Ever since the StoragePug crew returned from the Self Storage Association’s 2019 Spring Conference and Trade Show in DC, I keep reflecting on how immensely enjoyable and educational that trip was. Meeting and interacting and learning from so many people in similar situations was a blast.

For industry veterans, this conference offered new ways to sharpen and improve their business.

For someone looking to join the self storage world, there were many teaching moments from other professionals to take home best practices on how to get started.

Between the attendees, speakers, roundtable sessions, and sold-out exhibitor hall, there were plenty of takeaways for owners, operators, managers, and investors alike.

Here are the top five takeaways from this year’s conference that can be used to guide us for the remainder of 2019.

1. Technology is Here to Stay

As a software company in the self storage space, we get a front-row seat when it comes to technology.

First, we get to help self storage owners and operators usher in new technologies and tools that enhance their business and customer experience. Second, we often get a first look at emerging technologies and learn how they integrate with existing tools.

This year, it was abundantly clear that technology is here to stay. From cloud access control to website rental software, facility operators have more tech choices than ever to take their facilities to the next level.

Walking through the exhibitor hall, we could tell the tech vendors showed up in full force, with full-on demos of gates, doors, locks, and online rentals. Owners now have the option to automate as much or as little as they want by offering automated locks, call centers, and even cloud storage.

As overwhelming as this may seem, it is freeing to realize that our increasing reliance on technology is, at its core, meant to make our lives and operations easier. Tech will continue to be developed and improved, but the improvements are with our actual uses in mind.

Further improvements will aim to make each day more manageable and allow the industry to give more time and attention to customer service.

2. Emphasis Customer Experience

There was a common theme amongst many of the presentations and roundtable sessions:

"How can we enhance the customer experience?"

Talks on tech-assisted amenities (like online rentals, cloud access control, and reputation management) and operations advice (like hiring, training, and management software) often tied their talking points back to creating an optimum, world-class experience for the most important person in the room: the customer.

This new emphasis on customer experience is a wonderful breath of fresh air. In the coming months, we’re excited to see what comes out next and how the adoption of new technologies enhance the self storage experience even further.

3. Marketing Strategies Aplenty

Marketing tools for self storage facilities have never been more accessible, as made apparent by the dozens of exhibitors specializing in services to grow individual brands.

At the SSA Conference, exhibitors shared their expertise on SEO, digital marketing, marketing websites, data analysis, traditional advertising, and integrated solutions.

These are all concepts to implement so that we are making the right effort to talk to the right people.

From talking to attendees and vendors alike, we gathered that family-run, mom-and-pop storage facilities finally have the tools to go toe-to-toe with the big players in the industry.

The right strategy will depend on the market, target customer base, and competition in the area. The good news is there are plenty of choices on who to work with and what tools to use.

4. Existing in the New Era of Choices

One indicator of industry growth is the increasing number of self storage-specific service providers.

From acquisition companies to website rental software, there were over 150 vendor booths, all packed with rich info to help any storage business thrive.

With the plethora of choices available, there are lots of thoughtful strategies and actionable tactics for established and new self storage owners and operators alike.

5. Embrace the Tight-Knit Community

When StoragePug hit the scene in 2017, we were blown away by how much knowledge was readily available to start, build, grow, and succeed in the industry.

At the SSA 2019 Spring Conference, there were 31 roundtable sessions to go along with brilliant speakers. People who shared included service providers as well as fellow owners, operators, and investors.

How amazing is it to feel educated and listened to by such a diverse crowd of significant individuals?

It’s rare to see this sort of community engagement and the spirit of giving back.

The real magic of the SSA Conference is bringing everyone together for a festival of learning, sharing, and cultivating invaluable insights about this industry that is so dear to us.

The SSA 2019 Spring Conference set a new standard for the number of technology and marketing companies featured.

The Self Storage Association conferences continue to be the gateway for self storage operators and investors to learn about the next big thing.

If this year’s spring show was any indication then, tech is here to stay in the self storage industry. Hello, world-class customer experiences thanks to the entire industries efforts to make us all better!

Tommy Nguyen

Tommy is co-founder and COO of StoragePug, a self storage software company making online rentals easier. StoragePug combines modern marketing with our ecommerce platform, connecting customers to self storage through online rentals, bill pay, and digital lease signing. He's a husband to an amazing lady and father to three cats.