Storable Announces Fully-Integrated Contactless Move-In Capabilities

If social distancing is defining 2020 for the world at large, then contactless operations will do the same for the storage industry. Operators have had to quickly adjust how they do business in the past two months, relying more and more on automation to offer a contactless experience for their customers. Not only to continue to successfully run their business but, more importantly, to keep their staff, customers and community safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Even before the onset of this global pandemic, operators were seeing a shift in consumer expectations toward a more digital operation. Meaning, people were starting to prefer renting units from facilities that enabled them to complete the transaction online. Many operators have had that capability but some still preferred the more personal touch of sealing the deal in person. But, the realities of this current pandemic have made it clear, contactless is the answer to keep people safe right now while laying a strong foundation for success in the future. 

Which is why, in recent weeks, we’ve shifted our team’s focus toward improving our software’s automation capabilities to provide a more seamless and fully-integrated, contactless move-in process. 

These new innovations stretch across the Storable Platform, and fall into three categories:

Text & Email Online Move-Ins

Both SiteLink and storEDGE Facility Management Software (FMS) products have introduced capabilities that allow operators to email or text a link to prospective tenants to complete the entire move-in process from any device, anywhere.

SpareFoot Contactless Badging

SpareFoot has introduced a new badge that empowers operators to indicate which of their facilities are equipped to deliver a contactless move-in experience allowing storage shoppers to select the facility that meets their safety needs.

SpareFoot Online Move-Ins

SpareFoot has also introduced an exclusive capability for SiteLink and storEDGE FMS customers that injects their existing online move-in experience directly into the SpareFoot reservation flow so storage shoppers can — for the first time ever — complete the move-in process through SpareFoot.

Together these capabilities empower operators with the tools to acquire as many new tenants as possible — despite the challenges brought on by this time of social distancing — while keeping consumers and their management staff safe.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to help our customers through the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chuck Gordon, the CEO of Storable. “In the early days of the crisis, we recognized that we had an opportunity to leverage our technology to improve safety for both consumers and operators, so we quickly made the decision to divert a substantial portion of our resources toward that effort. I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished product, and I believe our new capabilities will keep our customers and their tenants safe while minimizing disruption to operations.”

“These new capabilities will play an important role in our industry’s response to the Coronavirus crisis, but I think they also set the stage for the future of the storage industry,” said Scott Griffin, VP of Product at Storable. “As an industry, we have been measured in our approach to leveraging automation, however, this crisis may act as a catalyst to drive the adoption of automation both in the short term and even after this crisis has passed. It’s our goal to stay at the forefront of innovation in that arena.”

Text & Email Online Move-Ins, SpareFoot Contactless Badging, and SpareFoot Online Move-Ins are available today at no additional cost to Storable customers.

This is only the beginning of our contactless initiative. In the coming weeks, Storable will also be releasing its enhanced website online move-in module known as Rental Center 2.0, which will be available soon. Moving forward, our resolve remains the same; giving operators the power to do more with the industry’s most powerful technology. 

If you need help navigating your business through this crisis and want to learn more about any of these capabilities, please reach out to your account team. Or, for any other inquiries, you can reach out to info@storable.com

We hope you’re remaining safe, healthy and happy. 

The world our businesses operate in has never changed at such a breakneck pace. As countries across the globe and states across the US have gone into lockdown, the ramifications have spread deep and wide. But one of the major areas that storage operators need to pay close attention to are changes to the legal landscape brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Before we go any further, we want to make it clear that this article is not legal advice. We’re simply sharing information with our perspective that we think operators may find helpful. If you have any pressing legal questions, we’d advise asking a lawyer. 

Price Gouging 

The legal issue of price gouging emerged early on during the outbreak and continues to be an area of consideration for self-storage operators. Now, in almost all states, price gouging laws are meant to prevent unduly raising prices during emergencies like hurricanes or wildfires. These laws go into effect once a state of emergency has been declared at the state level to prevent sharp increases in the cost of goods and services.

