No matter what part of the country your business is located, whether you sellonline, offline or both, or what type of pet products or services you offer,all retailers have some things in common with each other. Keeping this inmind, Aidan Gannon, owner of Petzlove Food n’ Stuff in Lone Tree, Colo.,believes that what connects pet businesses is also what keeps themapart—competition.
“In my opinion, the biggest challenge to pet retailers is the range ofcompetition we now face,” shares Gannon. “Direct-to-consumer sales from ourexisting brands are becoming increasingly competitive to traditional stores.Distributors—including fresh, frozen and raw subscription-only foods—aredrawing top tier customers dollars out of the stores. Additionally, we alsoface competition from unlikely platforms that offer impulse buys and seasonalitems to consumers, [such as] gas stations selling treats and chews,department stores and discount retailers selling beds, bowls and apparel andmore.”
As we look ahead, the future of pet retail undoubtedly has a lot ofcompetition, and it also has uncertainty, especially with the COVID-19pandemic. The good news is that pets and their caretakers still need you. Thecatch? Buying habits have shifted, retail has changed, and what we used toknow as normal is no longer immediately relevant. As a result, there is nobetter time than the present to discuss what the future of pet retail willlook like as we continue to venture deeper into 2020 and beyond.
At the core of any retail business is inventory, and there are a lot of greatcategories and products to consider as merchants strive to stand out. Amongthe more interesting categories are pet technology products—such as Fitbit fordogs, pet cameras and even voice assistant pet feeders—as well as design-forward pet furniture, matching fashion for owners and their pets, and evenstress- and anxiety-relieving products.
Tim and Carrie Chapman, owners and operators of Pet Wants Minneapolis ,believe that another category of inventory for retailers to consider isspecially-crafted pet food formulas and CBD products.
“We offer two very important things to consumers, and those are great productsand outstanding customer service,” shares Carrie Chapman.
Expanding on this, Carrie’s husband and business partner, Tim, explains that“many customers don’t know what they need, but we take the time to answertheir questions and identify the right products for them.”
Having the right products combined with delivering strong customer care willnever go out of style, but it will take some forward-thinking to make sure2020 remains profitable for most merchants.
Incorporate Old-Fashioned Strategies
Tried and true—though never guaranteed trusted—advertising remains a relevantway for pet businesses to connect with customers. This is particularly truefor those aiming to connect with local consumers who seek businesses withwhich they feel personally connected. In order to achieve this, Petzlove Foodn’ Stuff suggests immersing yourself into one targeted area instead ofspreading yourself too thin.
“In a world of information overload and constant bombardment of ads on allplatforms, capturing customer attention is getting harder and harder,”explains Gannon. “We have found the most effective way to maximize our ROI onadvertising is to target a zip code with multiple advertising opportunities,then proceed to look consistent on several mediums.”
In order to achieve this, Gannon advertises on Facebook and Instagram (hesuggests video is best) and participates in local coupon books and printpublications. After he backed off on advertising dollars, Gannon admits he’sseen a difference, as “minimizing our advertising platforms or budget hashistorically shown a dramatic drop off in ROI.”
When incorporating an advertising investment into your business, it’sessential to maintain clarity, with the ultimate goal of having a solidunderstanding of the return each advertising effort gains. It is alsoimportant to know where your competitors are advertising, and identify ifcompeting directly against them with strategic efforts makes sense.
Still, the main goal should remain to gain a return on each advertisingeffort. Be sure to track this as you strive to increase sales based on youradvertising spend. Collectively, you just may be surprised to see the returnadvertising rewards you with despite the costs associated with it.
Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Brick-and-mortar retailer Pet Wants Minneapolis consider their business a“health-focused pet food store on wheels with our delivery service.”
For other merchants, however, delivery is still unchartered territory. Yetwith COVID-19 bringing chaos to normal business operations for many retailers,it has challenged them to think outside of their traditional services. Amongthe ways some have found sales success in response to COVID-19 is toincorporate delivery or curbside pick-up into their selling strategies.
“We have seen some retailers making up to 35 deliveries a day in response tothe COVID-19 crisis, [even if] they historically had zero deliveries undertheir belts,” says Candace D’Agnolo, founder and CEO of Pet Boss Nation.“Others have benefited from curbside pick-ups and many have incorporated both.I think too often, however, retailers over-complicate the details of theseservices by trying to identify delivery fees or the logistics of delivery. Myadvice is to simply put it out there, see where it goes and make adjustmentsas you learn.”
Additionally, D’Agnolo explains that, “it’s really an opportunity for businessowners to step outside of their comfort zones,” which could mean asking forhelp from vendors, incorporating videos into social media feeds or finallyselling online (even if retailers haven’t done so in the past). The maintakeaway is that change is a must in order for retailers to stay profitable.
Speaking of profitable, the future will never be a clear path for any businessto follow, yet having reliable resources to obtain product knowledge, industrynews, consumer understanding and more are among the most valuable ways to gainclarity. To help achieve this, pet business decision makers should seekcontinued education opportunities to strengthen their operations and businessgoals.
With over 75 sessions, 85 hours and 40 speakers, SuperZoo offers acomprehensive educational experience that delivers actionable insight for petprofessionals that they can apply to their businesses immediately. Combinedwith 1,000 plus exhibitors and nearly 1,000 new product launches, it’s theperfect destination to embrace the future of pet retail. Another advantage toSuperZoo? Attendees can connect with their preferred vendors and suppliers,allowing them to better capture insight to share with their own uniquecustomers.
“We have aimed to make our physical store and our website a place forcustomers to gain nutritional advice for their pets in addition to discoveringfun and unique items,” explains Gannon. “We push marketing materials we gainfrom our vendors, plus we deliver demos that educate customers and alsoentertains them.”
For retailers to extend education to their audiences, they can incorporateanimal wellness and specialized services (such as grooming and boarding) intotheir business model, as well as help guide customer in their purchasingdecisions.
Finally, as you embrace the future ahead, consider what writer and humoristLewis Gizzard once famously said: “Life is like a dogsled team—if you ain’tthe lead dog, the view never changes.”
Choose to be proactive, forward-thinking and among those leaders that aren’twilling to settle for the backseat. Take control of your future and decidewhere it will take you. PB
Source: Courtney Harold – US Pet Business
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