The storage market is still growing, despite the number of new stores declining slightly in 2022. With just over 2,000 self-storage facilities in the UK, 620 of these are container-based. The industry itself represents over 1000 different brands, from the big names such as Safestore and Big Yellow, to smaller more local stores and independent operators.
As a digital marketing agency, we’ve worked in this sector for over 15 years and we’ve seen the number of operators grow, technology change and competition increase massively in populated areas – but we’re not alone in our thinking that the storage sector has still further to grow.
Post-pandemic – self-storage marketing
We’ve seen an increase in the number of people searching for storage online in the last 5 years, and unsurprisingly most searches start with Google. We’ve found that the most popular key terms buyers use are ‘Self-storage’, and ‘storage units’ or they use ‘Near me’ searches leave Google to determine their location. In a recent survey by the SSA over 71% of buyers said that they do a Google search when first looking for self-storage providers.
Over the past 18 months, there has also been a change in how people make initial enquiries for storage with nearly 76% actually choosing to get a quote or make an enquiry through the storage operator’s website. Online visibility, especially via Google, is the single most important marketing factor for storage operators. Signage only accounts for 10% of presence and other digital channels such as social media are much lower at 3%. Having a website that is both easy to find, but also efficient at handling quotes has never been as important as it is now.
“Online visibility, especially via Google, is the single most important marketing factor for storage operators”
Understanding your buyers
Self-storage buyers exhibit certain behaviours. When trying to grow your business and plan your marketing campaigns, it’s worth putting your feet in the buyer’s shoes to understand their needs, wants and behaviours when looking for self-storage.
- With a location in mind – the majority of customers (67%) use location keywords within their search terms, such as self-storage Oxford. Making sure your site has location-based landing pages is essential so that Google can find you, but also for the consumer. 75% of customers choose a storage facility within a 20 minutes drive from their home.
- They are typically time-poor – they are likely to spend only 2-3 minutes on your site. Our benchmark is just 2.21. Your quote and booking process should be streamlined. You should aim to capture their name and email address within the first 1 minute. If you can, you should engage them with online chat and initiate contact with them.
- They are using mobile devices – More than 72% use mobile as the primary device so your website should work perfectly on mobiles and also load quickly on 4G/5G connections. The performance of your website is not just important for Google, but essential for your conversion rate – a slow website will result in a poorer conversion rate and few customers.
- They shop around – with plenty of competition, consumers will get 2 or 3 quotes. How you engage with your audience during this period will be the deciding factor on if you win them. Marketing Automation and remarketing are critical in this phase, as are telephone follow-ups, to ensure that your brand stays front of mind.
Offers and promotions – discounted offers on initial rental periods have been shown to be successful in winning new customers. Although these have been in decline post-pandemic, discounts can help persuade customers to sign up, especially for customers who have never used self-storage before and don’t fully understand how much storage costs.
Profiling your self-storage customers
Rob and Lilly
Newly married at 23, with a baby on the way they both have a lot of stuff. They’re planning to move from their rented flat to a 2 bedroom house but want to declutter to make the sale easier, they both have their own individual storage units and want to combine them.
Affordable, easy to access, without a long-term contract.
Rob grabs his phone, starts on Google, using local results, gets 3 quotes and then signs up online without talking to anyone.
Sue is 42 and has two kids, Jake (4) Sam (8), and works part time. As the kids are growing they need more space while she saves up to convert the attic, in the meantime she wants to create some space to make life easier.
Safe, secure environment and easy for her to drop off stuff while juggling kids.
Sue sees an Ad on Facebook for a local storage company which looks ok – she decides to check out their reviews on Google, which were good, so she gets a quote online and signs up after a call back the next day.
Lucy and John
Lucy is 56, married with two kids who have both now moved out of home. Unfortunately Lucy’s parents have both passed away recently and it’s down to her to clear and sort her childhood home so they can sell the house.
Flexible storage, with a collection service
Lucy has noticed a sign to a self storage facility near her local supermarket. She goes online, checks out their reviews, gets a quote and then pops into the store and signs up in person.
Depending on how your website is set up, typically there are 3 steps in acquiring a new customer in the self-storage sector.
- Visitors – arriving at your site from organic or paid traffic, social media, or directly via recommendations. Visitors are potential customers who have yet to get in touch with you.
- Leads – are visitors who have requested a quote or signed up in some way to receive more information. In self-storage, the conversion rate from visitors to leads is between 7-40% – this depends on many factors including, website experience, price, type of storage and quality of your service and facilities.
- Sales – Some vendors allow you to sign up, pay a deposit and become a customer online, other vendors assist this process with telephone calls and emails. The conversion rate from Lead to sale varies between 12% and 48%, largely dependent on the quality of the customer service and follow-ups and the process that your website takes them through.
What is the best strategy for generating Self-storage customers?
The best strategy for your self-storage business will depend on many different factors including; how well-established you are, where you are located, what kind of storage you offer and how quickly you want to grow.
New storage operators’ strategy
For brand new start-up storage customers, often the best strategy is to focus on PPC to generate a consistent flow of clients each month, to allow your store to get to a point where it is generating positive cash flow and putting money in your pocket.
Alongside this, we also recommend start-up storage companies invest in local SEO – with a growing amount of competition, there are few areas left in the UK where there is not a competitor nearby, and getting your domain authority and ranking up to a level where you a visible in the top 5 results is best started sooner than later – after all SEO is a medium to long term strategy, and will offer you the best ROI in the longer term.
