Extra Space Storage: Using Data and Personalization to Optimize Digital Engagement

Posted by
Patrick Spencer
LivePerson Contributor
Friday, April 25, 2014 - 11:17

When I was an undergraduate student, we had a requirement to complete a summer internship. My roommate at the time secured an internship in southern California, while I was assigned one in Kalamazoo, Michigan (yes, there is really a Kalamazoo!). For the bulk of our possessions, we stored those—our furniture and books—in a storage unit while we were away.

A Place Away from Home

Upon returning from our summer ventures, we had to find a place to live during the upcoming semester. While we looked for a new place to rent, we stayed with some friends during the process. It was quite cramped, and I remember my roommate going out to the storage unit, digging through his books, and kicking back on the couch to read it for a couple hours every evening. It became a “place away from home for him.”

The self-storage industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the United States commercial and real estate market today. Indeed, every man, woman, and child could stand concurrently within all of the country’s storage units and still have elbow room!

Extra Space Storage, Inc. is major player in this market, having grown over its 36-year history to 667,000 units and more than 1,000 properties in 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Its objective is to change the association of self-storage as a temporary holding place for rarely used things to a desirable, safe, customer-oriented facility perfectly suited for maintaining and accessing valued personal and business possessions. Extra Space Storage would have been the perfect self-storage unit for my roommate.

Multifaceted Storage Engagement

While it might initially seem that renting storage is a fairly straightforward process, there are many nuances that need to be addressed—particularly in a day when the first interaction a customer has with a vendor is digital. Add that customers are at a variety of different stages in the buying cycle, and the digital connection becomes a sophisticated process. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The lens through which Extra Space Storage views digital engagement is multi-faceted.

The decision to add live chat to its digital strategy occurred in 2012. Leading the charge was Melissa Burdon, director of digital marketing at Extra Space Storage, and Emily Emmer, an optimization marketing manager on Burdon’s team. They looked at different solutions and selected LivePerson’s LiveEngage platform. The advance reporting tools as well as ability to customize the deployment were critical reasons for selecting LivePerson.

A/B Live Chat Testing To Drive Decision Making

The implementation approach Burdon and Emmer took was very methodological. They initially added just a Click-to-Chat button for potential customers and evaluated the ensuring interaction. With that data in hand, they began adding proactive chat invitations on certain pages. Their A/B testing was extensive and is ongoing.

“I’ve done at least a half dozen tests on live chat already, and I have another dozen tests planned for the coming year,” Emmer notes. “We’ve experimented with different placements of the Click-to-Chat button, different hours of live chat availability, and different ways of extending live chat invitations.” This careful testing ensures the team has a better data-driven understanding the big picture of customer experience.

The results of Burdon’s and Emmer’s efforts are impressive. Conversion rates for live chat over other engagement models proved 40% higher. This was just out of the gate. With the A/B testing Emmer has led, the team saw this rate increase further.

Optimizing Agents

As part of the process of optimizing digital engagement, Extra Space Storage identified the top-performing chat sales agents and restricted access to live chat to just those agents. While this reduced the number of chat agents by 60%, it boosted conversion rates to 20% to 23% from 16% to 18%. Burdon’s team also saw a 95% increase in the number of qualified chats, and a 153% increase in total sales for customers who come to Extra Space Storage seeking to have their questions answered.

A Journey to Personalization

Digital engagement is proving to be a huge success for Extra Space Storage. More than anything, the team is excited about the journey toward a personalized customer experience. “Our strategy is focused on creating a custom experience for all customers based on their characteristics and what they’re looking for,” Burdon says. “We see LivePerson as a key component of this effort as we move into 2014.”

Download the complete Extra Storage Success Story and learn more about how they found success using LivePerson digital engagement solutions.

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