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02/03/2020

Automated Storage Facilities: Fact or Fiction?

Can you imagine a bank without an ATM? What if every time you needed to withdraw cash you had to stand in line during business hours? Before ATMs were introduced in 1967, that was the reality. Today, consumers expect automation. Whether it’s an ATM, self checkout at the grocery store or a car that can be summoned by a phone, innovative technology is the norm.

Automation wasn’t a myth for the banking industry, and it isn’t a myth in the self storage industry either.

A Real Life Self Storage Example

Now here’s a story about automation in the self storage industry.

In 2018, National Self Storage-Dove Mountain, located in Marana, AZ, was named facility of the year by Mini-Storage Messenger. Travis Morrow, president of both National Storage and Strat Property Management Self Storage Division, credited the victory in large part to increased technology.

“There are a lot of attractive self storage facilities,” said Morrow. “And so it is the technology piece that ultimately differentiates us from the competition.”

National Self Storage-Dove Mountain utilizes the GDS (short for Global Distribution System) powered Tenant™ technology suite developed by Storelocal along with SecurGuard access from Janus International to provide tenants with a seamless experience through automation.

This GDS-powered automated technology hasn’t just won National Self Storage-Dove Mountain awards; it’s won the facility business. 

“At the Marana facility, 98% of move-ins are through GDS,” said Morrow.

What Automated Self Storage Looks Like

We’ve thrown around a lot of buzzwords, so let’s pause for a moment and take a look at what the customer experience at a storage facility that uses these automated technologies is really like.

First, GDS allows the customer to find the storage facility through search, social or the business’ website. They’re then able to select a unit from live inventory, sign a lease, choose insurance and select add-ons. The Tenant™ technology suite makes it possible for them to do this via computer, mobile or at a kiosk at the facility. The customer receives instant access from the SecurGuard entry system from Janus and is able to move in right away.

The process takes less than five minutes.

The Automation Advantage 

National Self Storage, which has facilities using components of this technology in Arizona, California, Texas and Nevada, has benefitted from the GDS-powered Tenant™ technology suite and SecurGuard access from Janus. One major improvement has been customer experience.

“My customers have the ability to interact with us as much or as little as they want,” said Morrow. “If I’m closed on a Sunday, they can select a unit, move into my facility and access their unit without talking to a manager.”

Another advantage to automation is the ability to rent storage units 24-hours a day.

“Someone can move in at 5 a.m. before a manager even shows up,” said Lance Watkins, CEO of Storelocal.

Additionally, this creates the potential for lower operating costs as a result of reduced manpower. Other perks of automation include the ability to provide all customers with the same optimized experience, less paper waste and faster lead conversion.

“This reduces the friction points for customers and encourages them to do business with us,” said Watkins.

How to Get Automation

Whether you’re looking to retrofit an existing facility, build a new facility or add a smaller annex facility to a larger business, the first step towards getting on board with automation is to join the Storelocal co-op.

“The co-op created the best customer experience because we are owner operators,” said Morrow. “We’re actually renting units ourselves every day and then going to the co-op and saying ‘I would like my experience to work this way.’”

The level of automation at your storage facility is up to you. Whether you’d like to capitalize on a  GDS-powered web product that funnels customers into your office or you’re interested in facilitating unassisted move-ins, the technology is there.

So, let’s ask the question again: are automated storage facilities fact or fiction?

“It’s not hype,” said Watkins. “The model has been proving effective in not only real estate sectors but in other areas. Get on board now and build this simplified approach, because we’re all going to benefit from the result.”

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