The team at U-Store It  knew they were missing opportunities with customers using their business-first email program. They decided to tear it down to the studs and rebuild it as a customer-first email program.

U-Store It  has 1,400 storage facilities across the country. Those numbers translate into customers with a wide variety of needs and backgrounds.

“We are here to support people when they are going through life transitions. I know a lot of people look at the storage industry, and they say that it’s a bunch of empty garage space, but we don’t ever look at it that way,” said Jennifer Larsen, Interactive Marketing Manager, U-Store It.

Larsen explained that the customer base is unique in that the company doesn’t cater to one specific demographic. Internal data shows that storage facility customers share a commonality in that they are usually going through some kind of emotional life transition, like moving, marriage, divorce or the death of a loved one.

“We know that there are strong emotions tied to the storage purchase …U-Store It is storing people’s lives in [its] units. To alleviate the stress and emotions tied to this purchase experience, we researched to find out the main questions our customers have at the point of rental,” she said.

Based on the findings, Larsen and her team created reservation emails with supporting videos to answer the questions customers have before they actually visit a U-Store It facility.

U-Store It tackled two challenges with the reservation email campaigns:

  • A 45% no-show rate for prospective customers who made reservations
  • An overwhelmed consumer — new and unfamiliar with the self-storage process

The storage space business model is similar to the rental car industry, Larsen explained. This means that customers can make a reservation without commitment, and the actual profit happens when they show up to rent the storage unit.

Nearly half of the customers renting withU-Store It have never used storage before, according to Larsen. They have no experience with selecting a storage unit, the lease process or what questions to ask before visiting storage facilities. Because of this, customers were reaching out to the call center and visiting the website at all hours of the day. Using videos in email, U-Store It customers were able to consume the educational video content right from their inbox, optimizing their customer experience, Larsen said.

She and her team also used personalization to provide contextually-relevant value with a real-time, location-based weather feed that provided move-in tips.

By providing education and guidelines about the self-storage rental process, anticipating needs, and helping customers make informed purchase choices with U-Store It, they were also building customer confidence.

“The end goal for us was always conversion. It’s just seeing more people walk through the door,” she said.

The email marketing program at U-Store It has grown to as many as 1.3 million personalized sends per month. For the first time in the company’s history, there was a 50% jump in attributed conversion rate for email, according to Stamper.

After Catalyst’s help launching the mobile website, U-Store It saw a 23% increase in rentals via mobile devices, with no decrease in desktop rentals “Internally, the big picture takeaway that we constantly go back to is never disregard the conversation with your customer,” she said. “I know they’re ‘just emails’ as some people will say to me … but we’re not just sending emails and spamming our customers. It’s not that.”

She and her team have to support customers with that conversation in email, Stamper added.

“That’s extremely valuable, and I think that applies to any organization. That’s coming from somebody who didn’t think email mattered in the storage industry. Now thanks to Catalyst … we always come back to, does it drive the conversation,” she said.