The self storage industry is experiencing a period of significant growth, both in terms of popularity and inventory. About 38% of Americans are self storage customers — meaning they currently use the service, have in the past or plan to in the near future. When looking at the sector’s inventory, the evolution is quite impressive as well: there are 1.6 billion square feet of storage space in the US at the moment, of which developers built 49 million square feet in 2021 alone and expect to add another 50 million square feet by the end of this year.

In other words, the self storage industry is expanding with new customers. But as the inventory continues to expand as well, the competition to attract said customers is getting hot. A good way — in fact, the best way — to appeal to customers is by focusing on their needs and habits.

Obviously, not everyone has the same types of requirements in terms of self storage – these vary depending mainly on age and lifestyle. To attract a wide variety of customers, you need to speak their language and provide solutions to their particular storage needs.

In order to help you with your marketing efforts, we came up with a guide for enticing different generations of customers based on their own survey answers regarding how they use self storage and for what:

  • Gen Zers

The youngest generation, Gen Zers, mainly consists of students or young professionals (the oldest of them celebrate their 25th birthday this year). About 25% of Gen Zers declare that they use self storage right now or that they plan to use it in the future. This can lead to plenty of new customers for the self storage sector. We’re talking about a big generation of around 65 million people. Of course, a good portion of them are still too young to be in the market for such a service, but many of the Gen Z students and young professionals can draw benefits from using self storage.

So, what should you do in order to attract Gen Zers as customers? Well, we’re talking about a digital generation, so one of the most important things you could do is make sure that your website looks professional and is easy to use on a smartphone. Ensuring that customers can do the entire rental process and make payments online will attract Gen Z customers.

Many Gen Zers have hectic lifestyles — studying, working, and obviously, having fun – so a storage facility with long opening hours, including the weekend, is more likely to raise their interest. Also, since they’re pretty passionate about the future of the planet (and rightly so), they will definitely pay attention to any type of green technology you might adopt, such as powering the facility with solar panels.

An assortment of small to medium storage units are also important for members of this generation – about 36% of the Gen Z respondents said they prefer the 5’x10’ units, and another 28% would rather use a 5’x5’ storage unit. That shows a strong preference toward small and medium units, which is easy to explain considering they don’t generally own a lot of stuff yet. Offering student discounts is another foolproof way of attracting Gen Z customers.

  • Millennials

Some Millennials are dealing with the challenges of homeownership –  buying their starter home or maybe a fixer upper they plan to remodel. Others are still renters for now and relocate relatively often for new jobs and opportunities. In other words, Millennials face a variety of situations where self storage can help – and in fact, 40% of the Millennials who took our survey said they do use the service. Here’s what you should do if you’re interested in attracting even more customers in this age group.

Moving is the most popular reason why Millennials rent self storage – 44% of them said they use a self storage unit while relocating. Certain services, such as selling moving supplies at the facility, accepting shipments for your tenants or offering dollies to facilitate the transfer of heavy items, are very likely to raise the interest of Millennials. Another interesting idea would be to set up a partnership with a transportation company so that you can enable the rental of a moving truck at your facility. Customers love when they can solve several issues at once.

This category of customers usually stores furniture and clothing in almost equal shares (and furniture does take up space), which means they’re interested in roomier units. About 26% of them prefer the 10’x10’ unit compared to only 3% of Gen Zers who would rent that unit size. Thus, if your plan is to attract more Millennial customers, make sure your facility offers plenty of 10’x10’ and 5’x10 units. Safety features, including security cameras and electronic gate access, are also important for customers like Millennials who, during a move, store all their belongings in a unit at your facility.

  • Gen Xers

Gen X is the generation most interested in self storage – 54% of them use the service or plan to. Gen Xers generally navigate life situations like raising their families while also caring for parents or other aging family members, which means that multigenerational living is more common within this generation. Also, more established in their careers and having already climbed the property ladder, Gen Xers also generally have more disposable income for acquiring stuff or starting new hobbies. All that results in more complex storage needs, so check out how to make sure that your Gen X customers love your facility.

Gen Xers show interest in very different unit sizes, from the 10’x10’ ones meant to compensate for the lack of storage space at home to the 10’x30’ units suitable for RV storage or boat storage. In order to appeal to this group of customers, make sure that your facility includes not only multiple unit sizes but also parking spaces for the storage of cars and other vehicles.

Also, your Gen X customers might own expensive items, like antique furniture, artwork and various collectibles. Obviously, when storing such items, people expect excellent conditions – climate-controlled storage is most likely high on their list of requirements. Providing reliable insurance policies for the items stored at your facility is another great way to appeal to Gen X customers.

  • Baby boomers

Baby boomers show almost as much interest in self storage as Gen Xers: 51% said they rent a self storage unit or that they plan to rent one in the future. Generally empty nesters who may repurpose some of the rooms in their homes or even downsize to smaller abodes, you can sway baby boomers toward your storage facility if you speak their language.

Baby boomers are less likely than other generations to search for a storage unit online, so other marketing tools, such as banners and flyers, are important for attracting them. Offering multiple payment solutions, including cash and check, can also help.

Baby boomers tend to store their stuff long-term, which means they’ll want price deals (for example, one month free per year or similar types of enticements). As we’re talking about a group of people already passing middle-aged toward seniority, specialty services such as valet self storage (where the facility employees pick up and drop off items instead of the customers driving to the storage unit) might also be a hit with baby boomer customers.

Considering the needs of your customers based on their age and lifestyle is a very important marketing tool, so take your time to understand who your renters are and how you can appeal to them more.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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