If there’s one thing that’s universally true, it’s that agile businesses flourish with changing times. This is certainly applicable to the self-storage industry, as any site owner or operator will tell you that renters aren’t interested in leaving their valuable property in the hands of anyone who doesn’t have the latest safety and security technologies in place. Self-storage facility owners wishing to remain competitive, therefore, have to keep up with technological developments that impact their business directly. Advances in digital, keyless entry systems, web-enabled security cameras, and better, more secure types of storage unit locks that are resistant to tampering are all important weapons that a modern self-storage facility needs to have in its arsenal when it comes to keeping your customers happy. Yet there’s another toolset that your self-storage business will need if you want to keep your competitive edge. Big data analytics. It’s often overlooked because it’s both an emergent trend and because it doesn’t seem to, at first glance, have as direct a benefit, but the truth is that there are a number of customer-focused big data applications that can have a positive effect. Big data can not only help you gain new customers but also keep existing ones, leading to a major impact on your bottom line.
Understanding Big DataJust what, exactly, do we mean when we say “big data”? The term is bandied about seemingly anywhere today, yet there never seems to be a clear enough definition. This is obviously unhelpful, especially in conveying information about the trend to those that are unfamiliar with it. Making matters worse, big data’s rise to power has been a direct result of the internet and consumer connectivity, things that many self-storage unit owners and operators may not be familiar with. Big data, when it comes right down to brass tacks, is a catch-all term for the sheer volume of information we now have at our fingertips. Thanks to the dawning of the Information Age there is more actionable information available on the average consumer today than there’s been at any point in time. So many of us maintain a digital presence on the internet, and almost every action we do generates important information — data — that can be collected by marketers or businesses. With many of us having been on the internet for decades now, the amount of information gathered can be voluminous. That’s why these organizations will use sophisticated computer algorithms to analyze all this data, looking for trends so they can better serve you content that is likely to appeal to you. This is why big data is also often referred to as “predictive analysis”; over enough time, and with enough information collected, big data experts say that it’s easy to forecast consumer spending habits and other activities. This data can be gathered from a number of different sources, including:
- e-mail activity – Have a Gmail account? Google serves you ads based on what it thinks you’ll be interested in, based on who you’re emailing and what you’re saying.
- social media activity – Liking certain types of posts on Facebook will, over time, begin having an effect on your news feed; you’ll start to see similar content more often.
- online shopping – E-commerce sites like Amazon will track not just the items you purchase but the ones you browse. They then use this data to determine product suggestions for you.
- watching streaming movies or television shows – Netflix keeps track of what you watch and then suggests content to you that you’re likely to enjoy because it has similar thematic elements to what you just watched.
- search engine activity – Whether it’s Bing, Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine, you’re likely to begin seeing targeted ads appearing on websites based on your most recent search activity.
The Self-Storage Industry Needs Big Data, TooThis is all well and good, you might say, but where do big data and predictive analytics come in when it comes to remaining competitive in the world of self-storage? Renters interact with storage sites in the real world, as they have to physically visit facilities to store or retrieve their belongings, after all. This is true. While the connectivity that the internet has brought us has certainly made it easier to conduct all sorts of activities from a computer — or more likely a mobile phone — you can’t exactly upload a bedroom set to the cloud just yet. However, there are a number of aspects of your self-storage business that can and should rely on internet connectivity. The aspects that can benefit from the application of big data analytics are wider and more varied than you might think. If you’ve already transitioned to modern technologies that track your renter’s activity in any way — logging visits, rent payments, or even phone calls — you can use predictive analytics to unlock valuable information about how your renters may act in the future.
Predictive Analytics and Renter InteractionsOne of the biggest advantages that you as a self-storage site owner or operator is being able to forecast how your renters are going to behave. In a business that relies on a constant flow of regular monthly rental income, predictive analysis can be applied to years of renter payment data to determine which renters tend to pay on time and which renters are habitually late. You can then take proactive steps to remind habitually late renters about upcoming due dates. Big data goes beyond just payment information, however. If you log visitors and out electronically, over time this generates a data set that shows when specific renters tend to visit your facility and how long they tend to stay while they’re on premises. This data unlocks information such as how your renters behave at specific times of the week, the month, or even the year. Applications for this data include knowing when you need to keep your on-site office staffed sufficiently, when you might need extra security measures, and when you don’t. Big data and predictive analytics can even help you provide better customer service to those who haven’t even become renters yet. Gaining access to big data that’s been gathered by others can help you target prospective renters in unique ways, one of which is dedicating some of your marketing budget to targeted online ads. Linking your ads to certain search engine keywords that prospects are likely to look for will ensure a link to your website will be at the top of the list. There are a number of keywords that are likely to pan out, such as:
- storage units
- storage rental
- dumpster rental