The other day while driving in West Hollywood, I noticed a large billboard brandishing the words, “Self-storage is stupid” in green text on a simple white background- in the corner, a logo for MakeSpace storage. Why would a company, seemingly used for storage, be mocking the self-storage industry? As a marketing professional for the traditional storage side of things, the billboard gave me a laugh. Welcome to the world of full-service self-storage.
What exactly is full-service self-storage? You may have heard of several startups that have recently taken a shot at placing a sexy spin on the storage industry (think Clutter, Makespace, Clutterbox). In a nutshell, a typical full service storage company will come pick up, store, and return or deliver your items on demand. You pack up your belongings at home, they bring the truck to you, load it up, and transport your belongings to a storage warehouse until you need them again. All of this while you can sit on the comfort of your couch and push a few buttons- welcome to modern America.
I get it- as a young millennial living in a crowded city I value convenience, convenience convenience. After commuting to work an LA average of 30 minutes, the last thing I want to do is drive in traffic to a storage facility, dig through it to find what I need, and get home an hour later. But, as anything, convenience comes at a cost and this cost to most is not particularly worth the convenience. While their marketing may be eye-catching and effective in reaching their target audience, let me dive into why exactly traditional self-storage is here to stay.
Like I said, convenience comes at a cost. While having someone else do your work for you is appealing, it’s much more expensive than doing it yourself. According to the prices on Clutter.com, the standard price for a “Garage Plan” or space equivalent to a 10×10 unit is $215 to store your belongings and then an additional $70/ hr. for the packing and transporting of your belongings. On top of that, every time you want something brought back to your place you have to pay for the transportation fee. Instead, you could have one clear cut monthly fee and move-in discounts at a nearby facility.
This aspect is crucial to the success of this concept of full-service storage and also the reason it will be presented with difficulties. With Trojan facilities ranging from Los Angeles to Cleveland and scattered in between, a major component of self-storage is that customers have very different mindsets and purchasing behaviors everywhere you go. City people (looking at you Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, New York), this concept would work for you and these services will most likely do okay in these places. People that live in cities tend to have less space and less time, therefore the appeal of paying more for full-service storing is much higher (convenience). However, suburbs, smaller cities, non-metropolises, and most of Middle America, this is not a concept that will work as seamlessly. It is also more difficult to find an adequate storage facility close to you at a reasonable price in the heart of a city than it is on the outskirts of one. It will be very difficult to maintain high demand for this industry in smaller cities and quieter states. The prices of full-service storage will have to lower and adjust based on the prices of neighboring storage facilities. People with many facility options, less traffic, and more space are much less likely to pay twice the price to have a service come and take their belongings for them. Why not when they could simply drive down the street and find their items themselves at a much more affordable monthly price?
Safety & Responsibility
Before committing to renting a storage unit at our facilities, we often have potential customers request to come in and tour our facility, learn about the features and benefits of it, and get to know our site manager on a personal level to see what size works best for them. On this tour they learn that a manager lives on the property, we have gate code access to enter the property, we have cameras placed inside and outside our buildings, individually alarmed doors, and we keep the place clean. Sales pitch aside, you get the full concept of what you’re paying for just by driving up to the facility and meeting the manager. With the full-service aspect, I don’t see these companies allowing customers to instruct how to pack up every object, hop in the truck and drive to the warehouse, take a tour of the warehouse, and hitch a ride home. There is a lot of room for error and plenty of unanswered questions during the full-service process. Whether these movers are taking family heirlooms, classic furniture, or personal belongings, chances are they hold some value to you. Simply transferring them to strangers in the hope that they are safe is putting a large amount of responsibility into these startup companies. The drivers hired must be trusted, the belongings must not get mixed up with other customers, the belongings must not get lost in the large warehouse, there must be high safety and security at the warehouse, there must be a way of getting the belongings to the customer quickly and efficiently, and the demand of full-service storage must match the amount of drivers and workers needed to fulfill the reputation of getting your items back to you in a timely fashion. At the end of the day, traditional self-storage also provides a sort of charm and tradition that you don’t have with full-service. We often hear about the relationships made between manager and client that truly create a unique storing experience during good times and bad. As well, the novelty of visiting your storage unit and coming across all of the old relics you had forgotten.
Although I have a biased opinion, with the facts on the table I think it is agreeable to say that traditional self-storage is indeed, not “stupid” and that it is definitely here to stay. Kudos and slow clap to your marketing techniques and creative billboards, but it will take an army to truly take down an industry that has been around for centuries and that still holds strong.
Written By: Lauren Gronna, Advertising Coordinator