In late 2022, OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public. This moment heralded a paradigm shift in the world of AI, redefining en masse how humans and machines converse. The once-impermeable boundary between silicon and sentience began to crack as ChatGPT combined advances in machine learning with eerily human-like conversation.
For better or worse, the advent of ChatGPT into the lives of the public has sparked breakthroughs across industries, revolutionising personalised learning and reshaping our digital companionship. But this has been more than just an AI evolution—it’s been a societal metamorphosis, ushered in by a chatbot.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that enables machines to simulate human-like cognitive functions. Put simply, AI involves the creation of computer systems that can mimic tasks typically requiring human intelligence.
- problem solving
- recognising patterns
- understanding language
- making decisions
Many perceive AI as a futuristic concept. However, with its foundations dating back to 1956, today’s AI is already intertwined with our daily lives.
In the early 20th century, the idea of artificially intelligent robots began to take root, inspired by science fiction characters like the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” and Maria’s humanoid replica in “Metropolis”. By the 1950s, this concept had penetrated the minds of leading scientists and thinkers, with Alan Turing pioneering the notion of machines thinking and reasoning like humans.
Today, the era of “big data” has allowed AI to flourish across industries. The increasing computational power combined with massive data sets allows AI to learn more efficiently. Driven by the ambition to replicate human intelligence in machines, platforms like ChatGPT process trillions of words, tailoring responses to user prompts for accurate results.
Does the Self Storage Industry Need AI?
It’s not just the tech giants or e-commerce platforms reaping the benefits of AI. Unexpected industries, like self storage, are poised to harness AI’s capabilities to streamline operations, enhance customer experience, and improve profitability.
According to recent insights from a report by McKinsey Technology Council, AI has the potential to create between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in value annually across various business sectors. While these figures encompass a broad spectrum of industries, the significance of AI’s impact on the self storage sector is unmistakable. The ripple effects of AI’s introduction will be felt across the board.
How Can AI Benefit Self Storage Operators?
Customer service and experience are integral aspects of the self storage industry. The rise of AI has led to sophisticated chatbot systems that can handle customer queries efficiently. The implementation of these chatbots holds the potential to markedly improve customer experience. These AI-driven chat solutions rapidly address common questions, enhancing user satisfaction and operational efficiency.
Though not as ubiquitous in the self storage sector, voice recognition tools hold potential to provide invaluable insights by analysing recordings of customer calls and tracking keyword usage.
Trust Architectures for Secure Storage
Security is paramount in the self storage industry. AI has enabled businesses to move beyond traditional surveillance methods to more proactive systems. AI-powered surveillance systems provide real-time threat analysis, ensuring the safety of stored items. Additionally, digital identity verification systems streamline customer check-ins, ensuring only authorised individuals access the units.
For example, AI-powered video surveillance merges AI technology with human intelligence, transforming passive camera networks into active crime prevention apparatuses. Instead of merely recording criminal activities, these systems actively detect threats and prompt human operators for immediate action, ensuring that storage units and their contents are more secure than ever before.
Streamlining Operational Processes
Amidst the digitisation of many business operations, AI is smoothing out historically cumbersome administrative processes. At Digital First, we’ve led the charge in harnessing AI to decipher mass data to optimise operational efficiencies for self storage operators. We use multiple AI engines to decode historical data, enabling self storage operators to optimise resource allocation and engagement strategies proactively.
Specifically, we’ve drawn on customer access logs to identify peak traffic periods for our clients, enabling them to adjust their operational staff allocation accordingly. For example, we analyse phone call timestamps to ensure that staff are appropriately resourced during high-volume times.
Optimising Revenue Through AI
Financial gains are at the heart of every business venture. In the self storage industry, AI-driven tools are reimagining revenue management. AI makes it possible to employ sophisticated algorithms to assess a myriad of parameters, from unit type to market conditions, enabling businesses to forecast demand and set optimal pricing.
Using AI, Digital First has developed a predictive model to gain more nuanced understandings of the distribution of self storage enquiries throughout the month. In our operational performance tracking, one crucial metric is the daily count of conversion or lead data, reflecting the number of enquiries generated relative to a target. Initially, we used a linear model where, for example, 60% of the month passing equated to 60% of the targeted inquiries.
To refine this, we turned to AI for more sophisticated predictive modelling, which has allowed our team to shift budgets in real time as a response to market and performance conditions. By uploading extensive enquiry data, we could probe the data for patterns and insights that could help us understand variances by day of the week, seasonality, and time of the month—tasks that would be time-consuming for a human analyst. This analysis highlighted valuable behavioural trends, such as the most popular day of the week for enquiries (even accounting for months with a different distribution of weekdays). The use of AI here has allowed us to gain a more nuanced understanding of the distribution of enquiries throughout a month.
Such systems can both enhance profitability and drastically reduce human error in pricing decisions.
Can AI Enhance Cost Efficiencies for Self Storage Operators?
In the self storage industry, margins matter. Every additional cost can eat into profits. We’ve eliminated some recurrent costs through our adoption and development of AI tools, such as those related to re-photography or time-consuming manual data analysis. This agility enables storage operators to optimise their budgets, and direct investments towards expansion, customer service, and other crucial areas.
AI’s Expanding Frontiers in the Self Storage Realm
In the future, we’re likely to witness even broader applications of AI in the self storage sector. While the self storage industry may not traditionally be seen as a high-tech domain, the integration of AI offers an array of opportunities for improvement, efficiency, and growth.
Drawing from the broader technological trends of 2023, it’s clear that AI’s adaptable and expansive nature can revolutionise even niche sectors. For self storage operators, the future is not just about bigger spaces but smarter, AI-driven solutions. Solutions like artificial intelligence–driven thermal systems could detect temperature fluctuations and ensure that items like electronics or vintage wines are stored under ideal conditions. AI’s capabilities to predict storage demands based on socio-economic indicators could also pave the way for optimised profitability.
Digital First stands at the nexus of innovation and industry knowledge, consistently pushing boundaries in the self storage marketing landscape. We’ve seen first hand AI’s potential to support the industry. Riding the AI wave isn’t optional. If self storage operators are to remain relevant, competitive, and efficient in a rapidly evolving marketplace, they can’t afford to remain technologically stagnant.
By swiftly adopting the vast potential of AI, we’ve already crafted innovative tools and strategies that position our clients to operate with unparalleled efficiency and maintain a competitive advantage