Self Storage Innovation Highlights from Stora Social 2022
Our first annual Stora Social was a smash hit, with over 50 operators taking part. Here’s a quick recap of the best bits—from kickoff and innovation discussions to last call.
We kicked things off with a twist on traditional networking. No awkward icebreakers full of personal facts, spirit animals or trust falls here! Instead, we all got acquainted over drinks and a good old bar quiz. Turns out the self storage community’s Mastermind topics are 90s Girl/Boy Bands and European Cup Football Clubs! Congrats to the first place teams: Join the SSA Today and Kuboid 4 Life.
Throughout the afternoon we were joined on stage by industry professionals from Janus International, LOVESPACE Self Storage, Calcumate, Engage Management Services, and SSA UK.
Panelists explored how best to address the challenges of customer acquisition and service as well as ways to successfully evolve business models, management, and growth. Here are a just few key themes that emerged during the discussions:
RECENT STABILITY IS DIMINISHING INNOVATION AND DILIGENCE
The past 12-to-24 months of full and near-capacity rentals is not the industry norm. Yet the boom seems to have lulled many self storage operators into complacency about innovation, profits, and risk. Eager to meet customer demand, more are bidding on and buying new facilities without waiting on full feasibility reports; many aren’t managing yield accurately enough; and too few are using this period of stability to invest in the valuable and important technology, procedural, and customer experience upgrades that will serve and protect them when the market dips or new competitive threats arise.
CONVENIENCE TRUMPS PRICE
During the day’s discussions about pricing, speakers repeatedly came back to the point that value is a more compelling differentiator than price. Prices need to be competitive, but tenants will pay more when ease and convenience is also greater–and this is particularly so with a need-based product like self storage. Operators who innovate to make information gathering, decision-making, reservations, contracting, customer service, self-service, paying, access, etc as fast, helpful, and frictionless as possible thrive over those who don’t. And those operators who can differentiate themselves on value are more likely to experience long-term success.
Mastering data is the next frontier of self storage innovation. Today’s operators can already (and should) use lead, customer, and website data for quantitative metrics like lead and customer demographics, referral sources (what inbound channels are working and which aren’t), which search terms drive sales and traffic, sales conversion rates, and funnel drop offs. But the industry, particularly small and mid-sized operators, need access to better CRM tools and business analytics software to address the data analysis gap and drive more data-informed decision making.
Additionally, few operators are putting effort into gathering qualitative data, like follow ups on why leads have a storage need at the minute, aren’t converting, or chose a competitor and aren’t applying those insights strategically to inform messaging, paid ads, more effective email campaigns, or more relevant blog topics.
Software providers like Stora are working to build self storage solutions that not only help operators automate dynamic pricing (relative to unit size, availability, and location, etc,) but also use data analytics to help you determine what the optimal pricing changes should be to maximize profits.
AUTOMATION IS BECOMING A BASIC EXPECTATION, NOT A BONUS FEATURE
Yes, tech savvy millennials and GenXers expect to be able to rent wherever and move in whenever they choose without interacting with a soul.
But in truth, the pandemic has made everyone more comfortable with using automation because social distancing regulations left us no choice. From track and trace reporting and notifications and scannable QR codes on COVID passports to automated appointment scheduling and payments online for COVID vaccinations and tests, the past two years have exposed us to a vast array of automated technology and processes—recalibrating a greater majority of the market to expect (and be capable of successfully interacting with) automated and smart technologies. This will only intensify as new generations seek self storage solutions, so now is the time to make those investments.
ONLINE PRICING IS MORE PROFITABLE
Already the norm in many geographic markets, online pricing is gaining ground in the UK despite initial fears and resistance. Our guests predicted it’ll be the norm here before too much longer because experience is showing that inquiry quality and booking rates rise when prices are shown online. A number of our panellists and guests shared the stories of real-life experiments, emphasised that improvements were obvious in a matter of weeks, and encouraged operators to trial the change themselves (perhaps through a fixed-term experiment with 100% of visitors or by getting their web experts to help them run an A/B test on their website where 50% of visitors can see pricing).
For more industry and innovation insights, visit and bookmark our Stora Social page to watch the full video of each panel discussion.
The After Party
After the talks wrapped up, we all enjoyed an evening at the Sports Bar and Grill Old Street. It’s hard to beat a free pub grub buffet, self-serve beers, an open bar, and a few rounds of pool and darts. The place was buzzing for hours with socializing, and we had so much fun we don’t even mind that our friends from Janus beat the Stora team at pool! Rematch next year!
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