For many self storage facilities constructed over the past thirty years the internet was not a factor to consider when planning the business model and marketing strategy. During that time the way consumers found their products and services has changed, doubly so for self storage facilities.
The use of the yellow pages has gone from crucial element of your advertising efforts to almost non-existent today.
One study suggests upwards of 88% of online users now trust internet reviews as much as personal references while over half of online traffic is now coming from mobile devices.
These are major changes that many business models and marketing strategies covering a multitude of industries never had to consider before; self storage websites are at the center of where those changes have found us.
Assume that graphic was a real situation. When you built your facility you were focused on that major highway to the north and for good reason; why waste money on a paltry 5%? You might not have stored garbage on the south side because you still value that 5% but it’s not a primary focus when the overwhelming majority of traffic is elsewhere.
Today is a different story altogether. That road has quadrupled in traffic during the better part of the past decade. On average about 20% of customers in 2013 found their storage facility through the internet. Since a self storage website’s capacity to expose potential customers to your offering has increased four fold in under a decade the value of a quality website has increased in proportion. It leaves us with a question. Has the budget allocated to the development and upkeep of your site kept pace with the increased value it can provide?
You’ve spent millions of dollars building a facility that goes beyond functionality to look professional and competent. You invested heavily in the appearance because that image is what you want your customers to have of your products and services. Are one fifth of your customers seeing a website that was thrown together as cheaply as possible?
Customer expectations in the self storage industry have undergone a revolution over the past two plus decades. Each time I speak with experienced self storage professionals the story is almost always the same. There was a time when buildings on a lot and ads in the Yellow Pages were sufficient. As the industry developed and features like access control systems, security cameras, and on-site offices became more common that is what customers began to expect. As the industry becomes more competitive every facility is looking to maximize its exposure the same arms race is showing up in self storage website design.
Below are screenshots from Yahoo!’s website in 2000 and 2015. The sites are fundamentally different and represent a decade and a half of changes in information technology not to mention the billions of dollars in research into customer web browsing habits. Wider screens provide more space for content and ads; faster internet connections allow for heavy use of images and video while more powerful computers let web developers create sites that years ago would have taxed your average home computer’s resources.
The biggest change evident from a design perspective is the addition of mobile layouts. With multiple devices sporting different screen sizes websites that serve up the same information in completely different formats use what is called Responsive Design. This opens up the growing mobile customer base, now over half of general web traffic. Customers will expect your self storage website to have a traditional format that displays well on a home computer and a mobile format that adapts to their specific device.
One study found that 48% of mobile users complained about websites not set up for the mobile browsing experience. One of the primary goals of your marketing strategy should be to reduce every instance of friction that could cause a customer to lose interest in your offering. A website that does not reshape itself to the device it is used on is a significant point of friction to a growing number of users.
Now that we’ve established that the self storage website is an increasingly important aspect of your marketing mix and well worth a time and financial investment how do you fix an outdated site? This article breaks the process down pretty well.
To summarize that article:
The one major drawback of showcasing your facility online is the lack of the “feel” of the facility potential customers receive when they drive past. With a solid self storage website you should find a way to include high quality photography of the facility on the first page a customer will see when viewing your facility’s site. Seeing the gate and office or the condition of the buildings go a long way to telling them that this particular facility is right for them.
With increasing competition between facilities and aggregater services it would be wise to pay the premium for a company that knows how to handle Search Engine Optimization(SEO). The SEO field studies how search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! rank your self storage website. A company that has experience in improving website rankings will cost more but will provide a better final product.
If your management software supports an online reservation, rental, and payment feature you should give serious consideration to integrating it with your new website. Syrasoft offers the Syrasoft Internet Manager which allows customers to reserve, rent, and pay online quickly and easily, as do many self storage management software options.
If your self storage management software also provides basic customization of colors, graphics and other branding elements all the better. If you can help it you want to keep the branding consistent. Due to the changing consumer expectations having this feature available on your self storage website is a major benefit to your tenants. Online payments reduce delinquencies by lowering barriers to paying the bill and make paying delinquent bills less embarrassing.
Online payments also tend to increase the time a tenant stays with the facility by lowering the effort required to make a payment, giving them less of an opportunity to think about if they need self storage or not.. Whether it’s scheduling conflicts, inclement weather or an increasing aversion to using a phone the less a customer has to do to submit their payment the better.
Considering the industry has specific needs that a general web development firm may not be familiar with one option is a web design company that specializes in self storage website development. A simple search for Self Storage Website Design gave me the following companies, among others. They are not presented in any particular order other than the order they appeared in the search page.
The value of self storage websites increases each year and every facility should carefully consider how that plays into their marketing strategy before making a decision. Ignoring your site or handing it off to just any company that returns the cheapest quote is not good business in 2015. I would also advise against throwing your entire budget into a flashy new site and ignoring all other aspects of your marketing efforts.
Your self storage website is only one tool in your whole marketing toolbox but if it’s budgeted proportionate to its value and some in depth research is done on your design firm options an updated site can have a long lasting positive impact on your bottom line.