It’s raining cats and dogs for pet retailers. With pet lovers allowing their four-legged friends to move from the backyard to the bedroom – a phenomenon I call ‘B2B’ -- retailers in this industry are talking about customer experience of a different kind today.
Pet retailers need to understand the relationship between the owner and the pet, given that pets are now an integral part of the family. With the global pet industry said to touch US$75 billion by the year 2017, according to new market report published by Transparency Market Research1, it is small wonder that pets are changing the face of the industry.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)2, though, indicates a decline in the absolute number of pets in U.S. households, the American Pet Products Association, a not-for-profit trade association, says the pet and the veterinary services are booming and are indicated to tough US$56 billion in the US alone by the end of 20133. According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes.
How B2B is affecting the pet industry is quite interesting. Owners are looking for retailers and services that can help take care of their pets in a way they would take care of a family member – right from gauging their moods to taking care of their assortment of supplies. Owners also require access to other unique services such as adoption of the animals, aftercare, vet appointment alerts on handhelds and social, and ease of order supplies. Each of these services fosters a bond and a sense of loyalty between the pet owners and the retailers. Pet retailers need to understand the requirements and utilize the booming opportunity.
What can technology do for these retailers? Based on markets trends and my conversations with pet retailers, here is what I see as potential technology investments - I call this a B2B Tech-Diamond.
Let’s see how each of the blocks in the B2B Tech-Diamond can influence the pet industry.
The first one is Pet Analytics. This caters to Customer Analytics and this needs to be designed on a one (owner) to many (pet) relationship model to understand customer behavior. Sophisticated statistical forecasts offer a wide variety of algorithms to model product and customer behavior. Technology can be used to understand customers' feedback across all channels and satisfaction can also be measure. Using new analytical capabilities tied to social media analysis as well as shopper loyalty programs, pet retailers can modify store assortments by geography.
The second one is Pet Digital. This refers to opportunities created in and around targeted social media sites. Social networks aren't limited to just people, they are for pets as well. Social networks are a great way to introduce your pet, find information about them, and even adopt new pets (Catster, Dogster, and Pet Sociale). Geo specific content (Seattle DogSpot, dog friendly parks) is also an important feature most sought after by the pet owners. To quote an example of how social is playing a big role - a popular pet food brand, Nature’s Recipe, gave 50 digital collar cameras to 50 ‘Influential pet and parents’ to post pictures online and also circulated a scrapbook to share pet experiences4!
The third one is Pet Mobility. This is about mobile devices changing the customer experience. It includes mobile marketing (loyalty programs, product info), mobile commerce and mobile operations.
And the last one is Pet Services. This refers to the ability to tap into new service areas and create new business models like pet aftercare including candlelight vigils. Pet food services like pet restaurants also are picking up pace give that pet food products are the largest segment of the market and are projected to increase to US$ 23 billion by 20145.
With these developments and technologies now, I can find friends for my pet at my vicinity, have my pet retailer give me special treats and coupons, pamper my pet in spas, get alerts on my mobile device for vaccines and much more. So it is time to forget your “pet” peeves and get on board with the new era of pets and their world.