A Guide to

Marketing for the
Pet Care Industry

US and Europe


Table of Contents

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    Pets are increasingly front and center in our lives, and the sheer variety of pet products flooding the market is testament to how much we love to pamper them. Over the past few years, as most other retail categories experienced downturns, pet care witnessed dramatic growth due to a surge in new pet ownership. More than 23 million American households added pets to their homes (nearly 1 in 5) over the course of the pandemic, a number that included the First Family! And with Europeans now raising more pets than children, pet spending has become as much a priority as it would be for any family member. Proud pet parents’ are increasingly splurging on high-grade foods and designer apparel for their domesticated loved ones, inspiring entirely new product categories and prompting retailers to pivot towards these indulgent shoppers. In this rapidly expanding and innovating pet product universe, the task ahead for brands and marketers is knowing where to meet shoppers on their journey, and how to keep them coming back.

    Pet care industry trends strategy

    Current Landscape of the Pet Care Industry


    The pet care category is booming, spurred by pandemic-adoptions:



     Pet ownership is skewing younger with cats and dogs still claiming top spots: 


    Pet owners are largely omnichannel shoppers:

    More people have been buying pet food and supplies online than ever before, but pet owners choose to employ a combination of in-store and online shopping, as well as curbside pickup options.

    In the US, in-store-only purchases of products continue to represent the largest share, but online is a major part of the category’s success.



    Pet care industry end banner

    Marketing For Pet Care: The 6 Key Commands


    TOUCH: Connect with Pet Parents on an Emotional and Authentic Level.

    Pet care is first and foremost an emotionally driven category. According to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer Survey, 71% of pet owners across the globe consider their pets as family members. Legislative changes in Western Europe reflect this perception - in 2022, Spain introduced shared custody of pets for couples following separation or divorce. For pet brands, differentiating oneself from the explosion in offerings now available, will depend on how much they can establish a connection with pet owners over their needs, and especially their values. Pet owners want to know that a brand genuinely cares, and that they can trust their furry family members with that brand’s products. 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 for creating safe and healthy treats that their allergy-stricken pooch could enjoy. Not only does the brand work to provide sensitive pets with reliably sourced treats, it’s made giving back a hallmark of its brand value. Since its inception, its charitable project Pet RAK has donated over one million meals under the motto: Pets are more than just animals; they are family and all family matters.

    The story of Dover is integral to Pure Earth Pets. The rescued puppy’s eco-conscious pet-parents embarked on a mission to live a more sustainable life, and found that green pet products were not easy to find (at the time). By creating a curated eco-friendly pet products platform, the couple used Dover to review and endorse their selections. Featured heavily throughout their website and social media, Dover also stars in a children’s book to teach kids about leading an eco-friendly lifestyle.


    HEEL: Be Available to Pet Parents Throughout the Sales Funnel.

    Whether consumers are looking for pet food, supplies, toys, or treats, they’re embracing omnishopping in droves. In fact, more than one in five (22%) shoppers now plan an in-store shopping trip combined with a prior online order. This means emerging pet brands have even more opportunities to connect with prospective customers, but to do that, brands need to meet them at their channel(s) of choice.

    Explore Retail-DTC Partnerships for Omnichannel growth: DTC brands are now exploring expansions into brick-and-mortar retail, and larger retail brands are developing synergies with online platforms. Leveraging a physical presence with a digital presence gives brands the ability to reach beyond their core demographics via retail shelves, in-store signage, or through any type of shopper marketing. While DTC brands can market to build customer loyalty, the connections that independent and big-box physical retailers make daily with pet owners cannot be underestimated. Pets can be picky eaters just like little kids—making it unlikely that a shopper will sign up for a recurring subscription on their first purchase. But sampling at physical locations can prompt future sales. And for retailers, the information and insights that DTC brands can offer makes collaborating on promotions mutually advantageous.

    Premium dog food brand Jinx found that specialty store customer profiles aligned with the Millennial pet owner market the brand serves. After partnering with select retailers, Jinx realized how powerful those partnerships can be. After its initial foray in retail proved successful, Jinx flipped its business forecast in 2022, planning 60% of their business now via retail.


    TRACK: Follow Customer Data Like a Hound.

    Understanding customer profiles is key to reaching the right pet parents. Is a cat-owning consumer hosting a kitten or a senior? Their food and play requirements would vastly differ. Younger dogs may need training classes and energy-curbing toys, but senior pets need to be pain-free and relaxed in their old age. Getting granular with customer data is the best way to hone a marketing strategy, which can be used to initiate a pet lifecycle model and let customers know that they are being seen as individuals.

    Set Up Enhanced Lead Capture: One of the most fundamental aspects of data collection is lead capture, which can be used to let visitors indicate what kind of pet they have (dog, cat, bird, etc.), and their age, for example, which can improve relevance in subsequent email or SMS campaigns. Capturing zip code data can subsequently be used to send geo-targeted offers to subscribers and drive foot traffic to retail locations or installations.