As more and more states declare states of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, storage operators across the country need to be aware of how these laws may or may not impact them. As this crisis is unprecedented in breadth and economic impact, some states that have not previously had these laws are quickly putting them in place. 

Price gouging laws typically fall into four categories. 

  1. Hard cap laws like in California where anything above a 10% increase would be illegal. 
  2. Any increase at all. Some states are declaring that any increase at this time is illegal.
  3. Open-ended. Outlawing any increase that’s deemed “unconscionable.” 
  4. No law, for now. States like Maryland and Washington haven’t previously had these laws but have or are quickly legislating them into the book.  

Even if you’re operating in a state without a price gouging law, it’s still advisable to be cautious regarding any rate increases. Your state may soon have such a law in place. After reviewing any legislation that pertains to you, if you’re concerned about potential recommend consulting your legal counsel. But, in an effort to retain good will with your tenants, now may not be the best time for a rate increase. 

Lien Sales

As you know, storage operators are granted liens on the property their customers store at their facilities. This allows operators to auction or sell that property in the event a tenant fails to meet their rental obligations and they need to be evicted. Most states have enacted moratoriums on evictions during the ongoing state of emergency. These laws are mostly residential specific, so they’re targeted more at landlords who could evict tenants from a house or apartment. You should confirm with your own legal counsel before moving forward as these laws have been passed quickly and differ from state to state.  But, for now, it appears storage operators are free to proceed as normal in eviction situations. 

If you are going to proceed with a lien sale and auction, it’s important that you are adhering to any local orders regarding the size of social gatherings. Especially if you’re holding in-person auctions. Right now, it’s pretty consistent that states and local jurisdictions are requiring social gatherings to remain at 10 or fewer people. 

Also, we think it’s best to use sound judgment regarding all of this. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. 

Business Insurance

Unfortunately, many insurance companies are saying their policies don’t cover this kind of business interruption. As the pandemic is easily the most significant interruption most business owners have ever faced, that’s not great news. Typically, an interruption claim has to be related to physical harm caused to your building or facility. Not a global pandemic and government-ordered shutdowns. 

However, there’s nothing preventing you from filing a claim. It’s highly likely you won’t be paid but it never hurts to go through the process. Also, some states are considering legislation that would force insurance companies to pay out those policies in response to this crisis. But, as of now, we haven’t seen anything official in that regard. 

Paid Sick Leave

A major piece of the recent stimulus package, the CARES Act, was federally mandated paid leave for employees affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, not everyone will qualify for this paid leave. It’s mostly for employees affected by the virus directly or indirectly. You can read the full breakdown of who qualifies and how the program works here

As always, you should consult your legal counsel before making any decisions regarding COVID-19 related leave for your employees. 

Do Your Homework

Now, we’re only scratching the surface of the dynamic legal landscape operators are trying to navigate during this time. But we feel these areas are the most relevant, at this time. In the end, we can only advise that you do your own due diligence regarding any of the topics we’ve covered, or for any legal questions you have pertaining to operating your business during this crisis. 

For even more in-depth coverage and clarity around legal issues, you can always contact your state SSA for more information. And, for a better idea of how SSA is handling this situation you can watch this fireside chat between Storable CEO, Chuck Gordon, and SSA President & CEO, Timothy Dietz. 

And, as always, we hope you’re happy, healthy and safe.

Last week’s Navigating Uncertain Times webinar was another operator roundtable hosted by Storable CEO Chuck Gordon. He was joined by Raheem Amer, Senior VP of Operations for Devon Self Storage, Melissa Stiles, VP of Marketing and Sales for Storage Asset Management and M. Anne Ballard, President of Marketing, Training, and Developmental Services for Universal Storage Group.  

Together they discussed how to shift to a contactless operation without losing the personal connection with your customers, simple steps to stay in front of online shoppers and why it’s more important than ever, and how they’re currently handling liens and late fees.

