By joining forces with Easy Storage Solutions, Storable can now help any operator find the best technology solution for their business.

From day one, Storable has aimed to offer operators the first, and only, fully-integrated software platform to help them operate more efficiently and competitively so they can continue to grow their business – through management software, websites and marketing, a marketplace, payments and insurance. We believe that a single-source technology solution like ours can help operators maximize revenue, run their businesses more efficiently and create a five-star tenant experience.

This vision perfectly aligns with what Easy Storage Solutions has been doing for years, specifically for small operators.

Easy Storage Solutions’ leadership team will remain in place as we combine their breadth of knowledge and experience with our own, to unlock even more value for our customers.

Together, our unified teams will continue to push each other to innovate with our current products while working to bring even more powerful solutions to the industry at large, all under one roof.

We’re excited about this next chapter in the Storable story. Our goal has been, and remains, to make our products and technology so compelling that we are the clear choice for operators. Together, with Easy Storage Solutions, we’re continuing to bring that vision to life.

For questions please reach out to acquisition@storable.com

And Why It’s More Important Than Ever

First things first, automation is not an army of menacing robots taking over the world.

Now, we’ve discussed automation a lot over the past few weeks and the important role it’s playing for countless operators during the current health crisis and economic downturn. However, automation isn’t a new concept. In fact, it has been around for decades and there’s probably as much confusion and hesitation around automation today as when it was first introduced. 

Automation is a broad term that affects people and industries very differently. For example, it does not look the same in the storage industry as it does in, let’s say, the automobile industry. For a storage operator, automation is something as simple as a customer paying their rent online. While in automobile manufacturing, automation is a robotic machine helping assemble a car. Online bill pay and robots are two very different things. But they are both forms of automation. 

In reality, automation is more widespread today than a lot of people may realize. And, in a lot of ways, it’s become more practical than ever for consumers and business owners alike. However, it still carries a negative connotation with a lot of folks. So, we wanted to clear the air and help our audience come to a better understanding of how automation can make life and work just a little bit easier. 

What Is Automation, Really?

According to the old, trusty Merriam-Webster, automation is the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically. 

That seems simple enough. Yet, there’s persistent confusion around it. Which we contribute to the true scope and range of what automation can be. Again, automation is a lot of things. It’s an ATM. it’s your home security system or your smart thermostat. It’s Redbox movie rentals and Netflix. It’s online car dealers like Carvana. And that’s not even scratching the surface. 

Now, as it relates to the storage business, automation ranges from notifications all the way to unmanned operations. There are many forms of automation that fall between those two examples. Which brings us to our next point, automation, especially in storage, exists on a spectrum. 

The Spectrum of Automation

When you think of automation as a spectrum, we believe it becomes a lot easier to understand and even more appealing. There is no one-size fits all solution when it comes to automating your business. What you choose to automate, and when, largely depends on the needs of your business. If your operation is running as maximum profitability on pen and paper, well, there’s probably not much that automation could help you do better. But, if you’ve discovered areas of weakness in your business or feel like certain tasks are bogging you down, then you’re likely to benefit from automation. And since automation isn’t an end all be all solution, you can really focus on the areas your business stands to benefit from the most. 

For example, if you’re having to constantly remind customers to pay rent, having the ability to offer online, auto-pay can help. Online bill pay is simple and it’s a far cry from robots. Another example is the ability to offer contactless move-ins. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it’s imperative for operators to accept new customers while also practicing safe, social distancing. And automation tools like online move-ins and e-sign have enabled most of them to do just that. 

For some more discussion on the spectrum of automation, you can watch our webinar on it here.

Customer Preference

One big reason to adopt some degree automation is customer preference. As we mentioned earlier, automation looks different for consumers and business owners. The probability that you rely on, and prefer, automation as a consumer is high. 

In love with your security system or a smart thermostat? Those are both automation. Do you enjoy binge watching Netflix on the weekends? Yep, that’s automation. Even having your favorite fast food delivered via Uber Eats or DoorDash is automation. Before the COVD-19 outbreak, more and more consumers were relying on and preferring automation in their own lives. 

