Get your pet store on top of the food chain
The pet business has been booming for the past few years, and industry analysts predict continued growth for the future. In the US, spending on food, supplies, medications and services for pets has been growing 10 percent year over year. If that’s not impressive enough, how about this: in 2020 alone, Americans spent over $99 billion on their pets! Despite growing customer demand, this remains a highly competitive market: not only are pet stores increasing in number; they also have to share the market with huge chain stores, such as Walmart and Target, that sell pet supplies in large quantities and at very competitive prices. To attract customers and stay profitable, pet stores must go beyond merely selling food, treats and toys that shoppers may be able to find cheaper elsewhere. Here are few ideas to breed loyalty among your customers with a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
Many pet owners consider their animals are a part of the family, and are consequently very picky when it comes to choosing who should be trusted with their pets. This means that there is a huge potential for loyalty engagementin the industry. To increase the number of loyal, returning customers, focus on:
- Careful selection of the brands you stock. Customers need to know they can rely on your quality controls, and that you wouldn’t sell them something that is poorly made, or may even be dangerous for their pet.
- Continuous employee training. My cat almost lost the vision in one eye because we trusted an employee who told us “Sure, these are the eye drops the vet prescribed – they just come with a different name”. Guess what – those were not the same drops. Carefully train your employees on all your products, and make sure they can answer all your customers’ questions competently (and if they don’t have the answer, just admit “I don’t know, let me get back to you”).
- Implementing a loyalty program. By letting customers collect points and perks, you will encourage them to return to your store. At the same time, you can use the program to collect your customers’ preferences and shopping history, and then use this information to send them personalized product suggestions and offers. Picture this: one of your customers buys specific food for her dog, who has dental problems. By registering the purchase on your customer’s loyalty account, you can then send her recommendations of toys or treats for dogs with dental issues. Next time your customer needs something for their dog, they will surely come to you, I guarantee it! According to a research by Accenture, 3 out of 4 consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that knows their purchase history, recommends options based on past purchases, or recognizes them by name, so it’s definitely worth collecting this kind of information! Don’t forget to make your program omni-channel: your customers will be able to collect and spend points whether they buy from you in-store or online – and you will be able to keep track of all of your customers’ interactions with you, no matter the channel.
Add extra services
There’s a lot more than food and toys to having a pet. To become the go-to place for pet owners you must offer other services, such as pet grooming, training classes or pet daycare. Adding extra activities will drive more people to your store, and give you the opportunity to close additional product sales. You could even encourage customers to buy extra products with ad-hoc, mixed offers – for example, a free dog shampoo every third grooming session, or a discount on pet food based on how many nights your pets spend at the pet hotel. Services can be a lucrative addition to a business – but they can also be tough to manage. Don’t make the mistake of adopting a separate software system to manage your item sales, another one for the courses, and a third one for the grooming salon. When you handle separate activities with different systems, you end up with inconsistent numbers, complex (and expensive!) accounting, mistakes and lost data, and no clear overview over your entire business. For example, with separate systems, the only way to know how many people who attended training courses also use your pet hotel is to extract the information manually. (Who has time for that?) To manage your business as one, invest in software that can handle it all – item sales, bookings, appointments, courses and events. When you have all your data in one system, it’s easier to manage the accounting, as well as to see patterns and understand with what kind of consumer each of your services is popular, and how you can improve your offering. A single system also means quicker service, as your staff doesn’t need to log out of one system into another, or move register to handle different types of sales.
Create a community
Many pet owners have an interest in the welfare of other pets, not just their own. There are multiple ways you can make your stores the center of the animal-loving community.
- Organize charity events; for example, adoption events for a local shelter, or fundraisers for sick animals. Make the events fun to attend – you could include dog shows, play areas or giveaways – to entice different types of people to come.
- Share interesting information with your customers. Do you know a trick to help dogs be less scared to go to the vet? Are you familiar with holiday spots that accept animals? This is information you customers want to know! Don’t hesitate to share this information, with in-store flyers, via newsletter, or on your website.
- Help people help pets in need. Pair up with a shelter you trust, advertise their animals looking for a home, and give your customers a chance to donate to the shelter. This is how I found out about a pet store in my area – a shelter I support advertised that you could send them donations straight at this brand’s stores. Guess where I do my pet food shopping now?
- Ask the expert. Many pet owners have questions that worry them, but which aren’t serious enough to warrant going to a vet. How can I have my two cockatiels get along? Why does my bunny bite me? Pair up with a veterinarian or animal expert, and do Q&A events in store, or call for questions on your website.
The pet store industry is growing – but are you doing all you can to be on top of the game?
Article written for lsretail.com on 29 November 2017.