After the webinar, we sent our guests some follow-up questions to help provide even more guidance and clarity to other operators. 

Q&A

Are you offering special promotions for customers that opt-in to autopay? 

M. Anne Ballard:

“We call it the “NO LATE FEE GUARANTEE” and invite all customers to enroll at move in using an assumptive close like, ‘here at Anne’s self storage we prefer all customers get our no late fee guarantee, which credit card will you be using?’”

Melissa Stiles:

“We are not doing a promotion, but we did have our stores purchase gift cards to local small businesses. We are using these as a giveaway to customers who sign up for auto pay. It’s a win in giving back to our communities and enticing customers to enroll in autopay. If someone signs up for autopay, they are entered to win the local business gift card in an allotted period of time. Additionally, we explain the benefits of autopay.”

Rahemm Amer:

“No incentive has been given. We make auto pay part of our sales process. We inform the customer we are an autopay company and proceed to put them on autopay. For new customers it works great. Current customers that have been grandfathered in…it’s a challenge. We use waiving late fees as an incentive for them – we will waive your late fee if you go on auto pay.”

Where are you cutting or increasing your marketing spends at the moment? Specifically, are you making any changes to Google PPC? 

M. Anne Ballard:

“We increased PPC last two years and continue with our in place plan; heat mapping where we want to be number 1 and price scraping the comps daily to match or promote best values.” 

Melissa Stiles:

“We are evaluating this. We are decreasing some spend on Google PPC in markets where there are stay at home orders and we have seen conversions fall. We are looking at search lost budget to evaluate the decrease rather than a straight across the board number.  We have not cut facebook ads spend. On both platforms, we added in copy, videos, and language that states about using storage to create space for working from home and contactless online rentals.”

Rahemm Amer:

“With the increase in online traffic in social media (due to working from home) we have increased our spend on FB ads. We are seeing some good returns over the last month. Having a strong digital presence will make a difference for your brand awareness and performance. Don’t expect to see CPC drop during this time period, because the REIT’s are ramping up on digital marketing spend. Recommendation would be to focus your spend based off of lost impressions share due to budget.”

How are you handling landscaping of the property? Are you asking your managers to take on this task?

M. Anne Ballard:

“All landscapers in place and no change to this as curb appeal is critical especially now.” 

Melissa Stiles:

“In most areas, landscaping has been essential and we have not yet run into this.”

Rahemm Amer:

“We are spread out from the East to West coast. We haven’t seen landscapers not coming out.”

Is anyone limiting the amount of traffic on the properties? How many people can be on the property at the same time?

M. Anne Ballard:

“All stores offices are locked with managers inside, using Ring Doorbell and posted signs to communicate via phone or cell phone.”

Melissa Stiles:

“As of now, we are not limiting traffic onto the facilities. We are not allowing customers to enter into the office, though. We are serving them through phone and online.”

Rahemm Amer:

“Not limiting to our customers. We are limiting manager to manager interaction. One manager in the office while the other must be on the property. They switch off during the day.” 

2020 is officially the year of social distancing. Rightfully so as we all continue to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. But, as more states enact shelter-in-place orders, countless businesses are having to quickly shift how they operate in this new world. Grocery stores are limiting the number of people shopping at once, restaurants are exclusively offering takeout and, unfortunately, many other businesses have simply had to close. 

However, as many of you likely know, storage has been deemed essential in most states. And where they haven’t been listed as essential, they haven’t been listed as non-essential either. We’ve heard from many of our clients that they remain open and ready to serve their communities. 

As such, it’s more important than ever that you’re taking the necessary precautions to successfully operate your business while limiting customer interaction to keep everyone safe. To do that, we’ll cover some capabilities we’re hearing operators say are critical. 

Browser-Based Interface

As more and more people are working from home, storage operators included, it’s vital to have the ability to access your facility management software from anywhere. Which is where a browser-based interface comes in, as it gives operators the capability to access their software from their smartphone, tablet or computer. While this has usually been a nice-to-have , it’s quickly become a need-to-have as we continue to navigate this crisis. For more on how Storable can help you with that capability, go here.