For established storage operators
For established businesses which are expanding, often the strategy is about generating a consistent volume of leads and looking at optimising the cost per acquisition. This can range from improving a PPC or Facebook lead generation campaign to streamlining the quotation process or adding a remarketing campaign. The objective should be getting enough leads and at the same time reducing the cost of acquisition by improving the conversion and sign up rate.
How much does it cost to generate a storage client from Google Ads / PPC
The cost to generate a lead is governed by competition and how much you, as a storage vendor, are prepared to pay for your Google Ads. There is a massive variance across the UK, at the time of writing, the bid range for London was between £8.80 to £16.59 a click on ‘storage units London’. This can be compared to £2.80 – £6.03 for the same terms in Newcastle.
The cost to generate a new lead or a new customer from Google Ads varies from store to store, and depends partly on advertising cost (which is governed largely by competition in the local area – as shown above) but also on the quality of the process and journey that the customer goes through. Storage companies that have a very efficient online sales process and customer service, will come out on top.
|Cost per click bid price (low range)||Typical % of clicks to leads via PPC||Cost per lead||Typical % of leads to sale||Cost per sale|
Above, we can see a huge difference the location of your store has on the cost to generate a lead or sale via PPC and this is where SEO can be so valuable.
It is worth mentioning though, regardless of the area a vendor operates in, a well-managed PPC campaign, run by a competent agency, that has experience in this sector will help ensure you get value for money from your PPC spend. A badly managed campaign will always result in a poor click-through rate and fewer sign-ups – and of course, a wasted budget.
How much does it cost to generate a storage client from SEO?
It’s impossible to say the exact cost in this article due to so many different variables, but what we’ve found is that SEO is far more labour-intensive and so the costs tend to be slightly higher initially.
However, in the longer term rewards can be far greater than with PPC. Good organic rankings will normally out perform PPC both in delivering a greater volume of traffic and delivering better quality (improved conversion rate).
|Channel||The volume of traffic available in search for a particular area based on multiple search terms||Average click-through rate driven from top 1-3 position vs PPC||Traffic||Number of leads based on typical conversion rates (20%)||Number of sales based on typical conversion rates (33%)|
Once they’ve found you – how should you sign them up?
For storage operators that have staff, walk-in customers tend to convert at the highest rate of 72%. On-the-phone enquiries convert at a blistering rate of 61% and the average storage website converts at around 20%. Although these figures are estimates based on an SSA survey, they are not too far from the mark, however, they do vary massively depending on the type of operator, their efficiency and their location.
The savviest operators often take an approach of multiple touch points, website, retargeting, email and also follow-up calls, with much of this automated (except the calls naturally) to increase the conversion rate of onboarding new customers. With storage competition rising in most popular residential areas, it is often the customer that receives the best presale service and value that gets the business.
What is the average conversion rate on a storage website?
Storage companies who implement a robust follow up and post enquiry outreach will perform far better than those that don’t. Storage companies that use automation in their process, tend to generate a better overall conversion rate of enquiry to sale.
Having worked with a range of storage clients, we’ve found that those who proactively outreach to customers while they are doing their research (and getting quotes) have a much higher conversion rate. This can be done via online chat, via telephone or via email, or a mixture of the three. It’s clear that those who actively engage with the customer through the journey get a much better (sometimes double) the rate of conversion of those clients that don’t and just rely online signup.
As storage is still a relatively new commodity, new customers often don’t actually know what they want, so the storage companies that actively engage and call the client as soon as they have been on the website, are often the ones to sign up the customer because they can easily tailor a solution to the client’s exact needs.
“It’s clear that the storage providers who actively engage with new customers through their journey in finding storage, get a much better rate of conversion than those who don’t”
Our top 10 tips of generating self storage customers
72% of users’ first contact will be via mobile devices. A fast responsive website which is designed with a mobile first experience will help customers connect with you more quickly and improve your conversion rate.
Google favours websites that load quickly, but from a customer’s point of view the speed and journey through getting a quote to signing up should be quick – On average users only spend 2.21 minutes on your site.
An average site conversion rate can be massively increased if you intercept visitors with online chat or by offering an instant call back. Conversion rates can increase to a 60% when you initiate contact with visitors on your site.
With the majority of customers getting at least one quote, using remarketing will ensure your brand is always front of mind. Remarketing can increase your chance of a customer coming back to you by 54% and can be fully automated.
With 67% of all searches starting on Google using local terms ‘self storage [location] – using local PPC advertising can be very effective, not just on Google, but also on Facebook, geo target your audience to get better results.
37% of visitors who get quotes do not sign up immediately, so keeping in touch with them increases the chance of them booking at a later date. A simple, automated email journey can increase conversion by 22%
Advertising only accounts for 10-15% of clicks on Google’s first page. Over 60% comes from the top organic rankings. Setting up location based landing pages and building authority will help you achieve good rankings and get quality low cost traffic in the long term.
|Social Media advertising
Target users in your local area that have changed their status or interests, perhaps they have just got engaged, had a baby or started a new business. Run campaigns that trigger on life changes, as they may now be in the market for storage.
38% of prospective storage customers read reviews before purchasing. Having genuine reviews from happy customers will show that you care – this can help increase your conversion rates by 11% – But don’t fake them, many users can tell.
|Google Profile / GMB
Your Google ‘my business’ listing, now called ‘Google Business Profile’ is important. It helps build trust, links in with Google Maps and is connected to local search algorithms. Claim it, look after it and use it to get reviews!
For more information
For more free advice and help on growing your storage business, please get in touch with us or drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org