This week, the obvious thing to write about would be easyProperty's merger with GPEA. It's such a huge and potentially influential story that I'm still trying to talk to others, gauge opinion and make sense of it all.
Once I have, I will offer my thoughts. Instead, for now, let's talk about storage!
It’s a strange thing, to talk about storage in this day and age and not be talking about the cloud. But here we are…LA-based physical storage company, Clutter, has raised $64 million in Series C funding.
Clutter, so far only in the US (StorageShare, with a similar business model, are up and coming in the UK), come to your home and collect the belongings that you don’t have room for, promising to look after them for you.
When you need them returned, back comes the Clutter van delivering the possessions to your door.
It all seems simple and low tech, so why have they just raised such a vast amount of money?
Lack of space
There are various reasons for physical storage disrupters being valued so highly. Firstly, property is out pricing most potential homebuyers, on top of that, rental values are rocketing.
This means that more people are having to settle for homes that are far smaller than they would ideally go for; they just can’t afford the space they really need.
When people need to store belongings, what options do they have? The home of a friend or family member? One of the well-known self-storage companies? That’s about it.
The self-storage units have always been successful, but I suspect they’re also a driving factor behind the disruption we’re about to see.
The city centre is where most people are struggling to find homes that have room for all of their belongings, but the storage units are often out-of-town, mainly due to their enormous size.
Getting belongings, especially large items like wardrobes or bed frames, out to these self-storage units is impractical and often requires extra expenditure. Then, if you want to get them back, you have to find a way to pick them up and do so.
The demand for a disruptive solution is only going to grow as more and more people find themselves wanting for storage space. Add to that the fact that personal car ownership is set to fall dramatically and you can begin to see why investors are ploughing so much money into Clutter and, I would imagine, its various competitors.
In terms of why Clutter is popular among clients, it’s all down to convenience and a personalised experience. The company send staff to your house, they help you pack and do all of the heavy lifting. Then, your items are securely stored in a unit, closed to the public and guarded by 24/7 security. It feels personal, it feels genuinely helpful - a service that goes above and beyond that which we are used to.
This is a really key point, people are becoming less and less satisfied with homogenous services. They want to feel like they are getting an exclusive service, even though they know they really aren’t.
We have seen this play a really major role in the direction that technology has pushed property. In this example, Clutter use technology to help increase efficiency and cost effectiveness, but then allow their staff to bring the whole business to a higher level by giving people the human interaction that they so desperately want and need in order for trust and loyalty to be nurtured.
When PropTech started, it was all about tech. Much of that tech was designed to cut out people. But as we have matured we have learnt that that isn’t what people want at all.
They want fast, they want sophisticated and they want personalised service. But above all of that, they want to do business with people they can talk to and see.
*James Dearsley is founder of the Digital Marketing Bureau and a PropTech communicator. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.