Who Let the Dogs In?

“Who let the dogs in?” Who doesn’t love a warm puppy with a cold nose, or a furry cat to purr on your lap? Pets are a big part of families; research shows that in San Francisco, there are more dogs than children. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s tougher and more expensive to raise children in the city, and parents tend to move out of urban areas once they have children. However, the surge in pet ownership is strong in the millennial demographic as well as the Gen X group.Children are expensive, pets, comparatively speaking, are a bargain. Market research data shows 51.6% of all US households own a dog or cat; that number shoots up to 57% among millennials, and another 20% of this group say they intend to get a dog or a cat in the coming year. This puts those young adults who have remained pet-free so far 39% more likely to own a dog or a cat in the future, and this group is 77% more likely to own a dog or a cat, higher than any other demographic. Not only are these hipsters putting off having children and buying homes, but they are also becoming pet owners at a younger age.

But those are just hard numbers. Pets are an emotional issue. Talk to anyone who owns one; they are very much considered members of the family. The term “fur babies” is legit. While many retail decisions are made based on research, price point, and brand awareness, pet owners are a different breed. In a sense, they are breed loyal and brand loyal as well. A quick Google search shows that every kind of dog or cat has a following of owners who believe that no dog or cat is as smart, cute, funny and loving as their Pug, or Lab, or Siamese. Nothing is too good for Fido and friends. Retailers have stepped up their game to capture these consumers, and with pet owners, it’s all about the experience.

True pet lovers, especially those who have dogs, want to bring them everywhere. Most pet shops allow dogs and cats to be in the store with their owners, but the smart retailers go the extra mile and develop in-store events, pop-up shops with specialty products and grooming services. The market is enormous, with recent research from the American Pet Products Association showing that Americans spent nearly $70 billion on pet supplies in 2017, with the average dog owner forking over an average of $126 per month in food, toys, and services. While the two main big box retailers, PetSmart and Petco are the major players, their share has dropped recently, and smaller mom and pop specialty stores are moving in for the kill. Experiences are essential to this strategy. Does a dog care what kind of treat they get, or whether or not the groomer gives them a cute bandana after their bath? Not so much, but the owners do.

Services are a big part of the growth in the pet space. Brand reps in stores that are pet owners themselves and understand what it means to care for an animal are a vital asset on any sales floor. The one thing pet owners love more than their dog or cat is another pet owner who gets it. Pet health insurance, training, doggie daycare, and socialization are fast becoming the way to reach pet owners. The mission to engage pet parents is best approached in a multi-faceted way that combines in-store experiences, e-commerce and tech like mobile apps. PetSmart’s mobile app includes a game with a “Treat Trail” that users can play to earn coupons and gifts with purchase. Events are also showcased on the app, with users able to see what is happening in their local area for pet owners, both in the store and with retail partners like Sizzler, who offered pet parents discounts on meals, doggy bags included of course.

Owning a pet is an experience, a relationship, and a commitment and retailers need to understand this dynamic.  ThirdChannel can help you understand how to better engage and service your passionate pet owners looking to care for their fur babies. 

Published by Ashley Triscuit, Director of Marketing May 2, 2019
Ashley Triscuit, Director of Marketing