Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people began adopting pets in record numbers. In many cases, they were forced to work from home, had more time, and sought companionship to stave off the loneliness of the pandemic lockdown. Shelters reported running out of pets because so many people were adopting, with some shelters seeing their pet adoptions rates increasing 30-40% within one year. (Link)
However, the annual cost of a pandemic puppy could run someone $610 to $2115, and a survey conducted in 2020 revealed that some owners actually spend even more than that – about $3400 a year to be precise. (Link) Then there are people like me, who have two dogs to care for (a chihuahua named Stitch and a pug named Bruce Wayne Lee). Don’t do the math. I am already feeling a bit embarrassed that my pups are so pampered.
Back in March 2019, I wrote about the omnichannel shopper journey of a dog mom. However, due to COVID-19, my shopping behavior has shifted dramatically to more digital this past year. I have stepped into a pet shop only once since lockdowns began. Otherwise, all my shopping choices for my pups have been researched and consummated online.
I am not the only one: a Supermarket News study revealed consumers more likely to buy dog food online had doubled since COVID. (Link) Nielsen reported that 85% of shoppers are turning to omnichannel as a path-to-purchase for their total pet supply needs. (Link) Our own recent research revealed that when we look just at simply feeding our canine and feline friends, 60% of dog food shoppers and now 50% of cat food shoppers are now omnichannel shoppers.
Some pet owners are now scheduling automatic subscriptions for replenishment pet items to capture a lower price point, while other shoppers will wait until they have promo codes and purchase in higher quantities to save. Our research has identified these as the Advanced Shoppers, those who use deal seeking tools like Rakuten, Honey, and Ibotta. In roughly 50% of the online shopping trips we observed in the second half of 2020, shoppers had a discount promo tool plugin installed directly to their internet browsers. This is a great option if you have enough storage space that hasn’t already been commandeered to stores piles of toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Pet owners are also making home-cooked meals because of potential medical restrictions or simply because they see it as better for their pampered pet. I personally love to cook for Bruce and Stitch as a treat, and working from home, I now have more time to do so more often. Due to lockdown, in addition to pet purchases, more than 90% of all my grocery shopping is done online (I only go in person if I must and only during quiet hours). Another study from Supermarket News reveals that almost 80% of Americans are shopping online now for their groceries. (Link) In addition to my monthly online grocery orders, like many other consumers, I get a meal kit delivered each week now, something I often skipped when I was able to dine out. The popularity of meal kits was covered by CNBC describing how demand during the pandemic breathed new life into the meal kit delivery company Blue Apron. (Link)
So, what can pet care brands do to succeed in this increasingly digital shopping landscape? Understanding shopper behavior online and in physical retail will be essential to pinpoint those key moments to influence pet parents. Check out findings in this case study Behaviorally recently conducted for Clorox’s Fresh Step. We applied our unique behavioral framework and our digital-first approach to research to help them increase brand loyalty for their online subscriptions for Fresh Step kitty litter.
In the increasingly digital omnichannel consumer journey, consumers seem willing to continue spending for our fur babies. By understanding the best opportunities to influence pet care consumers’ behavior in the digital shopper journey, brands can be informed and prepared with behavioral approaches to drive their sales and growth.
Janice Lai is the Marketing Director of Behaviorally (formerly PRS) and leads the company’s marketing efforts. She has been with the Company since 2010 having escaped law school. Ask her for recommendations on the best local restaurants (available for take-out and delivery during COVID lockdown) or how she got her mortuary sciences degree.
Follow her on Twitter @iamJaniceLai or connect with her on LinkedIn.