Are Smart Storage Units Right for Retrofits?

May 31, 2020

Self-storage facilities - and the neighborhoods they call home - have come a long way in the past 30 years. If your circa 1985 facility is competing against a new state-of-the-art build across the road, there’s no question of who is going to win more tenants. 

You don’t have to bulldoze your facility to the ground and spend millions to give tenants the high-tech, convenient storage experience they want. Secure, external smart locks for both roll-up and swing doors are here with new Nokē® ONE technology - no cables, door replacement, or hasps required, making them ideal for retrofit projects.

Download Now: Free Nokē ONE Brochure [Get Your Copy]

When you’re renovating or redeveloping a storage facility, you’re faced with a lot of decisions - and whether or not to implement smart storage units and access control technology is one of the biggest you’ll make. Let’s dive into the key considerations when determining whether or not to upgrade your traditional units to smart storage units during your renovation project.

How to determine if smart storage units are right for your retrofit project

Assess your market

If you’re redeveloping your self-storage facility or converting a warehouse or pre-existing building into self-storage, hopefully you’ve already done this. But if not, drop the hammer and pause your demo day right now - it’s time to conduct a market analysis. 

Self-storage market analyses are often performed by self-storage real estate companies as part of their valuation and appraisal services. And there are many great articles out there on how to conduct a mini-demand study on your own. If you haven’t had one done for your facility’s market in the last ten years, it’s time to do it again. 

Why?

Because the community around your business may likely be rapidly changing - and you need your facility to reflect these changes in demand. 

Once you have a better grasp on the demographics, competitors, and business/population growth projections within your radius (typically, three miles in self-storage), you can better plan for the necessary redesign and retrofit steps you need to take for your self-storage business - including whether or not to include smart storage units and smart entry tools, install ADA compliant doors, and/or adjust your unit mix.

Know your target customer

If you’ve already done your market analysis or demand study, then you know the important demographics of consumers in your community, such as:

  • Population size
  • Population growth rate/estimates
  • Age
  • Average household size
  • Home ownership (type of residence, home size, home price, etc.)
  • House and apartment rental stats (length of rental, cost of rent, size, etc.)
  • Education
  • Average household income

If you’ve already been in business for years, consider how these demographics factor in with the customers you see walk through the door every day. Are you currently bringing in tenants that match your community’s current demographics? And does your post-renovation target customer line up with your community’s future demographics?

Use what you’ve learned from your analysis to create some current and future customer personas.

But first - do your research to challenge any preconceived stereotypes you might have. 

You might be surprised to find that close to 90% of Americans have a smartphone and over 90% shop online - yep, even the Silent Generation loves texting and Amazon. 

Knowing this, it’s easy to see why smart storage units and smart entry system tools like the Nokē lock have been proven successful in many markets, even those that are home to primarily retirement-age populations. 

You also might be surprised to find out that most self-storage buying decisions are made by women, who stereotypically care most about security, cleanliness, and convenience. 

Then consider this: no woman wants to get out of her car when alone at night to key in a gate code at your facility. If women are the primary decision-makers for your business, smart entry might be perfect for your renovation project. Bluetooth-enabled smart entry at your gates, man doors, and elevators offers huge security benefits, is tech-forward, and gives you a leg up on your competition.

If your target customer cares most about convenience (hint: they almost all do), you’ll also want to strongly consider incorporating smart storage units and/or a smart entry system into your facility redesign. Nothing is more convenient than being able to access everything at your facility (down to the unit!) from your smartphone. With smart entry, they can also pay their bill online, share their unit key digitally, and check the status of their unit - right from their smartphone app. 

Once you better understand your target customer, you can assess their level of comfort with technology and what they expect in terms of mobile and online convenience, and apply it to your self-storage renovation.

Crunch the numbers

Is it worth the cost? That’s the burning question behind every facility redevelopment project.

Your facility retrofit has to help your business keep pace with your competition, or else you won’t be able to increase rates and stay profitable. Or worse, you may even have to lower rates. 

There’s a lot at stake. You’ll need to make your reno budget stretch as far as possible, and to do that, you may need to take a look at adjusting your business model.

What does that mean? For example, if the competition is offering an automated self-storage and you’re losing customers, you may need to add technology automation into your reno, and adjust your business model - maybe by adjusting manager hours or tightening your rate increase schedule - to account for the new cost of technology. Smart entry systems can help managers save lots of time on day-to-day tasks such as overlocking or vacant unit lock removal. To account for the new tech, manager roles may need to be adjusted to focus more on customer service, marketing, and phone call follow-up.

When it comes to smart storage units and smart entry systems, storage owners can charge a premium rate (we’ve seen as high as 30% over traditional units with the Nokē Smart Entry System) to accelerate ROI. With these methods, the ROI for smart entry can be shockingly fast - in this Nokē Smart Entry case study, an Arizona self-storage business was able to achieve positive ROI in only 12 months. 

In addition, facilities that have smart storage units and smart entry tools can choose to charge smart storage renters a “technology charge” of $3-$5 (which is basically a convenience fee for the upgraded technology added onto their monthly bill) to accelerate ROI.

In fact, you’ll likely find that your tenants are happy to pay a little extra for the added peace of mind of an ultra-secure, thermal motion sensor-enabled smart storage unit. 

If you’re conducting a major facelift at your facility, you’ll likely be raising rent for all tenants anyway. After all, aren’t premium rates the whole reason you want to retrofit your facility in the first place? 

Evaluate your facility layout

When deciding on upgrades to consider as part of your retrofit project, you’ll need to consider the layout of your facility.

Without bulldozing your existing building, an empty warehouse renovation simply has more options than a traditional, drive-up property redesign. 

But what about traditional facility renovations?

If you facility is traditional in layout, it doesn’t mean you can’t offer smart storage units or smart entry for your tenants.

In fact, the new Nokē ONE all-in-one, on-door lock is designed for traditional facilities or operators who are looking to upgrade the tenant experience and give their property a fast facelift without ripping everything up and starting over.

It works like this: Nokē ONE is installed on the exterior of your unit doors, so there’s no need to run low voltage cables through your facility, replace new doors, or install hasps, and the install process is fast and painless. Owners can even order Nokē ONE smart locks pre-installed on their Janus roll-up and swing doors - just think: you could transform your outdated facility into a “smart” storage facility in one weekend!

Whether you’re interested in an exterior electronic smart lock (like Nokē ONE) is right for your facility, or you’re hoping to install smart storage units with in-door security (like Nokē Volt), you’ll need to evaluate your facility layout for cell coverage and/or WiFi reach. There are many tools available to help extend signal through your facility, and with the Nokē system, tenants can access their unit even without a cell signal. 

Your facility layout shouldn’t stop you from implementing smart storage units or a smart entry system - it’ll just affect how you do it. For smart entry at a climate-controlled facility, you’ll be covering access points such as man doors and elevators, whereas a traditional drive-up facility typically only has to manage gate access.

With modern, smart entry technology, you can retrofit your storage property to compete with the REITs, win more tenants, and boost revenue. Find out more about Nokē ONE all-in-one, electronic smart locks by downloading the FREE brochure below.

New call-to-action

Subscribe by Email