Online Move-Ins

We’re glad to see that people are still reserving and moving into units. So, it’s important to limit physical contact between your staff and your customers as much as possible. One crucial way to do this is with online move-ins. Many operators are opting to offer an online move-in experience. In doing so, they can protect their staff and customers while maximizing move-ins during this period of social distancing. 

eSign

A critical part of any online move-in process is the ability to sign documents electronically. With eSign capabilities, your customers can accomplish this with a smartphone, tablet and even a computer. They can even do this if they’re at the facility, allowing you to remain a safe distance apart. eSign is a must if you’re going to implement online and contactless move-ins, as you’ll still need a signed lease agreement. This is such a critical capability during this time that we’ve actually seen our feature utilization go up by over 20% in the last 30 days. 

Autopay & Online Payments  

With fewer tenants venturing out of the house, it’s also important to offer flexible payment options. By offering autopay and online payment options, you’ll give tenants convenient ways to stay current with their payments while ensuring you’re capturing every dollar of revenue that you can. Plus, this is useful long-term as it’ll free up more time for your staff even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted. 

Two-Way Communication

With so much uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to stay in close communication with your tenants. With two-way texting and email, you have a way to instantaneously share communications with your tenants as well as receive feedback. We’ve even seen operators using these features as a way to give a contactless tour of their facility when tenants move in.

Safety First and Last

We believe the key to success right now is, above all else, safety. Safety for you, your family, your staff and your customers. Luckily, the technology exists to empower and keep operators safe at a time like this. And while the concern today is safety, the truth is, it’s capabilities like these that will drive growth for your business long into the future.

On March 27, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the largest in U.S. history, to help stymie the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. The package includes everything from direct cash payments, to expanded unemployment benefits, small business loans and more. 

This package is different from the one passed in 2008 in that Congress has emphasized more aid toward workers, families and small businesses. Whereas the last stimulus package provided a much-needed lifesaver to larger corporations like banks. However, airlines are receiving substantial assistance from this current package as they’re experiencing monumental losses. There’s likely no business, big or small, that won’t be negatively impacted by this crisis, in the end. 

As a majority of storage operations in the country are small to medium sized business, operators can stand to benefit from this current relief package. Plus, there are already murmurs on Capitol Hill of possibly more relief in the coming months. But nothing is official in that regard.

Consumer Relief

A chunk of this stimulus package will direct-deposit into taxpayers’ bank accounts or arrive in the form of a check by mail. Direct payments will be up to $1,200 per adult and $500 for each child. The $1,200 scales down for individuals earning $75,000 a year and phases out completely for anyone earning more than $99,000. For couples the amount scales down for those earning more than $150,00 and phases out completely for those earning more than $198,000 a year. 

Unemployment benefits have also received a huge boost from this bill in terms of benefit value, who is eligible, and how long people can receive benefits. 

Also, the IRS has officially delayed Tax Day to July 15. So, if you haven’t filed your taxes yet you still have a few more months. 

You can read more about the full package breakdown here.

Now, some or most of the elements of the package won’t necessarily benefit storage operations directly. But, they could greatly benefit any of your tenants that have fallen on difficult times as a result of this crisis. And, in our eyes, that can only be good news. 

Small Business Relief

Now, this portion of the relief package could benefit storage operators more directly. To qualify for this assistance, a business must have 500 or fewer employees. So, outside of the biggest storage companies out there like Real Estate Investment Trusts, most operators across the country would qualify for small business relief. 

Provisions for small business relief include emergency grants of up to $10,000 to help cover immediate operating costs related to COVID-19. Existing loan relief programs which can cover up to six months of payments for small businesses already utilizing a Small Business Association loan. And payroll protection, which are loans of up to $10 million per business to help cover payroll, rent, existing debt and other operational costs. These payroll protection loans can be forgiven, provided the borrowing business keeps their employees employed through the end of June. 

