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. 

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. 

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.