Posted June 11, 2018

Digitize the rental process

Increasingly, customers want to select, rent and pay online.

by Justin Gunn

The rental industry is subject to the same technology disruptions as the retail industry. Just like retail, enabling digital commerce tops the list of equipment rental industry trends.

Rental businesses can achieve strategic goals by offering their services via online channels. In doing so, they’ll gain a significant advantage over competitors.

Software Advice, an online service for businesses navigating the software selection process, surveyed consumers who have recently rented equipment to learn the online capabilities that improved their overall experience. This data helps set a benchmark for consumer expectations and technology usage. Here is what the survey uncovered:

Online rental reservation capabilities more important
Nearly three-quarters of our respondents (71 percent) said that online reservation capabilities positively impact their overall rental experience. Increasingly, customers expect the ability to reserve equipment online and rental businesses that don’t offer that ability risk falling behind the competition.

Of course, the ability to reserve equipment online is dependent on first browsing a business’ online inventory—which was also among the top desired features. In fact, 61 percent said that browsing online for equipment positively affects their rental experience. =

Browsing and reserving rental equipment inventory marks the beginning of the customer experience. Online experiences generally take the following path: Browse equipment by searching online or in-store inventory. Second stepis to schedule the rental and its duration; third step is acquire the equipment by either picking it up or have it delivered; fourth step is use the equipment and then finally return the equipment.

Digital rental agreements improve customer experience
Renters must sign-off on a rental agreement or contract before acquiring equipment. Details of this agreement typically include:

• List details of equipment rented
• Schedule the duration of the rental
• Set the price per day and security deposits for equipment
• Define penalties for late returns
• Set parameters for delivery and/or drop-off and pick-up

Sixty five percent of the respondents indicate the ability to generate agreements online and offer a means to electronically sign them are the second-most impactful online equipment rental feature. In fact, 39 percent of the respondents find these online rental agreement forms very useful.

Most equipment rental software features digital agreement and signature capabilities. If they don’t, electronic signature software is a great substitute to support this critical capability.

Online payments improve rental experience
After online reservations and rental agreement forms, the ability to make payments online is the third-most crucial capability for online equipment renting. A majority of the respondents – 53 percent -- find online payment capabilities very useful.

While it might seem obvious that online payment is a top preferred feature for rental customers, there are some less obvious payment features that businesses need to keep in mind. A couple of these features include:

Security: You’ll want to work with your payment processor to ensure your critical online payment information is secure. Failure to do your due diligence could result in a data breach that compromises valuable information and jeopardizes your entire business.

Customer profiles: If you have regular rental customers, you’ll want to offer some sort of customer profile so repeat renters have a more seamless experience. These profiles could store valuable information like contact and payment details.

Software should improve the rental experience
The customers’ most preferred online rental features address the primary chronological stages of the rental customer journey:

• First, the renter browses inventory and reserves the equipment
• Then, the rental agreement gets digitally signed.
• Finally, the renter submits payment.

Think of this journey when adopting your new equipment rental software. The new system should enable a better experience across all of these steps in the process externally for the customer and internally for yourself and your team. When reviewing different software options, be sure to cover this with software vendors.

Justin Guinn is a Content Analyst at Software Advice, a Gartner Company. Software Advice is an online service for businesses navigating the software selection process. Experts there can provide free, personalized software recommendations, helping companies of all sizes find products that meet their business needs. Visit to learn more.