Extra Space Storage wanted to forge emotional connections with its customers. To do so, the self-storage company needed help addressing a pervasive “last-mile” direct marketing challenge.
“We have a lot of data on our customers,” says Extra Space Storage Interactive Marketing Manager Jennifer Stamper. “But we didn’t know exactly how to act on our data to strengthen our ability to speak to the right customers at the right time with the right message.”
Solving the data-to-insight challenge
On first glance, the self-storage business seems cut and dry: people want to store their stuff in a secure place at a low price. But Extra Space Storage’s experience and vast operations—the company owns or operates more than 1,100 self-storage properties throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico—has taught its marketers otherwise. “The act of getting storage often is based on a significant life event,” Stamper explains. The need for self-storage, for example, crops up following a marriage, divorce, birth, death, or eviction. “Our overall marketing strategy is based on the customer experience,” Stamper says. “We recognize that getting a storage space can be associated with very strong emotions, and we want to speak to our customers on an emotional level.”
That means understanding what prospects and customers experience and desire as they’re selecting a self-storage company. Although Extra Space consistently collects key customer data at the point of sale via survey questions (e.g., What’s your email address? Why do you need storage? How many options did you consider?), it needed help using this information to sharpen how it targets different customer segments.
Enter StrongView, which helped Extra Space clean up its email lists—including removing anyone with spam complaints and clarifying which customers have moved in or out. Extra Space also worked with StrongView to optimize its email message templates and message designs for mobile devices, a quickly growing channel that Stamper expects to surpass desktop-based customers within the next year. Extra Space’s new “mobile-minded” emphasis includes a streamlined mobile website.
The work also included an analysis of how different customers behave depending on how long they visit Extra Space’s website, whether they open email marketing messages, and which mobile operating system they use (i.e., Android versus iOS).
This collaboration, which also drove the development of customer personas, proved worthwhile. Stamper reports that Extra Space Storage achieved a 50% jump in its attributed conversion rate for email as a result of working with StrongView. Additionally, she says that the mobile marketing work resulted in a 23% increase in rentals via mobile devices.
Currently, Stamper and her team are working on accelerating their response to customer data as that data is collected. She says that the objective is to track prospects and customers on Extra Space Storage’s website in real time, responding immediately to certain behaviors with triggered marketing messages.
This is where the persona work is important. These customer segments were created as a result of analyzing how long visitors spend on the website, how many times they visit, and the amount of time between a first site visit, the rental of a storage space, and the selection of a move-in date.
A “methodical” persona will conduct a longer evaluation process and want more detailed information (e.g., an understanding of the complete self-storage process). A “humanistic” persona typically will want to meet the manager of the self-storage site; as a result, that customer segment receives an option to do so and a follow-up email from the facility manager who expresses excitement for the opportunity to show that individual the site.
Stamper and her team are developing related messages that appeal to the emotional, psychological, and intellectual tendencies of these and other customer segments. She says that these behavioral insights have also changed how she and her team execute email marketing: “We’ve been able to segment our customers in new and powerful ways.”