Fast-forward to today, and not only is it a preference, but it’s quickly becoming a requirement for consumers. Which was already the case with younger shoppers, like millennials. But this current situation has forced widespread adoption by consumers across nearly every demographic. 

Recently, we’ve enabled operators to mark their facilities on SpareFoot as a contactless operation if they met certain requirements and, so far, we’re seeing a 10.8% increase in rentals for contactless operations versus those who don’t have that capability. So, it’s not just something we’re saying, consumers are proving it with their wallets. 

The Truth? Automation is Here to Stay.

And it’s nothing to be afraid of. Automation is more accessible and approachable than ever. Especially for storage operators. Empowering your business with the tools of automation won’t mean robots are running the show. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more automation and free you up from busy work, the more you’re able to maintain and improve our facility, perfect your customer service and even invest in your community. 

More importantly, automation has proven vital during the last few months as we’ve all had to navigate this crisis. And it’s shown that it can empower operators to maintain success even in the most uncertain times, while laying the foundation for even more success long into the future. 

Besides, if you enjoy the benefits of automation as a consumer, isn’t it safe to assume your customers would as well? We believe so. 

Managing Expectations with Your Staff and Customers

A crisis, like the current COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent economic downturn, reminds  us of the importance of a lot of things we often take for granted. As a business owner, clear communication is near the top of that list. However, communication also happens to be one of the first things that can fall apart during a crisis. For example, there was a lot of confusion early in our current crisis as businesses  struggled trying to figure out if they were considered essential or not. 

Luckily for storage operators, you were considered essential in nearly every state that was under a lockdown order. In states that didn’t list storage as essential, they didn’t list them as non-essential either. In short, storage operators have largely remained open across the United States.

With that hurdle cleared, a new challenge presented itself. How do you continue to successfully operate your business through this environment?  One major driver to success is clear communication as it can add calm and clarity to any crisis. There are two sides to communication, internal communications and external communications. In other words, it is important to differentiate how you communicate with your staff and how you do with your customers. 

Based on our own experience and what we’ve heard from some of our customers, we’ll cover some important aspects to making sure your communication is clear and consistent. 

Internal Communication

First and foremost, you need to ensure you’re clearly communicating with your staff. This is a crisis that’s hitting people on multiple fronts. Not only are they concerned about their health, they’re also concerned about their economic security. Basically, they want to know if they still have a job or not.

Be Up Front

Regardless of whether you’re able to retain them or you’re forced to furlough them, they need to know as soon as possible so they can plan accordingly. And clear communication around this subject is paramount to them being able to do so. 

A great example of this came from a guest on our webinar last week, John Manes, CEO of Pinnacle Storage Properties. One of the first things he did as their region fell under lockdown orders was to let every one of his employees know that, no matter what, they would still have a job with the company and continue to receive their paycheck. He said this resulted in an almost immediate clearing of the air with his team as it was one less thing to worry about during this crisis. 

Luckily, we’ve yet to hear of any serious staff reductions across the self-storage industry. This is in large part due to the fact that, for now, business has hummed at a steady pace for many operators. 

Have an Open Dialogue

Knowing that this crisis is hurting people on multiple fronts, communication can play a critical role in operators’ understanding exactly how their staff feels during this time and if there’s anything they can do to help. 

Our other webinar guest from last week, Tim Springer, President of Move It Storage, said that they held a town hall style Q&A for all of their employees. This did a lot to clear the air between him and his staff as it gave everyone a much clearer picture of everything the employees were concerned about and it received a lot of positive feedback. If your team is confident regarding job security and the health and wellbeing of themselves and their family, they’ll remain as productive as they were before the crisis, if not more so. 

