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.

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!

If social distancing is defining 2020 for the world at large, then contactless operations will do the same for the storage industry. Hear our perspective on how automation is playing a key role in the storage industry during the COVID-19 outbreak and why it’ll be more important than ever after the crisis.

You can view this webinar on GoToMeeting and sign up for our upcoming weekly webinars here.

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. 

Join Tim Springer, President of Move It Storage, John Manes, CEO of Pinnacle Storage Properties and Chuck Gordon, CEO of Storable, as they share the trends they’re as seeing in the storage industry in response to COVID-19. They also discuss how their businesses were already at an advantage when the outbreak began and what they’ve done since to keep their operations prepared for future challenges and growth.

You can view this webinar on GoToMeeting and sign up for our upcoming weekly webinars here.

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.