How to help pet owners make good online purchasing decisions

Alison Wiltshire

15 Apr 2020

Do you have a fur baby? A much loved, much pampered pet? You’re in good company. Nearly seven out of ten (67 per cent) of households in the United States own one or more pets. It’s never been more popular. It is said that San Francisco is now home to more dogs than children.

We all know the benefits of pet ownership. It can improve physical health: owning a dog can even help you live longer. Animals are great at lifting anxiety and depression and provide uncritical companionship whatever your circumstances. One bright spot in the coronavirus lockdown across America is that fostering and adoptions of animals are up, by 100 per cent for some shelters, even though the process must take place online. 

Animals are great stress busters. They are a constant source of humor 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. Try weratedogs or tunameltsmyheart on Instagram or the penguin weigh in at St Louis Zoo on Facebook. And so many #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 learning to read and calm anxious passengers at busy airports. 

Above all, we have pets for companionship, to give and receive love and affection. They are part of the family and we increasingly give them ‘human’ names. It’s goodbye to Fido and Fluffy, hello to Max and Bella. 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 Instagram stars include Nala Cat (@nala_cat), with 4.2 million followers, and JiffPom the Pomeranian whose 10 million followers can earn him $45,000 per post. And which of us pet owners is not guilty of posting photos of our own beloved creature for others to 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 prioritizing 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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