From Yves Saint Laurent dog dishes to Gucci leashes, pets are getting the A-list treatment! As they transition from backyard buddies to beloved family members, a wave of pet indulgence is transforming the retail landscape. Despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the pet care industry has been thriving, with over 23 million American households welcoming new pets -- a trend that echoes across the pond in Europe where pets have outnumbered children.
This surge in pet ownership and the growing trend of treating pets as beloved family members have sparked an explosion in high-end pet products. From gourmet foods to designer gear, pet parents are not holding back, opening up new product categories and transforming retail strategies. Millennials, in particular, are leading this pet-pampering revolution by channeling their disposable income towards their four-legged companions. Luxury e-retailer Sense reported a staggering 95% growth in sales of designer-branded pet products in 2021, fueled largely by millennials treating their 'fur babies' to the finer things in life.
The humanization of pets has also led to an emphasis on pet wellness, with a growing universe of options to address their needs – from CBD treats to organic, probiotic, and specially curated meals. After all, if we're eating clean, why shouldn't our pets? A flourishing Direct-to-Consumer market has emerged in response, jam-packed with choices for the discerning pet parent. And it's not slowing down. Predicted to grow at an impressive 25% from 2021–2028, and set to reach a whopping $8.16 billion by 2028, this sector is delivering convenient, customized solutions that meet a pet's unique health requirements.
So, how can brands 'paw-sitively' navigate these new frontiers in pet care retail? Let's explore the six key 'commands' for marketing success in this rapidly evolving industry.
6 Pet Care Marketing “Commands”
1. TOUCH: Connect with Pet Parents on an Emotional – and Authentic – Level.
Pet care is an emotionally charged sector, with 71% of pet owners worldwide viewing their pets as family. This sentiment is even mirrored in new laws, like Spain's 2022 shared pet custody law for separated couples. For pet brands, standing out amidst a sea of options hinges on forging genuine connections with pet owners and showcasing shared values. Pet parents need to feel a brand truly cares for their four-legged family members. But the messaging can’t just be marketing spin, because savvy consumers are easily turned off by the slightest whiff of inauthenticity.
Healthy pet food brand Grandma Lucy's instills trust in pet parents via its brand origin story, centering around its founders' own need to create safe and healthy treats for their allergy-stricken pooch to enjoy. The brand not only provides reliably sourced treats for sensitive pets but also emphasizes philanthropy as a core value under the guiding principle ‘Pets are more than just animals; they are family and all family matters'
2. HEEL: Be Available to Pet Parents Throughout the Sales Funnel
The pet care market is going omnichannel, with over 20% of shoppers merging online and in-store experiences. This offers emerging pet brands a golden ticket to connect with potential customers, provided they're present across all preferred channels. By fusing their digital and physical presence, brands can boost their reach through retail displays, in-store signage, and savvy shopper marketing – with strategic partnerships bridging any gaps. Online DTC brands, rich in valuable data and insights, are perfect partners for promotional tie-ups with major and independent retailers. DTC brands also benefit from the daily interactions between physical retailers and pet owners, with in-store sampling acting as a potent sales catalyst. Seeing these mutual benefits, national retailers are now allotting more shelf space to high-end DTC pet care products.
Premium dog food brand Jinx began as a DTC-only service but found that collaborating with pet specialty stores gave them a wider base of customers, and proved how powerful such partnerships could be. After its initial foray into retail proved successful, Jinx flipped its business forecast in 2022, planning 60% of their business now via retail.
3. TRACK: Follow Customer Data Like a Hound
Understanding your customer's pet profile isn't just important—it's the secret sauce to effective engagement! Remember, a kitten owner's needs can be miles apart from those of a senior cat owner, and the same goes for puppy versus older dog parents. By digging into customer data, brands can sharpen their marketing strategies and tailor a personalized pet lifecycle model. Boosting lead capture is a game-changer in this process. It helps pinpoint the pet type and age, making every email or SMS campaign feel like it's speaking directly to the pet owner. Zip code data can also boost retail footfall with geo-targeted offers. And, given the overwhelming array of pet products, brands can help pet owners navigate through their options with quizzes, exit offers, and product finder tools. These not only prevent cart abandonment but also help collect priceless zero-party data. Lastly, pooling data from all channels is essential for measuring performance and comparing sales across various shopper types. These insights are key for brands aiming to grow with pet owners and understand their search and buying behavior across all touchpoints – online, in-person, and even over the phone.
