Tapping Into the RV and Boat Market With Technology
RV and boat storage, while similar in theory to traditional self-storage, carries with it a necessity for more flexibility, organization, and (dare I say?) finesse in order to meet the growing expectations of its clientele. Luckily, today’s advanced technology is ready to meet the challenge to position you competitively within this potentially lucrative niche market.
Whether you are primarily storing boats, RV’s, or sticking to traditional self-storage, your management software acts as the central hub for a storage facility. This means that your ability to offer your guests the most recent advancements in technology while protecting their personal data is tightly woven into your choice of software and will have a dramatic effect on the success of your business.
A simple example of this can be shown by the amount of data that you can gather during the move in process and populate into your customer’s profile and contract. Unlike self-storage units, it’s important to gather as much information as possible about the stored vehicle such as:
• Valid Registration
• Car Insurance
• Vin Numbers
• Vehicle Images
All of this information can (and should) be stored within your management software for easy reference, as well as populated directly into your digital or paper contract via merge fields for the tenant to sign.
Another practice unrelated to the self-storage model, would be allowing for standard rentals in increments less than a month. Not all vehicle storage will be long term, and depending on your current setup, you could be stuck renting to short-term customers and prorating back unused time on a regular basis. Instead, you may consider using a system that allows for smaller increments such as weekly, daily, or even hourly billing periods to better accommodate these customers and save management the time and effort that could be better used at other important tasks.
Your management software may not come “off the shelf” with every feature that you may have been dreaming about, but that’s where 3rd party technology partners come in to play. It’s important to do your research beforehand to make sure that the software you choose will be able to integrate with the partners you wish to incorporate into your business for additional features such as tenant text message notifications, gate access control, and onsite device preferences.
Take a good, hard look at your payment options
With rising standards in security and higher demand for more flexibility, payment processing options never been more important to the average storage customer. While recurring automatic payments and online payments are already Bill Lodes, EVP of Business Development & Strategy at First American Payment Systems, a leading provider of cutting edge payment processing states, “The demand for more diverse and secure payment options has been growing steadily and, with the availability of e-payment options such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, customers have come to expect and rely on these technologies at most businesses.”
This coincides with the EMV liability shift of 2015 and calls for merchants to switch to more updated point-of-sale devices to allow for mobile payments by use of EMV-compliant chips. If your facility is not currently accepting these types of payments, it may be a sign that you are falling behind the technology curve which is probably not the image you want to project to prospective customers.
Make Security a Priority
With an average cost of RV’s between $10,000 and $300,000 (with higher-end models far exceeding those numbers), the average RV and boat tenant expects a facility to maintain a higher standard of security compared to a typical self-storage facility. Most of today’s modern prospects won’t even consider leaving their high-end RV or boat at a facility without 24-hour closed-circuit recording, secure perimeter and gate access, and emergency systems such as fire sprinklers to start with.
However, outside of the threat to your facility’s physical security there is your data security to think about as well. Cloud technologies have been adopted globally for many reasons and have been an industry standard for years. Benefits of these cloud technologies include backup redundancies, resource scalability, simplified conversions, and even faster technical support response.
These important measures not only protect you from malicious digital attacks, but also from crippling data loss in the case of natural disasters. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the U.S. experienced a record-breaking $306 billion dollars’ worth of damage caused by natural disasters in 2017 and with the recent hurricanes and wild fires in 2018, it may be the right time to reconsider the Cloud.
“If you build it, they will come”
…is just not the case for storage operators. Successful boat and RV businesses implement a wide variety of marketing tools to attract new customers such as:
- Referral programs
- Email distribution
- Digital pay-per-click campaigns
- Local print advertisements
- Listing services (Yelp, Storelocal, etc.)
- A high-ranking website that can be found organically
I would personally recommend all of the above, but regardless of your preferred medium it is important that you track the outcomes of your marketing efforts and make adjustments accordingly. Most management software will allow you to gather this information during the move in process and by doing so, you are automatically recording the data to be used in your marketing reports later.
Don’t Make your Job Harder
Your success at operating a RV and boat storage facility will depend on many different factors, however being able to rely on time-saving, onsite management tools to assist you in your efforts can make an unquestionable impact on your overall performance.
Tablets have been a very welcome addition to the industry that have seen tremendous growth in usage and interest. They not only allow for a streamlined and elegant customer experience, but coupled with electronic signature technology, can help eliminate paper costs entirely.
Electronic check readers are perfect for facilities that tend to get written a lot of paper checks. By scanning customers checks through a reader or imager, you completely bypass the need for deposit slips and unnecessary bank trips while also receiving your revenue faster. The savings on gas alone is worth giving e-Checks a try.
Last but certainly not least, kiosks are an amazing example of how adaptive technology can be. Providing 24/7 customer service to prospective and current tenants with a seemingly un-ending list of capabilities – kiosks can be a game-changer for any operation and intuitive enough for any age demographic.
Bells and Whistles are Important!
RV and boat customers usually require an additional dose of TLC to keep them happy, and many operators offer a variety of complimentary and paid ancillary services to do just that. These services can include (but are not limited to):
- Wash bays
- Electricity hookups
- Water Stations
- Firewood supplies
- Dump stations
- Vacuum stations
- Air compressors
McBride’s RV Storage, located in Chino, California, even supplies their tenants with free purified ice from their shaded, outdoor ice machines on site that (by the reviews of their customers) seems to be a great amenity and well worth the cost to sustain.
Supplying a vast array of options, while great for the customers, can also be a daunting task for operators. In order to properly organize and maintain these services it’s important that your management software can meet the needs of your operation as well by offering:
• Variable amount services that will track the amount of services used and charge accordingly with items such a propane.
• Work orders to retain contacts and track costs for repairs and maintenance on your amnesties.
• Inventory alerts that remind management to place new merchandise orders.
These crucial tools have been proven critical to any operator who values the ability to stay organized and ahead of the demand of their tenants.
Overall, RV and boat storage can be a powerhouse revenue generator if handled correctly. It requires a strong strategy and the ability to adapt to a unique customer-base, but with the right combination of technology tools at your disposal you will undoubtedly be closer to reaching your potential.