This bill is intended to give businesses like those in the storage industry the means to weather this storm. We encourage any operators who have been impacted by this crisis to explore these options with guidance from a lawyer. To learn more about the small business relief you can visit the SBA’s website, here. 

For an even more in-depth look at how storage operators can benefit from the stimulus package, you can read this article from SSA. 

The Takeaway 

This is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response. This stimulus package from the US government will help countless people in the weeks ahead as we all continue to navigate these uncertain times. And, as we do, we’ll continue to bring our perspective on the unfolding crisis and any news we feel you stand to gain from. 

As always, we hope you’re continuing to stay safe and healthy. 

During our first Navigating Uncertain Times webinar on March 27, Storable CEO Chuck Gordon was joined by Kerry Richard, SVP of Operations for Simply Self Storage, Bill Roberts, Director of Operations for StayLock Storage, and Brad Minsely, Co-Founder of 10 Federal. Together the panel discussed how they are navigating their operations through the COVID-19 outbreak and current economic downturn. If you missed out you can watch that seminar here. 

We had the audience submit questions for our panel to answer after the webinar concluded. There were a lot of questions, naturally, so we grouped together similar questions that we felt were most relevant at this time. 

Our next panel discussion is this Friday, April 10, and they’ll answer even more questions from operators in the industry. If you’d like to submit a question for our panel you can do so with this form

Q&A

Q: What are your predictions for how collections and delinquencies will look in the coming months? 

Bill Roberts: “We expect delinquencies to increase. How much will depend on when the economy gets working again, how long that takes, and unemployment and bonus checks.” 

Kerry Richard: “I think it is too early to tell.  I do believe we will see a higher level of delinquencies as our customers have a harder time paying.  I think we have to wait and see how the Government plans help customers/businesses and how soon the virus gets under control.  Too many variables right now.”

Brad Minsely: Hard to say, but here are some statistics we find meaningful.  In the 2008-2010 recession unemployment increased from about 4.5% to 10.1%.  In reviewing the annual reports for PSA and CUBE during those periods, both experienced very similar results with respect to Same Store Revenue Growth over those periods… from 2008 to 2009 both saw a 4.0% decrease in Same Store Revenue.  From 2009 to 2010 their Same Store Revenue was flat and thereafter it was positive. So, the question becomes, will this period be worse than 2008-2010? And how does the precipitous drop in unemployment affect performance versus the +18 months it took back in 2008-2010 to reach 10% unemployment… my guess is this period will be worse, but I don’t think you will see a collapse in rent payments.”

Q: How are you handling overlocks and access to units for delinquent tenants?

Bill Roberts: “To this point, we have continued to limit access for delinquent customers.”

Kerry Richard:  “We are following all state and local mandates.”

Brad Minsely: “We are using our DaVinci Lock system which allows for the renter to remove their overlock on their own.  DaVinci’s are also used on securing vacant units and the method is the same there as well where the new renter can remove the lock on their own.”

Q: How are you handling tenant ID capture for online move-ins? 

Bill Roberts: “Customers email or text a photo of their ID. Just as they had been doing before the crises.”

Kerry Richard: “Currently working through that with the customer via electronically collecting it or have them drop it off on site.”

Brad Minsely: “We do not require capturing any IDs for online move ins… we have been operating that way for five years without any issues.”

Q: Can you speak to the challenges you’ve faced in transitioning tenants to electronic payments and how you’ve overcome them?

Bill Roberts: “No challenges. The crisis has given customers additional incentive to use this form of payment. We always encourage tenants to use autopay or pay online but we’ve seen an increase in the number of tenants paying this way. We do make it easy for them by including links to our pay online portal in the emails and SMSs we normally send.”

Kerry Richard: “We have not seen a large challenge.  Most customers are very open to paying online, especially now.”

