Engaging Pet Owning Customers
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet. This equates to 84.6 million homes with pets that need to be cared for. While dogs and cats are by far the most popular, birds, fish, reptiles and more make pet care a booming business! The APPA reports the average annual growth rate in the pet industry since 2002 is 5.4% and estimates over $69 billion in sales for 2017.
Some of the reasons for this growth include demographics, a strong economy and the understanding that pets are good for our health. Boomers and millennials are the two demographic groups that strengthen the pet industry. Baby boomers are filling their empty nests with pets and they love to pamper them. While millennials tend to think of pets more like humans than animals and also enjoy spoiling them. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation (HABRI), scientifically-documented benefits of pet ownership include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being. Though the results are preliminary, a HABRI study has indicated a potential $11.7 billion savings to the US healthcare system that can be tied to pet ownership. Understanding the health connection and issues that are important to pet owners can assist your store with creatively engaging these households. Here are some potential opportunities:
- Many pet owners are looking for high-quality pet foods for preventative health and are confused about the ingredients. Others are specifically concerned about their pets having food allergies. Sponsor an event with a local veterinarian to help answer and clarify pet food and health questions in the pet food aisle.
- According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), nearly 59 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the US are overweight or obese. Encourage shoppers to get healthy with their pets and engage them in your seasonal wellness programs.
- Provide healthy homemade pet treat recipes using wholesome ingredients from your store. Distribute during promotional pet events.
- Create holiday gift bags for pets to tie in foods, treats, toys and care items.
- Create loyal pet owning households by partnering with suppliers to offer new pet welcome packages with samples and coupons.
- Hold an outdoor pet event and invite pet food suppliers, a local pet groomer, kennel and vet to provide education and special promotions.
- Confirm if your pharmacy can fill certain pet prescriptions as part of their services.
The bottom line is most pet owners treat their animals like family. By taking care of these furry friends you grow strong customer relationships that lead to incredible loyalty.