Using Your Data to Stay Competitive in Self Storage
Today the storage industry has been reported to have some down turns ahead. This means the more intelligence you have generating your revenue, the better you will be. Increasing rentals begins with the user, the person searching for storage, your prospective tenant. The user will drive all other choices as you decide which digital channels matter most for building a connection. Consider the mental processes that lead them to choose your facility for their storage.
Instead of plotting how you will persuade with clever content, realize that you don’t need to convince anyone why storage is valuable. Spend your time and money making sure each user gets the primary information they need to make a decision - where you are, which units sizes you have, and what your rates are. Make their experience effortless. If your specials are confusing, you ask for an admin fee when the next facility doesn’t, or you don’t display your rates, all it takes is a bounce back to the Google search results to find another facility that can offer much better user experience.
Mastering the Search Page for Your Self Storage Business
To start, consider the SERP or Search Engine Results Page. Most users will type in some combination of “self storage” and their city or “near me.” The results page Google generates for this search will display three to four ads, a pack of local businesses with a map, and more ‘organic’ page results. While some users will confidently click the first result they see, in this case an ad, some users do their shopping exclusively within Google’s Local Pack results, and others will consciously avoid clicking ads or maps and scroll down to view organic results. Client results at Automatit have revealed that 90% of traffic from Google searches originate from three main sections of the search results page: Ads account for 15%, Brand Keywords 35%, and Maps 35%. These are your three strongest chances to get in front of users, so an effort to be as visible as possible is key.
For the many users choosing to shop and compare with Google Maps, your greatest priority should be how you stack up against the competitors nearest your facility. These facilities will be listed beside yours when users zoom in on Google’s map of the local area. Online shoppers compare your facility with others in terms of rates, unit size offerings, and any other features that matter to users in your area (climate control, security cameras, gated facility, parking offerings). Self storage customers prioritize location and price first, so when competition in your area is heated, it’s important to analyze competitor rates and special offers. This is precisely what the user is doing - opening pages and price shopping by hopping between storage sites to see who has the size they want at the best price. This type of search behavior is received by Google as “user signals” and search engines use these queues to help inform their ranking algorithm.
User signals, or behavioral patterns of users, are used to decide which landing pages are most valuable and should rank first. The purpose of Google Search at this point is to provide users with the landing pages and information required to complete an action (i.e. looking for storage, finding a local mechanic, learning to roast a chicken) easily. If users are searching for storage in your city and many of them visit your page only to return to the search results page, this sends a signal to Google that your page is not as relevant or valuable for users trying to complete that action. This would mean ranking lower in your local search, which could precipitate fewer site visits and fewer rentals. These signals can all go favorably for your business when you prioritize the user experience on your page through changes that give the user primary information to help them make a decision rapidly.
As for how frequently you should be comparing competitor rates - facilities that are serious about filling empty units will compare daily. If the notion of running specials on every unit size all of the time concerns you, remember that specials are a better move than slashing your rates. Specials do not need to be offered across the board for you to see results either. Assess which unit sizes have more availability, and how many more units you’ll need to reach the percentage occupancy you’re aiming for.
Opt for Clarity with the User and Remove Friction
Even when you feel that your facility is better quality, cleaner, better lit, and your managers are friendlier, online users aren’t likely to see this upon their first search. When performing an online search, prospective tenants are comparing site to site, rates page to rates page.
Clarity definitely trumps persuasion for self storage customers. Users are primarily looking for a neat, organized landing page that prioritizes the information they need to make a rental decision (this can include price, specials, unit sizes, features, office hours, or 24/7 access).
What tips the scales in favor of your facility over another can be as simple as your reservation calendar, so every detail counts. Automatit performs heat mapping and usability tests for clients with this attention to detail in mind. We can only confidently recommend site changes to improve user experience after observing results that are tracked.
This is the vehicle that provides the potential for your conversion rate, it is the most important of the six factors.
Does your web page deliver on what your prospects expect? Does it match their needs and feelings?
How easily is your value proposition communicated? This includes eyeflow, imagery, copywriting and calls-to-action.
How are you matching the visitors’ internal urgency and creating external incentives?
Is your website content diverting visitors away from you primary goal?
What elements on the page could be creating uncertainty for your prospects about taking action?
Improve Conversion Rate by Prioritizing User Experience
When articulating the role of user experience in conversion rate optimization, we frequently refer to the LIFT Model® developed by Chris Goward. Goward’s model outlines the six conversion factors to consider when evaluating your landing pages - urgency, value proposition, relevance, clarity, distraction, and anxiety. In the storage industry, urgency dictates how careful your user’s search will be. If an individual is going through a life event where they need storage in the next few days, they are likely to choose quickly without much time for consideration. Users planning ahead of time will be much more scrupulous, so your landing page relevance, clarity, points of distraction, and points of anxiety will matter much more as you deliver your value proposition.
Relevance means a landing page that properly fits the search terms they’ve used in their google search. If you are in their city, offer storage, and have climate controlled units when they typed “climate controlled” into their search query - they are likely to choose you above other page results that are in their city, offer storage, but do not boast climate control.
Clarity for storage translates to - is it clear where you are located? what unit sizes you have? what your rates are? how the special applies? etc. If the user has to work too hard to find these details, they are likely to bounce back to the Google search results page to find a clearer business.
We often see distraction in the form of too much information that does not relate to rates, location, contact info. For example, if your rates page displays a large block of text about you, your managers, or how inviting the front lobby is above the rates table, you are distracting your user.
Causes of anxiety for prospective tenants are demands like requiring a credit card for an administrative fee upon reservation or a site that the user’s browser labels as not secure.
So to sum this whole thing up, don’t look at your website user through the “this is what I would do” glasses. Those glasses can cost you dearly in lost revenue as most people do not look at things the way you do.