Brad Minsely: “We experience this when we acquire facilities and a lot depends on the starting point… worst case, if a facility is 100% cash / check and has been around for a long time with a tenant base that is older then we see up to a 10% drop in occupancy as those tenants fail to transition… most of the time the attrition rate is less than 5%.”

Q: Are you asking vendors for a discount on services at this time like janitorial, landscaping, etc?

Bill Roberts: “No.”

Kerry Richard: “We have not yet but we are currently working through our landscaping contracts. We do not have janitorial contracts except at the Home Office.”

Brad Minsely: “Not at this time.”

Q: How are you all evaluating properties in this current environment for those that are in acquisition mode?

Bill Roberts: “We are moving forward with a property we recently put under contract. Will not pursue new acquisitions until the economy gets back to work and then we will re-evaluate.”

Kerry Richard: “We have put acquisitions on hold for now until we see the market stabilize somewhat.  What we are hearing in the market is that all transactions that had non-refundable earnest money up are moving forward to close.  However, we are not hearing the same thing in regards to transactions that were not non-refundable. We have heard that buyers have walked away from some of those transactions and we would anticipate that would continue.  This is worth monitoring as it could change daily.”

Brad Minsely: “We are closing what we have in the pipeline however we are going to pause thereafter for 60 days and will reevaluate at that time… I will be interested to see what delinquencies are looking like as well as the debt markets, etc… if things get bad enough, then our acquisition criteria may shift from acquiring ‘value add’ opportunities to ‘distressed’ opportunities.”

The world is gripped by a crisis unlike any in memory. 

Millions of Americans are on lockdown as authorities enact extreme measures to halt the spread of COVID-19. Businesses from coast-to-coast are being forced to shut down as the number of confirmed infections grow each day. 

The stock market has tumbled. Unemployment is spiking. Hospitals are preparing for the worst. These are unprecedented times.

As the novel coronavirus situation unfolds hour by hour, our industry finds itself facing a great deal of uncertainty. However, if history serves as a guide, we know that self-storage is one of the most resilient businesses in the context of market volatility. Storage is an essential service in the best of times and in the worst of times. 

This is why we are launching our Storable blog now, in the midst of the current state of affairs. As we all navigate the coming weeks, we’ll keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. Informing you of any changes, positive and negative, we see happening now or in the near future. 

The way we see it is, we’re all in this together. There’s no proven playbook for a situation like this. Because of our unparalleled view of the industry, we feel a responsibility to work with our customers and storage at large to create one.

Together, we’ll find the way forward. 

Storage is essential 

As authorities across the country have enacted stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, they’ve done so while outlining essential businesses that are allowed to remain open. And, in most cases, storage has made the cut. In fact, CISA of the Department of Homeland Security, has labeled storage as essential infrastructure in their guidance. 

We’ve heard a number of stories about how storage facility owners have stepped up in this moment of need to help their communities. For example, an operator in Alabama is waiving April fees because most of their tenants are suddenly unemployed. 

It’s our belief that self-storage is more than critical at a time like this. With software platforms like ours, there are a number of measures that can be put in place to reduce contact between tenants and staff. Which is vital as we continue to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. We’ll be sharing more about these measures in upcoming posts 

You can find regular updates from SSA about which states have deemed storage essential, here.

This is a recession

One that was four years past due. After the 2008 financial crash, recession has a more negative connotation than ever. Not to downplay how bad that moment was but, in general, recessions are far from a disaster. However, the truth is, we are concerned. It’s too early to tell how long or severe this downswing could be. We believe storage is resilient. And we’re determined to help our customers, and the industry, weather this storm any way we can. As history has taught us, when markets go down, they always come back up. Usually, stronger than ever. 

Even still, this recession is unique in how quickly it began and the unexpected cause of it in the outbreak of COVID-19. It is impossible to predict the depth of the economic impact and other challenges ahead of us. We will continue to share all of the signals we see that may give us some sense of where the industry is headed.