Online pet retailer Chewy uses its rich customer data to form a bond with pet owners throughout their pet's journey, right till the end. When a pet departs, Chewy offers more than just a refund for unused food—it sends flowers and a condolence note, also suggesting a donation of the remaining food to a local shelter. This heartfelt gesture not only highlights Chewy's deep understanding of its customers but also fosters enduring loyalty.
4. FOLLOW: Optimize Social Media and Influencer Marketing
Social media – and with it, influencer marketing --- is a huge part of any brand’s marketing toolbox these days - but is especially important for pet brands. And with a booming industry of Insta-famous pets, from Grumpy Cat to Tucker the golden retriever, brands have a plethora of pet influencers to collaborate with! By using branded hashtags and launching platform-specific promotions, pet brands can increase their organic reach by tapping into these famous pets’ sizeable followings, and turn visitors into buyers. Offering discounts and creating fun, special offers to encourage socially shareable product reviews is another key strategy, as pet parents place significant trust in peer recommendations. And, with social commerce expected to hit $1.2 trillion by 2025, pet brands should gear up to embrace live shopping!
Interactive livestreams, run by influencers, can showcase products, answer viewer queries, and streamline purchases, offering a tailored shopping experience on customers' favorite social platforms.
Champion PetFoods had a vision: to infuse their Acana brand's Instagram feed with a sense of fun and engagement. Partnering with Snipp, they crafted an Instagram contest for proud cat parents, who could upload a photo to Instagram and tag it with the program hashtag. At the end of the campaign, the brand reviewed all photos and selected a feline winner!
5. WATCH: Offer Information and Resources
Helicopter parenting doesn’t just apply to human children – pet parents are worried, watchful, and on the lookout for information on their pets’ behavior, health, recreation, and dietary needs. Pet brands that offer genuinely useful material and guidance, packaged in an entertaining form, get their content shared - and build trust along the way.
Spot & Tango, a New York-based pet food company, delivers personalized, human-grade meals straight to pet owners. They've also created a thriving community through their 'What the Pup' platform, where members can access insights from pet experts, trainers, and nutrition specialists, offering guidance at every stage of their pet parenting journey.
6. STAY: Lean Into Customer Loyalty
Pet ownership can span a decade or more of a customer’s life (for one pet – not to mention how long it can be with multiple pets). With pet owners constantly buying food, new toys, and accessories, pet care is a category that lends itself well to loyalty. And when done well, can keep a brand’s customer base coming back during difficult economic periods. The high lifetime value that repeat customers have in the pet care industry makes loyalty programs a no-brainer for strengthening relationships and providing a value-add for customers. Provide incentives for customers to join, make the enrollment process hassle-free, and keep a relentless focus on understanding members' needs and their pain points to personalize their perks and rewards.
Hagen, a Canadian pet product manufacturer, aimed to foster loyalty and boost sales for their diverse pet food range. To modernize their dated paper-based rewards system, they collaborated with Snipp to launch a user-friendly Punch-Card Loyalty Mobile App. Customers could earn punches by snapping photos of their receipts from any participating retailers, and completing the digital punch-card scored them a free bag of pet food.
Winning Pet Care Marketing: Data-driven, customer-centric and loyalty-focused
In the dog-eat-dog world of the pet care industry, brands that carve a special place in pet parents' hearts and inspire their loyalty will be the ones that ride out any economic storm. By investing in data-driven, customer-centric initiatives that demonstrate an allyship and understanding of the needs of pet parents throughout their pet care journey, brands can differentiate themselves to their customer bases. And since average pet lifespans cycle between 12-15 years, keeping pet parents loyal is the ultimate holy grail (or the high-end kibble!) for brands and marketers. Don't forget our six crucial commands to make your mark and 'lead the pack!'
Read our complete Guide to Marketing for the Pet Care Industry here!