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Pet Marketing Goes High-Tech


If you want to become a retail destination for today’s tech-savvy pet parents, ramping up online pet offerings is a good place to start.

That’s the takeaway from “Pet Product Marketing Trends in the U.S.: Technology, Mobile and Social Media,” a report from Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts released in December 2015, which reveals that pet owners are more likely to have recently used digital devices and technologies than their pet-free counterparts.

According to the report, 41 percent of pet product buyers use the internet to find information about pet care services, and 39 percent head online to help choose which pet foods to buy.

The convenience of shopping online and having pet products arrive via home delivery is also an allure. Some 30 percent of dog owners and 35 percent of cat owners said they liked the idea of home delivery for pet food and treats, Packaged Facts data show.

Information from the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2015–2016 National Pet Owners Survey supports those findings. “There is a growing prevalence of online and social media networks used to find pets and pet products, with websites, product review sites and Facebook pages leading the charge,” reports the Greenwich, Conn.-based APPA. “Emerging channels” such as blogs, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram are also growing, the organization goes on to note.

“The internet is where information meets opportunity,” observed Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle at the time of the release of the market research firm’s pet product report. “Success in today’s pet market means effectively leveraging the internet as the nexus where pet owners and all things related to their pet companions — be it products, services or simply general information — converge in an infinite stream of possibilities at the click of a mouse or at a tap of an app.”

How Retailers are Engaging Consumers

Personalized emails, emojis on Twitter, online video or paid searches are among the vehicles pet marketers are using to communicate with pet parents, according to George Puro, president of White Plains, N.Y.-based Puro Research Group and author of the Packaged Facts report.

“Kroger has been one of the more active grocers in engaging pet parents through the internet, using social media tools, digital coupons and content marketing,” he notes.

For example, Kroger teamed with Iams, a brand of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, in December 2015 on the Kroger Holiday Pet Photo Giveaway, which asked consumers to post a picture of themselves with their pet on a Kroger Facebook or Twitter page for a chance to win a year’s worth of Iams pet food.

Additionally, the grocer, also based in Cincinnati, posted a “Dear Human” letter on Facebook from a dog named Coco saying, “My treat supply is looking a little low — thought you could use this digital coupon to stock up.” The letter links to a digital coupon.

Pet care-focused content — some of it provided by pet marketers — is another feature on Kroger’s website, Puro notes.

Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix is another major retailer tapping technology to appeal to pet owners, via Publix Paws, “a free club that makes it fun and easy to strengthen our customers’ bond with their dog or cat,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous says.

Paws members receive monthly email coupons for pet food, accessories, toys and treats; the “Inside Scoop,” which notifies them about sales events for pet products before the events are advertised to other customers; and an “Expert Advice” section full of pet care tips.

“In addition, we’ve hosted pet contests on our Facebook page, where proud, doting parents of our four-legged friends could submit their cutest baby photos,” Brous observes. “We received great response from our customers and enjoyed the opportunity to engage with our customers even more.”

According to Puro, other retailers leading the way in tapping technology in the pet category include:

  • Sam’s Club. Puro calls the company’s digital aisle “one interesting twist on omnichannel retailing.” The site, he says, “looks like an actual store aisle stocked with Purina products.”
  • Stop & Shop. The Ahold USA division teamed up with several bloggers on a giveaway of its natural dog and cat food when it launched a new product line. Additionally, the Home for the Holidays Sweepstakes on Stop & Shop’s Facebook page offered a three-night stay at a pet-friendly hotel in New York City and a year’s supply of Purina products as one of the prizes.
  • ShopRite. The banner promotes the ShopRite from Home service with an online coupon code, “SAVEONPET,” which prompts consumers to “get started at or on the ShopRite app from your mobile device.”

However you approach it, tapping technology to reach pet parents won’t succeed unless you know as much as possible about the customers you’re trying to attract.

“Savvy digital marketing to pet owners begins with understanding those customers,” advises Puro. “Pet owners are passionate about their pets and think of them as family members. They love sharing photos about them on social media. And while online deals and digital coupons never hurt, they’re often looking to learn what’s best for their pet. Grocery retailers must show they understand that relationship between customers and their pets. And they must demonstrate that they can provide the expert advice to help pets live healthy lives. If retailers can do these things through the digital realm, they’ll be poised to capture more pet product sales.”

“Savvy digital marketing to pet owners begins with understanding those customers.”
—George Puro, Puro Research Group

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