The pandemic is shifting consumer shopping habits. Are storage operators keeping up?

This pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way most storage operators run their facilities and engage with their customers. There are now over 53,000 self storage facilities across the U.S. While most operators have some type of online presence, StorTrack’s data shows that on average, only about 34,000 stores nationwide are publishing rates online and offering online rentals at any given time. Over 19,000 stores, or 36 percent of all stores, do not advertise any rates. Here we explain why this can mean trouble in a time when consumer shopping habits are rapidly changing.

An article published earlier this year in Forbes business magazine, explains how the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of e-commerce as the preferred method of shopping for most consumers. We are now well into year two of the pandemic and many businesses have had to expand their online presence in response to this shift, not only to drive revenue, but for convenience and to ensure any questions or issues are addressed seamlessly. Additionally, the looming staff shortages across the country have also forced retailers to automate many operations.

For self storage operators, this means having an online presence is more important than ever.The 36 percent of storage operators not offering online reservations risk losing the business of customers who are opting for convenience. StorTrack’s data shows that 98 percent of REIT-operated stores publish rates online, while mid-sized operators publish rates for 68 percent of their stores. Only 48 percent of stores run by small operators advertise rates online, that’s less than half!Â

If you are a small operator competing against mid to large sized operators, it is likely that over 80 percent of your competitors will have rates published and offer the convenience of online booking, making it easier to drive rentals. If your store is amongst the more than half of those without rates online, you are leaving money on the table. For anyone evaluating markets for investment, this data can help identify underserved markets. Stores with little to no online presence are also less likely to have significant marketing activity to drive customers, making this a potential opportunity.

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