Digital First: Innovating AI Excellence in the Self Storage Industry

For better or worse, the advent of ChatGPT into the lives of the public late last year sparked breakthroughs across industries, revolutionising personalised learning, and reshaping the way we engage digitally.  ​

Digital First has seized this watershed moment. 

“While others are still grappling to understand its emergence, we’ve swiftly adapted to its capabilities, seamlessly integrating AI into our operations, strategies, and offerings,” says CEO Chris Oosthuizen. 

By utilising generative AI tools and AI-enhanced Google Ads optimisation, the agency has significantly augmented the efficiency and effectiveness of their digital marketing capabilities. ​

The team has married the capabilities of AI with their industry expertise to create their own unique digital marketing tools. 

These include: 

  • predictive analysis models ​

  • brand health analytical models ​

  • AI-driven brand identity frameworks

Building their AI capabilities

In their commitment to staying at the cutting edge of technological advancements, Digital First appointed an internal AI implementation lead, Robbie Cameron, Director of Search at Digital First.  ​

The team underwent rigorous upskilling through courses offered by Google and the University of Helsinki to further solidify their expertise. Beyond this formal education, Cameron held internal team training sessions to ensure wholehearted adoption and seamless integration of AI across Digital First operations.​

Cameron also created and presented a series of AI talks for self storage operators where he delved into various language models, addressed safety concerns, and demonstrated how customers might use these tools to inquire about self storage. 

The agency’s quick recognition of the vast potential of AI has set it up as an industry leader. Using AI, the team has developed innovative tools and strategies that position their clients to operate with unparalleled efficiency and maintain a competitive advantage. ​

Digital First has transformed their operations and capabilities with AI:

Combining their deep industry knowledge with the dynamic potential of AI, Digital First has addressed key challenges in the self storage industry, fine-tuned operational workflows, and developed unique analytical tools that allow their team to optimise client budgets without compromising excellence. These include:

  • Demand pattern analysis
  • Long-term strategy with predictive analysis
  • AI-driven Brand Identity Framework
  • AI-optimised Google Ads
  • Chrome plug-ins

Demand pattern analysis

“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,” explains Nakita Bam, Head of Performance at Digital First.

To refine this, the Paid team turned to AI for more sophisticated predictive modelling, which has allowed them to shift budgets in real time as a response to market and performance conditions. By uploading extensive enquiry data, the performance team was able to probe the data for patterns and insights that could help them 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 agency’s novel use of AI here has allowed them to gain a more nuanced understanding of the distribution of enquiries throughout a month.

Long-Term strategy with predictive analysis

With a wealth of data spanning enquiries, occupancy percentages, store locations, unit compositions, and pricing, Digital First leveraged the Advanced Data Analysis feature in ChatGPT-4, as well as Claude (by Anthropic) and Google Bard for deep analysis.
In doing so, the agency has been able to achieve an enquiry prediction that closely mirrored actual store performance, deviating by a mere 4%.

This methodology now offers a foundational tool for initial enquiry predictions across various brands, and guides the Digital First performance team in gauging success.

AI-driven Brand Identity Framework

The agency’s content team has also embraced the opportunities that AI brings, employing generative AI to refine their approach to brand development.

Head of Content, Liezl Gevers, explains: “Drawing on the foundation of the Jungian personality model, we’ve innovated an analytical system rooted in established brand personality archetypes. Using prompt engineering, we’ve developed a framework that can quickly generate a detailed brand identity, inclusive of a brand persona.”

This approach not only accelerates the brand development process but ensures a tailored, in-depth, and unique brand representation for each client. The design team then further makes use of multiple AI generation tools to illustrate the brand persona.

AI-optimised Google Ads

“With the introduction of responsive ads and Performance Max by Google, the potential combinations of ad headlines and descriptions have become overwhelming to evaluate,” says Cameron.

To overcome this challenge his team has leveraged ChatGPT-4’s document upload function together with precise prompt engineering to create a model to organise the data and pinpoint the least effective ad copy. Armed with insights about the top-performing ad combinations, Digital First’s in-house copy team revised the underperforming ones. This streamlined process enabled the agency to easily assess and optimise ad performance across all client accounts on Google Ads.

The customised prompt can now be employed across clients to identify the top percentage of ad copy and refine the bottom percentage, ensuring optimisation towards functional objectives.

Chrome plugin

Many websites grapple with oversized images, which slow down page speed—a crucial metric for ranking on Google SERPs. The team at Digital First met this challenge by utilising ChatGPT to create a Chrome browser plugin that efficiently identifies such images on live websites. This tool allows users to detect image sizes simply by hovering over them. Remarkably, the provided method enabled even those without prior coding knowledge to add and launch the plugin.

“Our SEO team has also introduced a keyword count tool applicable to any website. By prompting users to input keywords, the tool tallies their occurrences on the entire page. This aids the SEO team in pinpointing keyword targeting opportunities, thereby saving significant work hours,” comments Cameron.

With the initial Chrome extension innovations proving to be a big success, Cameron is currently running a competition across the entire Digital First Team. The challenge is to develop the most useful Chrome extensions for use in the industry.

Where to from here?

Digital First stands at the nexus of innovation and industry knowledge, consistently pushing boundaries in the self storage marketing landscape. CEO Oosthuizen is confident about the agency’s continued capability to innovate using AI: “By tapping into the immense power of AI, we have developed groundbreaking tools and approaches that equip our clients with a real competitive edge—but we’re just getting started.” ​

The team at Digital First is excited to continue putting AI to work to address key challenges in the self storage industry, fine-tune operational workflows, and develop unique analytical tools that allow them to optimise client budgets without compromising excellence.​

To learn more about Digital First and claim your free digital marketing audit, click here

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