We are all headed towards a post-COVID new normal, so let’s see what that means for the self storage industry.
With no definite end of the pandemic in sight, everyday people and businesses had to drastically change the way they live their lives and how they operate. Through this pandemic, things have been extremely unstable and constantly in flux, but as many countries now begin to cautiously open back up, we’ll all have to shift again towards something else, a new normal. Self storage as an industry will not be any different, so with that in mind, let’s take a look at what changes might take hold post-coronavirus.
As mentioned, COVID has already caused seismic shifts in the self storage industry, some positive, some negative. Positive effects mainly lie in the bottom line, with a growing demand for self storage due to an increasing number of people being displaced from their homes or having plans disrupted, and needing temporary storage space. The industry seemed to be surviving through the disruption, if not trending upwards. However, there was also the opposite end, with the pandemic exposing some existing flaws in the industry. The business is relatively client-facing and usually requires a lot of face-to-face interaction, however with strict social distancing measures in place in most areas, this hasn’t been possible anymore. Further, the nature of self storage means it has a lot of high-contact surfaces, and especially in times like these, those surfaces require a heavy amount of sanitation. Similarly, the small, confined spaces of storage units can be a breeding ground for contamination if not cleaned regularly or if not ventilated properly. In the light of a global health risk, these flaws have to be mended, even after the pandemic is over.
So where does that leave the businesses as a whole? Well, as mentioned earlier, the industry has pivoted to adhere to current social norms, and there’s a good chance these measures will be here to stay, even if they’re not as extreme. Firstly, masks will definitely be more prevalent than they were before coronavirus. For the most part, people are more conscious of their well-being now, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see people continuing to wear masks in dense, indoor areas or if they feel slightly unwell. Moreover, employees might be more inclined to take sick days to work from home if they feel that they aren’t fit to come into the office.
Another existing flaw that we discussed earlier is the nature of self storage and the prevalence of high-contact surfaces. During the pandemic, businesses from many sectors have adopted contact-free services, and self storage is no different. Online payments, removal services, as well as contact-free move-ins and move-outs have all made sure that the customer and the business are comfortable working together. Not only have these methods reduced the need for face-to-face interactions but they’ve also proven that they function well, and are oftentimes even more convenient for both the customer and the storage operator. It would make sense for businesses to continue offering this service, as it has become extremely popular and can help significantly reduce the staff costs.
Arguably the largest hurdle still to overcome is how to eliminate the danger of high-contact surfaces and ventilation. Necessity does indeed drive innovation, and companies around the world are already creating new technology to help businesses past this last obstacle. New sanitation technologies have started to pop up, most notably newer, more advanced HVAC systems that incorporate UV disinfection. Moreover, there have been products like the C-Astra robot, which claims to use multiple UV lamps to kill 99% of viruses, that have been used in hospitals, but are also fit for retail spaces and possibly storage facilities. Self storage businesses have also leveraged the use of cloud technologies to benefit the running of their services, and should continue to do this, both for convenience and to reduce face-to-face interactions.
The pandemic has gone on longer than any of us had expected, and as we near one year of living under pandemic circumstances, we all have to start accepting and shifting towards a new normal. As we prepare for what this might mean for the self storage industry, we can safely assume that heightened safety, innovation in technology, and a changing customer experience will be extremely significant in the future for self storage.
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