    Use Quizzes and Product Finder Tools: Sometimes the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming to a customer if they’re unsure of what is the best solution for their pets’ needs - A great tool here for product education (and a chance to collect zero-party data) – is to use a product finder quiz or an exit offer. Using a quiz as an exit offer can provide more value than a discount code since these shoppers are looking for education and information.

    Mine Omnichannel Customer Data  to measure performance and compare sales and demographics across channels and shopper types. The insights can help a brand grow alongside pet owners. This includes staying in-step with what they are searching for online, in person, and even on the phone. Pet parents have questions and many of these customers will want to speak with a human being to assure them of product information. Telephone calls are a vital part of the sales process, regardless of whether the person on the line is inquiring or complaining. If you aren't tracking phone calls, you're missing an entire leg of your customer's journey.

    The online pet retailer Chewy uses its vast data on customers to demonstrate their partnership with customers at every stage of their pet’s lifecycle, even at the very end. When customers’ companions pass away, the company will refund money from unused food and send flowers along with a condolence note from the Chewy representative they spoke with. Chewy will also suggest customers donate the food to a local shelter. Chewy’s compassion not only illustrates how much the company invests in understanding their customers, but it also keeps them loyal.


    FOLLOW: Optimize Social and Paid Media to Target Millennials.

    Social media, paid media, and influencer marketing are all huge parts of any brand’s marketing toolbox, but are especially important for animal and pet brands. Digital and social media marketing allows brands to communicate with consumers on an emotional level and has also helped build para-social connections better and faster than other mediums. Millennials’ use of social media is much higher than that of older generations like Boomers or Gen X, making this a key channel to target them.

    Tap Influencers To Expand Reach:  From Grumpy Cat to Tucker the golden retriever, there’s a booming industry of Insta-famous pets whose owners have built significant followings and that brands can tap for their audiences. Not to mention their human counterparts as well!

    Purina's Beggin' dog treats created a social crowdsourcing campaign that encouraged consumers to vote between two new dog treat Flavors. Sold exclusively at Walmart, the flavor with the most unique votes would become the newest product added to stores nationwide and on Walmart.com. Mega influencers Matt Slays and Zach Kornfeld, known for their hilarious social media content with their pups, became team captains for their favorite flavor with each posting TikTok videos encouraging followers to drum up the most votes. The multi-touchpoint campaign involved a website for consumer voting, in-store promotions and digital and influencer marketing.

    Reshare User Generated Content:  According to a 2022 survey by pet insurer ManyPets, one-third of pet owners have made a social media page just for their pets. Also, a majority of these pet owners admitted to spending more time on their pets' profile pages than on their own, with One-in-four respondents saying that they hoped to turn their pets into social media stars (ala Grumpy Cat). Pet brands can make these pet-parents’ nascent dreams come true by sharing their posts, and with it, broadening their own organic reach. By adding branded hashtags, and platform-specific promotions, brands can work to convert visitors into users.

    Champion Petfoods

    Champion PetFoods wanted to drive fun & engagement in their Acana brand Instagram feed. Snipp helped Acana develop an Instagram contest where cat parents could upload a photo to Instagram and tag it with the program hashtag #blackcatenergy and the Acana IG account @acanapetfood. At the end of the campaign, the brand reviewed all photos hashtagged and selected a winner based on predetermined judging criteria.

    Offer Discounts and Promotions for Socially Shared Reviews:  People are drawn to products that other people like and endorse, making reviews one of the most powerful assets a brand can deploy. Encourage social sharing of product reviews via special offers, sweepstakes entries, reward points or discounts. Read this to see other sales promotion examples.

    Create Special Content and Fun Activations for Pet-themed Occasions: Pets bring us joy, and the kind of content that becomes socially viral is often the kind that surprises and delights (and amuses) us - and makes our pets the star!

    For National Dog Day, Chewy introduced a digital-first #ChewyChattyPets campaign with a  TikTok Hashtag Challenge asking pet parents to bring their pets’ most entertaining inner monologues to life. To kick off the campaign, Chewy partnered with five official  TikTok Creators and provided a Chewy-original audio track to ignite the challenge with pet parents everywhere.  In less than 24 hours, the campaign garnered 578+ user submissions (amassing 695M+ video views), and a staggering 1.8B+ impressions on the branded #ChewyChattyPets hashtag during the 3-day campaign. The campaign had a long tail, as it increased followers by +10% month-over-month after the Challenge.

    Purina debuted a 'Seasons Treatings' Holiday Vending Machine at a mall in Los Angeles in November 2022. The machine included a digital touchscreen that asked shoppers a few questions about their pets, to determine which treat Purina recommended from its owned brands. After the questionnaire was completed, a treat that matched the dog's or cat’s personality was immediately dispensed. Pet parents were encouraged to post photos of their delighted pets enjoying their treat on social channels using #PurinaSeasonsTreatings. Some of the photos featured on Purina’s own social media channels throughout the holiday season.

