This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of Mini Storage Messenger Magazine.

You read up on industry publications, attend an occasional trade show, and participate in industry-related discussions. You don’t consider yourself an expert on all things technology but you make your best effort to learn more about the tools you can use.

So, why do you feel so uncomfortable when it comes to technology?

With new technological developments comes new jargon and a slew of experts eager to throw it your way. It can be difficult to muddle through all your options and determine which pieces of technology will actually enhance the facility you run – much less how they can.

BUZZWORD #1: MOBILE DESIGN

Mobile design is what enables a user to visit your website on a mobile device. These kinds of customers move quickly. They’re often ready to buy, but they also have less patience for slow page loads and on-page errors.

The name of the game is keeping the customer on your website long enough to complete an action, like reserving a unit or calling the facility. Mobile visitors are 9.56% more likely to quickly visit and leave a page than desktop users. This is known as bounce rate, and the lower yours is, the better.

HOW IMPORTANT IS MOBILE INTEGRATION?

HOW IT HELPS YOU WIN CUSTOMERS

The bottom line is that qualified leads are using their phones to search for local self storage. These leads are looking for ease of use. If your self storage website design isn’t mobile friendly and it makes completing an action difficult, you’re going to lose out on a large market that’s only expanding.

CHANGING YOUR MOBILE STRATEGY

There are a number of ways to make your self storage website design more mobile friendly. Whether that’s actually designing a separate mobile site or simply ensuring your features work across all platforms, targeting mobile customers can be accomplished according to your needs and budget.

As you work with your website provider to address mobile design, think about what steps you can eliminate to make the purchasing process as simple as possible for your leads. While desktop users visit an average of around 2.3 pages per visit, mobile visitors average 1.9. If it takes several clicks and scrolls to get from your homepage to reserving a unit – especially if ads block the way – your mobile customer will likely hit the back button and look elsewhere.

BUZZWORD #2: CLOUD-BASED SOFTWARE

Cloud-based self storage management software has been and will continue to be an extremely popular term across most industries. While it is sometimes thrown around inaccurately, the gist of it is pretty simple: Unlike web-based self storage software, cloud-based software is accessible via an internet connection without downloading or installing any technology.

As with anything, it has its potential pros and cons that are worth considering.

PROS OF CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY

  • Integration is seamless. Software is shifting more toward cloud-based platforms. You don’t have to install software on your computer, wait for updates, or lose your progress. Cloud-based technology allows you to take your work with you seamlessly, and some call cloud-based software "futureproof."

  • Everything is instant. You can receive a fix or a new feature without doing anything. Often you don’t have to pay for improvements, either – your software can update and improve for you while you continue to run the office.

  • Training is faster. The less time you and your co-workers spend fighting with your software or calling up an IT team to make it through an update, the more time you can spend listening to your leads, sharpening your storage marketing efforts, and focusing on what you do best: providing a service to your community.

CONS OF CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY

  • The most obvious drawback to cloud-based self storage management software is that it requires an internet connection. Managers are rightfully concerned when they wonder what to do if their software is inaccessible due to an internet outage. Thankfully, solutions in the form of hotspots and cell service data are beginning to tackle this concern.

  • Another caveat to cloud-based software lies in security. Since it’s a relatively new form of technology, it’s worth your time to research your provider’s security measures. You’ll hear terms like “PCI certified” and “server backup,” which can sound fairly daunting. Ask your operator for simple explanations regarding their product.

HOW IT HELPS YOU WIN CUSTOMERS

When you can access your software anywhere and you’re not waiting on updates, you’re prepared to assist your tenants and close potential leads from anywhere and any place.

PREPARING FOR THE CLOUD-BASED AGE

It’s likely that operators will either shift entirely to cloud-based functionality or offer a cloud-based option of their services. Now is a great time to check credentials, ask questions, and provide feedback. As cloud-based software is implemented at your facility, what do you notice about how it runs? How could it be improved? Are there any features you’d like to see? Do you fully understand the differences between cloud-based software and web-based self storage software? Since it’s a newer form of technology, cloud-based software will be evolving along with the self storage industry. You have the opportunity to help mold it and watch it grow.

Of course, it’s also important to address the operational side. Do you have a back-up plan in case of a short internet outage? Will you want to incorporate additional technology at your facility, like an extra computer or a tablet? Communication between you and your company owner will be opening up with the rise of cloud-based storage unit software and these are some important questions to address together.

BUZZWORD #3: INTEGRATION

Integration is all about communication across platforms. Your website, management software, gate software, and more should be able to work with other products so that you can accomplish bigger and better things.

Operators have been able to study their niche and perfect their product. Now these pieces of technology are coming together, providing a well-rounded experience for your customers. Integration also means that you don’t need to log into and out of programs – the best products will provide the tools you need to accomplish a number of tasks at once.

INTEGRATION ALLOWS YOU TO SOURCE SPECIFIC DATA

An added benefit of integration is the valuable insight it can provide. When all of your technology is working together, you can easily gain information about how your business is functioning and where you can improve. Here are a few areas integration can shed light:

  • Conversion data

  • Average length of stay

  • Average revenue

  • Return on investment (ROI)

  • Promotion-related data

HOW IT HELPS YOU WIN CUSTOMERS

Customers are looking for an accurate and seamless experience, whether they’re reserving a unit from your website, walking into your office, or searching for you online. Integration allows you to maintain professionalism while providing the quickest, most accurate answers to your customers’ questions.

INTEGRATING ALL PIECES OF YOUR BUSINESS

Just like successful integration provides seamless communication between platforms, setting up your integration properly will require communication between providers. Some operators offer multiple products that integrate with one another. Others do an exceptional job of integrating with products from other providers. Some provide multiple options that let you customize your experience, while others prefer more control regarding how and with whom you integrate.

There are benefits and drawbacks to any method you choose. If you select an operator that offers a large line of products, there will still be some integration that needs to occur with other providers. If you’d prefer to pick and choose products from the various operators out there, their ability to cooperate and keep communication open is absolutely vital.

USING BUZZWORDS FOR YOUR BENEFIT

One of the best things about the self storage industry is that it’s filled with eager individuals who love to learn and spread knowledge. Whether you’re attending every big event each year or you’re keeping up with storage news online, take advantage of your relationships with technology experts and other self storage operators.

When you’re unsure about what a certain term entails, by all means, ask! As you develop opinions about emerging technology, hop onto forums and storage-related blogs to collaborate with industry professionals. You can take advantage of new trends and buzzwords in order to enjoy the newest technology while winning over customers.