We’re in this together

As we mentioned before, right now, we’re all on the same team. Our first priority as a company has been to help slow the spread. As of March 16, we’ve closed all of our offices, yet we remain 100% operational as our team works from home. We’ll continue to play our part in that effort and strictly adhere to guidance from our local and state governments. 

Our second priority is to ensure we remain a trusted partner, not only for our customers, but for the entire industry. We aim to accomplish that with a series of market updates and articles to follow on this blog and a weekly webinar that starts this Friday, March 28. You can sign up here (link). 

The important thing to do now is stay calm. In moments of crisis decision making becomes a day-to-day or even an hour-by-hour process. And our aim is to provide you with all the information we can to inform that process. We’ll do our best to add calm and clarity as this crisis unfolds. 

More importantly, take care of yourselves, your family, your employees and your community. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown the world into turmoil. Simply put, no one was ready for it. As a result, the economy has rapidly fallen into a recession. 

Now, more than ever, storage operators must make the right decisions to ensure that they are putting themselves in the strongest possible position over the months ahead. Our goal is to sift through the signals and noise and bring the industry helpful guidance and support during the present turmoil. The coronavirus response will have broad-ranging effects on our industry, and Storable wants you to know that we are all in this together.

The state of the industry

Before the coronavirus became a global pandemic, the self-storage industry was already facing a number of new headwinds including oversupply, shifting consumer expectations and rising operating costs.

Oversupply

Over the last three years, more than 2,800 new self-storage facilities have come online. The surge in facilities has led supply to exceed demand in 40% of the Top 100 markets in the country. That has resulted in downward pressure on average national rates. For example, the average price for climate-controlled 10×10 units has dropped 12% since last year. 1

Shifting expectations

In 2019, the time consumers spent on mobile devices exceeded the time spent watching television for the first time in history. More and more, customers expect to conduct a majority of their transactions online with a mobile device, and renting a self-storage unit is no exception. Operators that do not upgrade their technological capabilities risk being left behind as their competitors embrace the ability to reserve and lease units online. That need has become even more paramount as consumers limit face-to-face encounters during the current pandemic.

Rising costs

The shift to digital has led operators to spend more than ever before on digital advertising. With the effectiveness of online ads now firmly established, the cost and competition continues to rise. In 2019, we saw the cost of Google Pay-Per-Click ads rise as much as 60 percent year-over-year for non-branded self-storage terms. This trend means that the cost per customer acquisition is going up, and the efficiency of marketing spending is going down.

Looking ahead

The net effect of these various trends has led to a deceleration in self-storage industry net operating income growth across the board. Costs are going up, while revenue is going down. 

Add to that the economic effects of the coronavirus response and it’s clear why many self-storage companies are rightfully concerned about what is in store.

Since the declaration of a national emergency on March 13, the economy has gone into a state of shock. The market has reacted in the following ways so far:

  • Benchmark index declined 30% since February 19.
  • The Dow Jones saw it’s largest single day drop since 1987.
  • The Federal Reserve dropped  interest rates to between 0% and 0.25%.

All of this indicates that we should expect the market to face more challenges as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold. 

Frankly, it is too early to tell what this all means for the self-storage industry. With California, New York, Illinois and other states ordering citizens to stay home and most businesses to close, the ramifications those orders pose to the storage industry will be realized in the coming weeks. While specific state rules may vary, storage operators should know that federal guidelines identify self-storage specifically as critical infrastructure.

However, there are some encouraging early signs that the self-storage industry will remain resilient in the face of recession:

  • The SpareFoot network saw self-storage reservation volume increase more than 40% during the first two weeks of March, with a 1,233% spike in demand from college students.
  • A report from the National Self Storage Group at Marcus & Millichap indicated that stabilized facilities are well-positioned to withstand the near term economic impacts of the coronavirus.
  • So far, self-storage has been the third-least impacted commercial property type. Overall, commercial real estate valuations have fallen 24 percent since Feb. 21, while self-storage has only dropped 16 percent, based on an analysis of REIT sectors conducted by Green Street Advisors.

