It’s Raining Cats And Dogs – Pet Fever Takes Off In Lockdown

Hold the front page: Britain is more pet-mad than ever.

Amazingly, four out of ten current pet owners acquired another new pet during lockdown. Bob Martin reports a tenfold increase in people looking to buy a companion animal during the months of the crisis, and online searches for cat and dog purchases and adoptions are at all-time highs. Ten per cent of British households currently without pets intend to get one in the next six months. 

Of course, we have pets to be our companions and for most of us they’ve been super-valuable members of the household throughout the strange summer of 2020, contributing to the mental and physical wellbeing of all generations. In the early days, walking the dog was one of the few legitimate reasons to leave the house and now, as restrictions lift, dog owners plan to take their dogs for more frequent and longer walks. And have you even been on a Zoom call if you’ve not been gate-crashed by someone’s cat?

The pet market is famously resilient. After all, pets are not the ones cutting back on chai lattes and dry-cleaning bills. They still need feeding, grooming, entertaining and general care to the same extent. Certainly, spending by pet owners, including online, on Purina premium brands helped Nestle exceed expectations for the first half year

Half all UK pet owners consider their pet as a family member. Naturally, they want to treat them as such. Basic food and simple bedding are not enough. There are foods for every palate and digestive system, plus nutritional supplements. There’s personalised accessories and clothing. The latter can be decorative (cute bandana) – or functional – (neoprene booties for socially distanced walkies in winter weather). 

It’s a huge business opportunity, for supermarkets and household retailer as well as petcare specialists. In the UK, the pet care sector is anticipated to expand to more than £7 billion by next year, with dog food alone worth more than £1 billion.

Pets and their owners have been used to spending quality time together over recent months. Lots of people say they now have a closer relationship with their pets than before, thanks to working from home. But as human members of the family step up returning to school, to the office, both animals and their people are going to find the separation tough. Fortunately, there’s a rapidly expanding range of digital gadgets that let you stay in touch with your pets wherever you are. Smart monitoring devices incorporating cameras and microphones that you control from your phone let you keep an eye on your pet when you’re out. You can check up on their wellbeing (or gather evidence about who has shredded the new cushion), talk to them, feed them or dispense treats remotely

During the lockdown, online sales of everything shot up and pet care is no exception. Pet owners are well provided for online. Ecommerce already accounted for over 16% of global pet care market sales in 2019, and is expected to grow more than 10% between 2020 and 2026. More people are shopping online than ever before – quite a few of them for the first time. They’ll welcome some help and advice, especially as they explore new pet care categories and products. 

Social proof messaging is a powerful way to guide consumers through the often-overwhelming choice they encounter online. Social proof harnesses simple psychology: people are persuaded by the actions of others. And today’s consumers trust each other more than they trust brands. Social proof aggregates the opinions of others to deliver a flow of relevant messages throughout the shopper’s online journey, including the brand or retailer’s website plus social media, DM emails and OOH sites on the high street. 

Some pet owners will be shopping online for the first time; they’ll need extra encouragement and support throughout their journey. And even experienced owners may need some help when it comes to choosing, say, the right microchip-enabled pet door. Simply seeing that lots of other pet owners are considering and purchasing the same items give consumers the reassurance they need to buy. 

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