How to give petcare shoppers a great online experience

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Maybe you prefer rabbits, or fish or a kunekune pig?

Brits certainly love their pets. According to the PDSA, 50 per cent of UK adults own a pet. There are 10.9 million pet cats and 9.9 million pet dogs in the country.  As a sign of just how important pets are to daily life, the government classes walking a dog as an ‘essential activity’ during the coronavirus lockdown, and pet stores are allowed to stay open. 

It’s long been understood that owning a pet is good for you. The PDSA’s annual PAW report finds that six in ten owners (even more for dog owners) agree that having a pet makes them physically healthier. Most strikingly, 84 per cent of owners agreed that having a pet makes them mentally healthier. 

Animals are great stress busters. They are a constant source of humour and gaiety and we all need that with normal life on hold while the pandemic crisis continues. The internet is packed out with fun pet content. Think of Larry (@Number10cat)’s political sarcasm on Twitter, weratedogs or tunameltsmyheart on Instagram or all the #WFH video meetings gate-crashed by pet animals. In easier times, pet animals also provide therapy outside their homes: they cheer up patients in hospital, listen patiently to children reading and calm anxious passengers at busy airports. The Dog Walking Society at Sussex University has become its biggest club with 300 students using it to improve their mental health.

Above all, we have pets for companionship, to give and receive love and affection. Half all UK pet owners believe their pet is a family member. And we like to give them ‘human’ names. It’s goodbye to Fido and Fluffy, hello to Max and Bella. Nine out of ten of the most popular names given to puppies and kittens were also given to babies in 2019. Meet the ‘fur baby’ – the pampered pets of (especially) young adults. 

These pet owning millennials are no longer content to simply provide their animals with a supply of regular petfood, basic bedding and simple toys (17 per cent of them buy their pets Halloween costumes each year).  The market has responded with an explosion in premium foods, natural treats and personalised accessories, along with a whole array of services: grooming, day care, transportation, pet hotels and spas. Vegetarians and vegans want plant-based food for their pets. Technology lovers can choose GPS trackers or smart pet feeders to provide meals at the right time and temperature when owners are out. Older pets or animals with limited mobility are catered for with nutritionally correct food, ramps and strollers. 

The pet care market has its own powerful online influencers. The pioneer that was Grumpy Cat is sadly no longer with us. Today’s big stars include Nala Cat (@nala_cat), with 4.2 million Instagram followers, and JiffPom the Pomeranian whose 10 million followers can earn him £35,000 per post. And which of us pet owners is not guilty of posting photos of our own beloved creature for others to admire enjoy? 

For brands and retailers selling pet products and supplies, it’s important to help customers find their way around these new categories and products and make the right choices. This is especially true at the time of writing, when millions of us must shop online, and can’t get out to return items. Social proof messaging reflects the sense of community that pet owners share and helps to create trust in the product, and bonding with the brand. 

Some pet owners will be shopping online for the first time; they need encouragement and support throughout their journey. Choosing between two types of organic cat food? Picking out toys for a puppy? Upgrading the filter in your fish tank? Seeing what other people are looking at, what others are adding to their basket or what buyers have said about the quality of a particular item makes shoppers understand they are not alone. They can see that lots of other pet owners are thinking and talking about and purchasing the same items.  

While we continue to live with #stayathome and social distancing, it’s wonderful to see how people and communities everywhere are coming together to look after each other. In a way, social proof messaging delivers this same support online, sharing the experience of all to help everyone make the right purchase. 

Petcare retailers are working hard to strengthen their online operations. In response, Taggstar has put extra resources in place and is prioritising onboarding of new clients. Our specialists can create and test messaging and get it up and running on your website in days. In short, we’ll offer every support so you can give all your pet-loving customers a positive online experience. 

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