We love hearing success stories from the storage facilities on our network. But nothing prepared us for the shockingly awesome news we got at the beginning of August.
The end of summer always promises a mad rush of students moving back into dorms and apartments. This year, no one felt the desperate collegiate demand for storage more than Storage Zone in Tallahassee, FL, home of Florida State University. Having just signed up four of its Tallahassee facilities with SpareFoot–going live on our site in July–Storage Zone and its managers had no idea that they were about to get inundated with reservations.
“We were very excited to add these facilities to our network,” SpareFoot Client Relations specialist Laura Bishop said. “Since they were a new account in a college town at the height of back-to-school season, we knew there would be lots of eager customers for us to send their way.”
Neither Laura nor the account (owned by Gulf Atlantic Asset Management Inc.) was prepared for the windfall: Storage Zone got almost 300 reservations in total for its four Tallahassee facilities in July. One Storage Zone facility on Pensacola Street received 123 reservations alone. Jeff Cornish, manager of that facility, described the experience as “intense.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cornish said. “We always get busy around this time of year because of a large student population, but nothing like that before. I’ve been in storage for decades, and I’ve never had a weekday when there was a line out the door.”
A Spike in Demand
Shortly after going live on SpareFoot, Cornish told me he reached a point when he had to turn off the listing because of such high demand.
“I’ve never experienced a marketing campaign where we couldn’t keep up with the demand–not in storage, at least.” he said.
SpareFoot promotes a facility’s available units across more than 60 moving and storage sites, like SelfStorage.com and Apartments.com. This allows facilities on SpareFoot’s network to be highly visible across the web, bringing them new customers who are searching for storage online. Because SpareFoot.com and other sites on the ad network rank highly in Google for search terms like “Tallahassee storage” and “Florida State University self storage,” we were able to drive significant views for Storage Zone’s facility listing.
“I think what put it over the top was the position we got in search engines,” Cornish said. “We don’t have the ability to get that much search engine optimization as a small business, but being on SpareFoot helped put us at the top of Google searches.”
The same thing happened at Storage Zone’s Tallahassee location on Crawfordville Highway.
“I did not expect this big of a turnout,” manager Sandy Hagaman said. “In previous years, this property only obtained a small amount of business from students. I believe many students did not realize we were this close by. With SpareFoot, this boosted our occupancy and made people aware of our business.”
Namely Millennials, who make up a demographic very receptive to online shopping. A survey of 18- to 35-year-old Internet users by the Urban Land institute found that 45 percent spent one or more hours a day browsing retail-oriented sites.
“I think younger generations, especially college students, want to see everything online,” Bishop said. “This includes specials, photos, amenities–you name it. We always recommend that facilities have anywhere from three to five good photos. It’s comparison shopping for customers.”
‘Very Solid Listings’
While being in a college town certainly accounted for part of Storage Zone’s huge influx of reservations, Bishop also cited its facility listing pages as playing a big role in bookings.
“Clear promotions, reviews and photos are our recommendations for increasing the number of reservations,” Bishop said. “Storage Zone’s facilities have all of those components, which makes for a very solid presence on our site.”
The Value of Follow-Ups
Bishop also cited follow-ups as crucial for securing move-ins after a new customer expresses interest in or books a storage unit.
“Facilities who follow up with their reservations quickly and keep accurate inventory will always maintain a higher move-in rate,” Bishop said.
Our data shows that 91 percent of storage customers find follow-up calls helpful. Additionally, facilities that call within 10 minutes of getting a new customer inquiry see a 7.4 percent increase in move-in rates. SpareFoot’s Tenant Connect system reinforces this–10 minutes after a customer reserves a unit through us, we’ll call the facility with the option of connecting it directly to a customer to follow up and ensure a move-in.
At Storage Zone, however, follow-ups eventually became impossible, because of the big demand. The frantic scramble for storage became so intense that a man actually called the police at one of the locations when there weren’t any more units left. Spoiler alert: The cops never showed up.
Despite the frenzy, both Jeff Cornish and Sandy Hagaman were enthusiastic about the experience, and Storage Zone since has added its remaining seven Florida locations to the SpareFoot network. We’re super excited for them, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.