As the effects of the coronavirus response continue to ripple through our industry, we will continue to bring you the insights and guidance we are using to navigate these uncertain times.


  1. Behrens, P., Lucas, D., & Shatzer, E. (n.d.). 2020 Self Storage Almanac: 28th Annual Addition. MiniCo Insurance Agency LLC, (28)

Not that it bears repeating but we’re going to say it again. These are unprecedented times. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and a global recession. But as we’ve said before, storage has a history of being recession resistant. Early signs have pointed to an uptick in demand, at least temporarily. In most states, storage has been deemed an essential business and CISA, from the Department of Homeland Security, has labeled storage as a critical infrastructure. 

In short, our communities need us right now. But, given the rapidly evolving situation, it’s important for operators to re-evaluate their operations to ensure that they are defending themselves from headwinds developing in the market.

We’ll outline four tactics operations can deploy to fortify their portfolios and defend their storage operation. 

Marketing Efficiency 

The key to marketing efficiency is all about getting the most out of every marketing dollar you spend. And even getting a boost without spending any money. Here are several ways to do just that. 

Search Engine Optimization

Craft keyword rich copy, manage your online listings, and engage in link-building for your facility websites to drive leads to your site through organic Google search rather than paid advertisements. The best advantage here is that it’s free. And it can be one of the most effective marketing tools available. 

Google My Business

Claim and verify your Google My Business listing so that consumers can find the correct information about your facility within Google Maps. Similar to your SEO, this is free and effective. So take advantage of it. 

Reputation Management

Track, review, and — when necessary — respond to reviews on third-party sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others to help ensure a positive online reputation and boost your local SEO. This is more important than ever as storage shoppers, and consumers across the board, tend to avoid business with poor or few reviews online. 

Marketplace & Aggregators

Place your facilities on pay-for-performance storage marketplace and aggregator sites like SelfStorage.com, StorageScout.com, or SpareFoot.com to bolster your other lead generation activities.

Engage Tenants Digitally 

This is more important than ever amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Now and in the future it’s important to think about how tenants want, or don’t want to, engage with you. However, to ensure you’re capturing every lead and providing a tenant experience that meets expectations you can employ these three approaches. 

Frictionless Reservations & Online Rentals

Convert more leads and enhance the tenant experience by enabling visitors to reserve and/or pay for their unit online directly on your website. This capability is crucial right now as social distancing protocols are in place throughout the country. 

Online Account Management

Empower tenants with a convenient online self-service portal where they can access account information, pay their bill, and manage other relevant interactions with your facility. This is another vital capability to have in place with widespread social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Multi-Channel Communication

Deliver one-off or automated communications to customers on their channel of choice whether it be email, SMS, or physical mail so they are always in the know.

Simplify Operations

Busy work can bog your staff down, preventing them from taking care of more important issues. So, when they have less busy work, they can focus on things like maintaining the property and managing leads. Here are a couple of ways you can free them up. 

Leverage Process Automation

Empower your staff to do more with process automation for delinquencies, tasking management, and various types of operational and financial reporting.

Automate Tenant Communication

Leverage event-based triggers to automation routine and non-standard tenant communications across email, text, mail house, and your tenant portal.

Drive Revenue

And finally, there are still ways many operators can begin to capture more revenue from tenants that they’re not tapping into. We’ll focus on two of those opportunities. 

Ancillary Products

Offer ancillary products like tenant insurance or professional packing services to better serve your customers and supplement your rental revenue.

Revenue Management

Optimize both rental rates and occupancy with a revenue management tool that sets dynamic prices based on variables including occupancy, seasonality, competitive data, and any other relevant variables.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak began, market forces were driving costs up and revenue down. And now, we’re in the first stages of a global recession of which the greater impact on our industry remains to be seen. We will continue to monitor leading indicators and share our findings here on this blog and our weekly webinar. 

In the meantime, these four approaches are the best ways operators can fortify their business and defend it against any lasting effects of the virus and the recession.