    Utilize Livestreams and Social Commerce:  By 2025, Accenture estimates social commerce to more than double to a $1.2 trillion market worldwide. Now, brands are embracing these tools to deliver a personalized customer experience on whatever platform customers prefer. Live shopping, for example, is a powerful way for brands to educate, engage with, and sell to customers in an interactive livestream event featuring brand representatives or influencers. The audience can comment live, ask questions, and even make purchases from links in the livestream.

    Petco’s first live shopping event combined a pet fashion show with a dog adoption drive hosted by actress and model Arielle Vandenberg. Petco and its charitable foundation donated $100,000 to the dog rescue organization that participated, while also building awareness of its pet apparel brands via a team that interacted with audience members in real time and promoted relevant products on the screen. The event was highly successful, reaching more than 900,000 people and increasing sales by double the cost of the event.


    TEACH: Offer Information and Resources.

    Pet parents are sponges, looking for information on behavior, health, recreation and dietary needs along the continuum of their pets’ journey from puppy to senior. Genuinely useful material and guidance, packaged in an entertaining form gets shared, and builds trust for the brand.

    Petco's "It's What We'd Want If We Were Pets" platform offers support and resources to harried pet owners going back to office life, leaving their pets feeling fearful and stressed. Through a video campaign in which pets were played by people, the advertising led owners toward a dedicated Petco site for information and resources, including training courses designed by experts on keeping pets mentally healthy as they adapt to a home-alone daily routine.

    Spot & Tango is a human-grade fresh pet food company based in New York, USA that sends personalized meal plans to pet owners via the DTC model. Spot & Tango focuses heavily on building a community of its customers via its ‘What the Pup’ platform, where pet experts, trainers, rescue partners and nutrition experts provide members access to expert advice throughout their pet parenting journey


    WITH ME: Lean Into Customer Loyalty.

    Pet ownership can span up to – and over – a decade of a customer’s life. So that customer is going to have to constantly buy food, buy a new leash or buy a new toy. It’s 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. Regardless of whether the economy is up or down, people will want to spend money on their pets. The high lifetime value that repeat customers would have in the animal and pet care industry makes loyalty programs a no-brainer for strengthening relationships and providing a value-add for customers in terms of both convenience and perks. For brands with existing loyalty programs, show visitors promotions encouraging them to sign-up to earn something from their initial order. Use surveys, social media polls and focus groups to gain customer feedback and learn more about what they like as well as their pain points, and use that data to personalize future promotions.

    Pet brand Bark repays customers’ loyalty through its pricing strategy. The company still has a handful of customers paying as little as $17 a month (the price of its subscription when Bark initially launched in 2011). Although some customers paused their subscriptions due to a period of high inflation, Bark has been able to maintain a 96% customer satisfaction rating and a 2.3 million active subscriber base.

    Hagen wanted to drive loyalty across a wide portfolio in Canada. Some of their brands had existing paper-based frequent buyer programs at independent retailers that were outdated and had an arduous customer journey for pet parents and retailers. Snipp created a multi-brand Punch-Card Loyalty Mobile App where customers can take photos of receipts from purchases of products from any retailer to earn punches. Once the digital Punch-Card is completed, they earn a coupon for a free bag of pet food.

    Paw Points phased out its outdated codes-on-pack reward program mechanism in favor of a receipt upload system that allowed members to earn points on any product purchase. With the goals of driving frequency and better understanding their customers, the program offers shoppers a seamless interaction, minus previous pain points. By simply uploading their qualifying purchase receipts to the rewards platform, they can access an extensive rewards catalog or even donate their points to their favorite shelter.

    Pet care industry landscape banner


    Spending on pets has not only increased by 11% over the course of the pandemic, it's also considered to be “increasingly inelastic.” For pet owners, as with all consumers, inflation shock has been a very real concern over the past year. However, pet shoppers seem to be sticking to how they shop and care for their pets. Research has shown that even when animal owners cut other parts of their budgets, their pet care routine often remains. A Samsung survey of 6,500 pet parents reveals that owners in Europe would rather sacrifice socializing (40%) and economize on necessities such as utilities (27%) than cut on spending for their pets . 6 out of 10 US pet parents do not plan to trade down to lower their costs in 2023, and while that’s good news for the industry, it’s also clear that brands can step up and help pet owners find more ways to save money - while still feeling as though they’re caring for their pets the way they always have . By investing in data-driven, customer centric initiatives that demonstrate an allyship and understanding of where pet-parents are in their care journeys and what they need, brands can differentiate themselves to their customer bases. In an increasingly competitive pet care universe, the brands that create emotional ties with pet-parents and keep them coming back, will be able to weather economic storms. 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.



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