Lay It All Out

The next crucial area communications plays a role in is setting clear expectations for your staff as you transition to working during these nationwide lockdown orders. Whether it’s laying out guidelines from anyone working from home or putting in place guidance for anyone still working on the property. Are you mandating limited contact with customers? If so, make it clear to your staff and properly inform them of what that protocol looks like in practice. 

At the end of the day, timeliness and transparency should reign supreme in your internal communications. Regardless of good news or bad news, if you inform your people as soon as something changes, and from a palace of honesty and sincerity, they’ll be far more likely to understand and appreciate your leadership. Which can go a long way toward helping with retention and earning positive reviews that could lead to more customers renting from you.

External Communication

You’ve nailed your internal communications, putting your staff at ease while ensuring everyone knows the game plan. The next key to success is your external communications, or, how you’re talking to your customers. After all, if you’re open for business then you need to continue to convert new customers. Plus, you’ll need to continue to inform existing customers of any changes you’ve enacted that may affect them, like not allowing personal interaction with staff when at your facility. 

Get the Word Out

First things first. If you’re still open for business, and most of you are, then you need to let people know. That confusion we mentioned earlier, from all of the different orders and regulations, is common with consumers. A lot of people simply aren’t aware of which companies are open or closed. So, let them know you’re open via signs, emails, your website and any other communications 

Both John and Tim echoed this sentiment and discussed a few things they’re doing to communicate to potential customers that they’re open such as updating signage on their facility and updating their websites. Tim specifically called out web traffic remaining consistent during this time. 

Explain Policy Changes

Speaking of web traffic, if your facility has the automation in place to offer online move-ins, it’s vital that you’re letting consumers know that. Especially if you’re only letting new customers move in through that process. An interesting trend we’re starting to notice is that consumers are starting to be more inclined to rent from a facility that’s only offering online move-ins versus still allowing face-to-face transactions. 

John, from Pinnacle Storage Properties, has heard from operators that are still relying on face-to-face business that they’re seeing a decline in business while operators with online move-in capabilities are seeing an increase. At this point, this is all anecdotal as there’s no hard data to put to these trends. But there’s growing sentiment across multiple industries, that consumers will prefer less human interaction even after the lockdown orders have been lifted. 

Provide Service With a Smile, Even Online

If you’ve shifted your business to only offer online move-ins, you need to let consumers know as it’s still possible to offer an excellent tenant experience during this crisis without the personal touch of face-to-face business that you’re used to. Especially when you position your shift as a necessary step to keeping them and your staff safe during this uncertain time. Again, relying on facility signage, your website and any online marketing or CRM capabilities you have to do so. More than that, you should clearly explain how that process works so there are less hiccups when new customers sign a lease and move in. 

For existing customers, it’s important that you’re communicating the good news and bad news effectively, just as you would with your staff. If you’re increasing rent, needing to collect delinquent rent or even evict a tenant, it’s important you continue to communicate as you would pre-crisis. Also, as we’ve heard some operators have, if you’re offering any kind of rent relief for those affected by this outbreak, or pressing pause on evictions and auctions (the vast majority of the industry is), it’s important that you let your customers know. Or make sure your staff is responsive to any requests like that may come in,whether or not you’re offering relief. 

In the end, you shouldn’t treat your external communications much differently than you did before. Sure, you may have a bit more to communicate now but so long as you strive to provide exceptional customer service and a great tenant experience, you should continue to enjoy the success that comes with satisfied customers. 

Communicate Often, Communicate Honestly

Now, you don’t need us to tell you how important a communications plan is. But in times of crisis, even the best laid plans can fall apart. And when there’s as much confusion in the marketplace as there is with this current crisis, it’s crucial that you and your staff are sticking to your communications plan, internally and externally.

Timeliness and transparency are vital to any comms plan. Not just during a crisis, but at all times. Good news. Bad news. Any news. When something changes that affects your staff or customers, best practice is to let them know as soon as you can. Make sure your communication is sincere, empathic and clearly understood and you are sure to achieve results.

And, as always, we hope you’re continuing to stay safe, happy and healthy!