June 17, 2021

The Self-Guided Experience: Using Interactive Map Technology at Self-Storage Facilities

Wouldn’t it be handy if, at the time of rental, you could offer your self-storage customers an interactive, real-time facility map to show them unit availability, pricing, features and location? It could even guide them to their space. Thanks to new technology, you can! Plus, this super-useful tool provides important revenue reporting. Read on to learn more.

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What happens when a new tenant rents a unit at your self-storage facility? How do they find their space? Do you escort them there? Draw them a map? Most operators assume their customers can find their own way.

While Google Maps can help a prospect find your storage property, it can’t help them navigate the drive aisles, buildings and hallways. But with new interactive map technology, you can now give your renters an efficient, self-guided experience, helping them find their units with ease while improving your own operational efficiency.

“Interactive mapping technology is meaningful for this industry, and we look at the maps as a critical component for how we create customer and employee experiences,” says James Hafen, vice president of product development for Extra Space Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate trust and management company. Extra Space implemented this tech tool at 1,800 facilities last year and plans to add it to 200 more.

“Customers feel more empowered and confident while navigating around these large facilities, and management teams have some valuable insights to do their jobs more effectively,” Hafen says.

“Interactive mapping technology is meaningful for this industry, and we look at the maps as a critical component for how we create customer and employee experiences. Customers feel more empowered and confident while navigating around these large facilities, and management teams have some valuable insights to do their jobs more effectively."

James Hagen

Vice President of Product Development, Extra Space Storage

Improving the Customer Experience

Maps have been a commodity feature in most self-storage management software for a long time. The element that’s been missing is the tenant-facing interaction. Previous tools consisted of static map files that weren’t user-friendly. They either needed to be updated by the software supplier or were limited in terms of how customers could view and use them.

Originally, the use of interactive maps wasn’t a reaction to consumer behavior; it was more to provide a rudimentary understanding of how a facility is laid out and where each storage unit is located. But as the industry started going contactless and leveraging online rentals in response to the pandemic, it became obvious that such a tool could enhance the customer experience, allowing the tenant to make a self-guided journey. Users can see exactly where they are on a property in real time, locate the nearest exits and achieve a better sense of security.

Self-storage facilities aren’t always uniform and can be complicated to navigate. Companies that operate multiple sites rarely have two locations with the exact same layout. “It can be pretty intimidating and even a bit disorienting for customers to navigate such large, intricate properties searching for one unit, and especially when there aren’t many people on site to help,” Hafen says. “Interactive maps are alleviating the navigation burden while empowering customers to easily find their storage units. That really improves the overall customer experience.”

Helping Operators Manage Critical Tasks

In addition, an interactive self-storage map includes powerful tools that improve reporting on pricing and revenue while helping employees better visualize the property and understand unit features. Site managers have traditionally worked off of printed unit lists, but this isn’t as intuitive as a visual representation. Imagine being able to quickly pull up a map of the property and see all vacant spaces, plus the pricing and location of each. Fueled with real-time data, such a tool can really streamline the sale process.

“Employees can easily flip that map over to the customer and show them exactly which units are available—features, size, pricing—and where each available unit is located within the property,” Hafen says. “This enhances the rental journey and helps site managers execute walk-through and lock-check tasks more efficiently.”

The reporting provided by an interactive map can be a driver for how facility operators manage and analyze their revenue. Your teams can better understand how to price units based on accessibility and premium locations with real-time occupancy data. “While interactive-mapping technology is still relatively new to self-storage, there is a substantial opportunity to gain insight into how interactive maps and better visual representations will drive conversion rates and increase revenue on premium units,” Hafen says.

Evolving With More Tools

Interactive self-storage facility maps originated as part of a post-lease experience, but new technologies allow that self-guided journey to start at the customer’s initial search. Using a kiosk, they can see available inventory along with unit features, location and pricing. Then routing and navigation tools allow them to take a virtual 3D tour of the facility, see the actual unit they could rent and how to get to it from the front gate. Coupled with the right Internet of Things devices, these tools even allow you to implement a “panic button” based on a customer’s phone location.

The integration of interactive map technologies will dynamically modernize the way self-storage operators manage, rent and analyze units, Hafen says, whether a customer is on site or leasing unseen. It’s helping the industry streamline operations and enhance the customer experience.

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