Deep-dive into self storage customer demographics and preferences in APAC.
The Asia-Pacific region is particularly interesting for self storage operators and investors alike. The markets are new, and growth rates inspiring. After all, 53% of the global urban population lives in the region, and we all know that urbanization is a key growth driver in the industry. By 2023 the size of the APAC economy will be the size of the EU and USA put together. Our partner in the Region, Unwired Logic, shared with us their insights. Let us dissect what makes these customers tick, so your business can serve them best.
Individual consumer demand in self storage typically comes from one of the “4 Ds of self-storage” – death, divorce, dislocation, and downsizing. In the APAC region, prices of living spaces are soaring. Cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore are almost synonymous with tiny apartments and cramped spaces. Consumers increasingly look for alternative storage solutions. This effect is compounded because more and more people prefer to rent rather than own, to retail mobility and flexibility – or simply because homeownership is too expensive. Again, self storage proves to be a popular solution. It comes as no surprise then that over 70% of customers in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan come from B2C business.
In China and Malaysia, a not-insignificant chunk of business comes from B2B. This is not surprising, as both countries have a large e-commerce sector. Worldwide 16% of global sales come from online - tendency growing. Self storage is an affordable alternative in places with land scarcity and high square-meter prices. Instead of renting a large warehouse far out, a company can operate with smaller stock from a self-storage unit in the city – reducing delivery times. B2B customers require specific services and have unique needs. However, self storage operators who are willing to invest can secure a head-start in a customer demographic set to grow over the coming years.
Most self storage operators opt for smaller, standalone facilities – on average 1300 m2 (15,000 ft2). Singapore is the only outlier, with facilities ten times the average size. We see the same trend in unit sizes. 80% of units are small units of less than 2 m2 (20 ft2) or lockers. Singapore and Malaysia are the only exceptions, where the situation is precisely reversed – 80% of units are medium to large.
Operators are fairly homogeneous when it comes to product mix, with some differences across countries. Hong Kong and Taiwan mainly offer air-conditioned units (82% and 75% respectively), whereas Malaysian and Singaporean operators make less than 20% of the units in their portfolio climate-controlled. In China, operators additionally offer specialized units, such as safety deposit boxes – up to 15%.
Across the region, operators earn around 7% of their revenues from value-add services. This is on par with Europe but lags behind the 12% operators can make in the USA. There is room for growth for those who differentiate and offer outstanding service. Customers in the region won’t be surprised with on-site duty managers or equipment and supplies, such as boxes or trollies – nearly every self-storage offers it. Electronic access control and 24-hour access to the facility and units are also widespread, with a market saturation of almost 90%. Roughly 7 out of 10 also provide moving services and insurance for stored items. However, operators who invest in valet storage or small auxiliary offices have the opportunity to monetize and set themselves apart from the competition. These value-add services are still underrepresented in the market.
The pandemic had a dramatic effect on digitalisation in most industries. Customers expect to find information about self storage and the units on the website. Must-have data includes pricing, unit types, and terms and conditions. Payments also moved to the digital era – direct online payments are now industry standard.
For a unique customer experience, operators can provide virtual tours of the facility. Less than half of operators across the region offer online reservations and unit booking on their websites. Less than a third provides customers with an app to manage the storage unit.
How self storage advertises is also transforming. Referrals from existing customers are and will remain an important factor. But online advertisements, especially paid search engine ads and search engine optimisations have almost as much conversion potential. We don’t see a lot of social media marketing and advertising for self storage yet, but the trend is there. Again this is an opportunity for early movers to establish themselves and capture future audiences.
As our partner, Unwired Logic says: “The key to managing this new online reality is investing in tools for omnichannel communication: In other words, having a uniform and seamless online presence and the ability to interact with your customers across platforms and channels (email, voice, social, messaging, and others) without hassle or boundaries.”
Related Article: The growing demand for self storage in Asia