First things first, automation is not an army of menacing robots taking over the world. Now, we’ve discussed automation a lot over the past few weeks and the important role it’s playing for countless operators during the current health crisis and economic downturn. However, automation isn’t a new concept. In fact, it has been around for decades and there’s probably as much confusion and hesitation around automation today as when it was first introduced.
Automation is a broad term that affects people and industries very differently. For example, it does not look the same in the storage industry as it does in, let’s say, the automobile industry. For a storage operator, automation is something as simple as a customer paying their rent online. While in automobile manufacturing, automation is a robotic machine helping assemble a car. Online bill pay and robots are two very different things. But they are both forms of automation.
In reality, automation is more widespread today than a lot of people may realize. And, in a lot of ways, it’s become more practical than ever for consumers and business owners alike. However, it still carries a negative connotation with a lot of folks. So, we wanted to clear the air and help our audience come to a better understanding of how automation can make life and work just a little bit easier.
What Is Automation, Really?
According to the old, trusty Merriam-Webster, automation is the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically.
That seems simple enough. Yet, there’s persistent confusion around it. Which we contribute to the true scope and range of what automation can be. Again, automation is a lot of things. It’s an ATM. it’s your home security system or your smart thermostat. It’s Redbox movie rentals and Netflix. It’s online car dealers like Carvana. And that’s not even scratching the surface.
Now, as it relates to the storage business, automation ranges from notifications all the way to unmanned operations. There are many forms of automation that fall between those two examples. Which brings us to our next point, automation, especially in storage, exists on a spectrum.
The Spectrum of Automation
When you think of automation as a spectrum, we believe it becomes a lot easier to understand and even more appealing. There is no one-size fits all solution when it comes to automating your business. What you choose to automate, and when, largely depends on the needs of your business. If your operation is running as maximum profitability on pen and paper, well, there’s probably not much that automation could help you do better. But, if you’ve discovered areas of weakness in your business or feel like certain tasks are bogging you down, then you’re likely to benefit from automation. And since automation isn’t an end all be all solution, you can really focus on the areas your business stands to benefit from the most.
For example, if you’re having to constantly remind customers to pay rent, having the ability to offer online, auto-pay can help. Online bill pay is simple and it’s a far cry from robots. Another example is the ability to offer contactless move-ins. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it’s imperative for operators to accept new customers while also practicing safe, social distancing. And automation tools like online move-ins and e-sign have enabled most of them to do just that.
For some more discussion on the spectrum of automation, you can watch our webinar on it here.
One big reason to adopt some degree automation is customer preference. As we mentioned earlier, automation looks different for consumers and business owners. The probability that you rely on, and prefer, automation as a consumer is high.
In love with your security system or a smart thermostat? Those are both automation. Do you enjoy binge watching Netflix on the weekends? Yep, that’s automation. Even having your favorite fast food delivered via Uber Eats or DoorDash is automation. Before the COVD-19 outbreak, more and more consumers were relying on and preferring automation in their own lives.
Fast-forward to today, and not only is it a preference, but it’s quickly becoming a requirement for consumers. Which was already the case with younger shoppers, like millennials. But this current situation has forced widespread adoption by consumers across nearly every demographic.
Recently, we’ve enabled operators to mark their facilities on SpareFoot as a contactless operation if they met certain requirements and, so far, we’re seeing a 10.8% increase in rentals for contactless operations versus those who don’t have that capability. So, it’s not just something we’re saying, consumers are proving it with their wallets.
The Truth? Automation is Here to Stay.
And it’s nothing to be afraid of. Automation is more accessible and approachable than ever. Especially for storage operators. Empowering your business with the tools of automation won’t mean robots are running the show. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. The more automation and free you up from busy work, the more you’re able to maintain and improve our facility, perfect your customer service and even invest in your community.
More importantly, automation has proven vital during the last few months as we’ve all had to navigate this crisis. And it’s shown that it can empower operators to maintain success even in the most uncertain times, while laying the foundation for even more success long into the future.
Besides, if you enjoy the benefits of automation as a consumer, isn’t it safe to assume your customers would as well? We believe so.