In today’s buy-it-from-your-couch-while-wearing-sweatpants world renters expect consistent, effortless, leasing experiences. Think about it, consumers can shop from nearly anywhere, for nearly anything, without the inconvenience of in-person transactions. The more cumbersome the buying experience, the more likely they are to take their business elsewhere. This isn’t going away, it’s accelerating.  

E-commerce and the expectation of frictionless experiences have been on the rise since Amazon started offering 1-click shopping cart checkout in 1999. From the first stay-at-home orders through everything that’s happened since, we’ve turned to buying or reserving curbside pickup on anything from weekly groceries to Thai food from your favorite lunch spot to stationary designed by a local textile artist to leasing a storage unit. Let’s unpack and understand what all of these accelerated changes mean for self storage in 2021. 

The State of Self Storage

COVID-19 shook up the world, and changed many families and individuals’ lives. There are a few ways this is playing out in the self storage space. Some people are home more than they’ve ever been — and space is at a premium. Having a queen-size guest bed is a low priority when you aren’t having visitors. Whereas, a space to work from home, workout at home, or take classes from home are all high priority needs. So, into the storage unit the guest bed goes. 

Another big change for families and individuals: moving. In fact, according to My Move and USPS data, over 15.9 million people moved between February and July 2020. Moreover, according to Pew Research Center, 22% of Americans moved, or know someone who did in 2020. Some of these moves are “temporary” or maybe were considered temporary in March, but after nearly a year are unintentionally permanent. People moved for many reasons: more flexibility to work remotely, job loss, taking a new job, housing consolidation as people moved in with friends rather than live in studios alone, college students moving back with their families… and the list goes on. According to MyMove, some states and cities have more people moving there. Great, so, how can you apply this information to your property? 

Marketing Pro Tip: If you have properties in states like Texas, Michigan, or North Carolina, make sure your digital advertising strategy has a national search approach to capture the attention of out-of-state movers. Additionally, consider shifting or increasing your marketing spend in these up-and-coming regions. 

Navigating Changes in Renter Expectations

Changes in shopping behavior with a preference for online, contactless experiences have radically changed the expectations we have as consumers. Self storage isn’t immune. In addition to online leasing, this can mean keyless gates, passcode-secured elevator doors, and remote payment options. However, don’t do away with the front office quite yet. Moving is stressful, and if you have a simple question, get locked out, or need to purchase just one more box, or a queen-sized mattress protector instead of the twin-size you accidentally bought, a front office is a friendly way to meet renters’ needs. Plus, for immediate concerns when they’re already at your property, renters crave authentic, empathetic — human — experiences that sending an email, no matter how easy, simply can’t provide. 

Marketing Pro Tip: Select a frictionless best-in-class online leasing tool like, G5 Uber Leasing® 3.0, and make sure your customers’ FAQs can be easily found on your website. This will free upfront office staff time, and ensure they can focus their attention on the human side of self storage by providing top-notch customer service.

Occupancy Options

Self storage is often considered a “recession-proof investment,” and, in the case of COVID-19 is receiving increased investor attention as property occupancy rates remain high. While no one is likely to complain about 98% occupancy, there are a few ways to consider the value of your renters. The first option is to appeal to the sales-minded renter, where you offer a discounted rate for the first three months, and then increase the monthly rent. The second option is to appeal to the highest value customer, someone who will pay more for storage, care less about the price and more about convenience, location, or other features of your property. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong, but they demand different strategies. 

Marketing Pro Tip: Have you ever heard of the Rule of 100? According to Wharton Professor of Marketing, Jonah Berger, if an item costs less than $100, a discount given in a percentage is more appealing than a discount in dollars. Whereas, if an item costs more than $100, a discount given in dollars is more appealing than a percent off. For example, a $20 hat with a 25% discount is more appealing than a $20 hat with a $5 discount. And, when you don’t do the math, a $2000 ski kit with a $500 discount is more appealing than a $2000 ski kit with a 25% discount applied. So, consider the Rule of 100 if you’re applying any discounts to your first month’s rent. 

If discounting is not in the cards for you, then consider ways to get the attention of the highest-value renter. Showcase pricing updates in real time through your digital advertising, as this can help you target in-market renters and reduce clicks from those who are not decision-ready. Or, you might consider a unit size calculator, or examples, on your website to help potential renters imagine the size of storage unit they really need. 

Marketing Pros

Ready to take your self storage digital marketing to the next level in 2021? We’ve got you covered. From now until June, as part of our G5 MarTech Series, we’ll be sharing reports, blogs, and webinars full of tips and tricks for the modern marketer. Download our first chapter, to learn more about creating the effortless online experience researching renters demand.