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02/03/2020

GDS Technology in the Self Storage Industry

American businesses are increasingly investing more in technology. It is no surprise that this comes in response to today’s discerning consumers, who bring a new level of expectation to everything they do, from how they shop the marketplace, to how they make purchasing decisions and pay.

Seventy-nine percent of adults in the U.S. shop online, with 51 percent having purchased from a mobile phone. More than half of self storage searches occur from a mobile device. These figures are exponentially on the rise, and those businesses relying on outdated practices will fail to remain competitive. For the self storage industry, it means trading in padlocks and nine-to-five service for keyless entry and remote, real-time management.

What is GDS?

GDS, or Global Distribution System, is a worldwide computerized reservation network used as a single point of access for a comprehensive collection of inventories. Basically, GDS technology brings buyers and sellers together to exchange goods and services, in real time, and with greater ease and efficiency.

Commercial airlines created the first GDS in the 1960s for tracking real-time flight schedules and availability.  Among the first demonstrations of B2B e-commerce, such automation of the reservation process proved transformative for the travel industry.

How GDS is shaping self storage

Just as automation changed how we find and purchase travel, GDS technology is dramatically shaping the way we rent self storage. Consumers have come to expect to do business on their own schedule, and automated facilities are the solution. Thanks to GDS-powered technology, potential renters can search for the perfect storage unit, reserve it, and execute a lease agreement, all without leaving the domain. Then, with a single click, consumers are able to access the unit from an app on their smartphone, 24 hours a day.

Unassisted move-in technology benefits both customers and self storage operators, who reduce operating costs by requiring less onsite manpower. Today’s truly digital business uses GDS-powered technology as a digital sales arm, offering unique visitor add-ons such as tenant insurance, truck rentals and other revenue-producing ancillary services. The most successful, fully-automated self storage facilities have mastered the delicate balance between automation and customer service, acting as digital rental centers that offer the option of self-service while still providing prompt management response when needed. It’s a win-win strategy that controls labor costs and boosts profitability, while remaining customer-centric.

Travis Morrow, President of Self-Storage for Strat Property Management, adopted a semi-automated customer experience approach at National Self Storage-Dove Mountain, located in Marana, Arizona and the largest self storage facility in the state.

“We wanted to move the manager from behind the counter out to a position next to the customer in a more collaborative fashion,” Morrow said.

Strat Property Management owns 68 self storage properties across the U.S., all equipped to operate partially unmanned.

Using industry co-op Storelocal’s Tenant™ technology, its customers can move in digitally from a lobby kiosk, with an employee available to offer as much or as little help as they require. Customers then receive a text message to download an app for Nok?® Smart Entry System by Janus International, enabling them to open their unit door with the push of a button.

“We’re always thinking about the customer experience and making it better for our tenants,” Morrow added.

National Self Storage-Dove Mountain strives for the best of both worlds, offering the convenience of autonomy along with personalized touches such as modern design and décor in its facility that also includes street signs in the hallways to create a more comfortable, home-like experience.

Millennials are the future of self storage

Mobile technology is among several segments, possibly the most notable technology segment, on the rise.  After all, it speaks to the Millennial Generation ? the largest generation in the U.S. born into internet use and that of smart devices.

Ninety-two percent of Millennials own smartphones. The average Millennial owns 7.7 connected devices, and spends 18 hours per week on them. We cannot, as self storage industry professionals, underestimate the importance of recognizing this demographic ? the largest generation in U.S history and totaling 92 million ? as the fastest growing cohort for self storage usage.

Bitterroot Holdings has owned and helped managed self storage properties since 2001. “We are continually assessing the self storage landscape to enhance performance and increase a facility’s value, which means tuning in to the preferences of today’s buyers,” said Chief Financial Officer Sam Whitaker.

Now the largest group of earners in the U.S., with $1.4 trillion in buying power projected by 2020, Millennials are acquiring more while living in crowded, urban areas, thus presenting the greatest opportunity for the industry. As they gain spending power, unmanned, 24-hour self storage facilities will be in greater demand, on demand.

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