So how do you make your pet business stand out in the pack?
We love our pets as much as our family (… let’s be honest, sometimes even more.) And that’s no surprise when you realise there are around 51 million pets in the UK, with 41% of households having one or more animal companions. That’s a heck of a lot of pets! And with a massive upsurge in pet adoptions during the coronavirus pandemic, the number of pet-owning homes is on the rise.
You can’t put a price on the joy of pet ownership, but in the UK alone we spend around £2.36 billion a month on our pets. To say this industry is thriving would be… an understatement.
Yet strong numbers aren’t enough to ensure that you make a success of your pet business. It can feel like a dog-eat-dog when it comes to standing out from the competition, especially among e-commerce businesses, where larger retailers are able to operate at scale.
That said, with a few well-placed strategies you can absolutely make a success of your pet business, no matter how large or small. It doesn’t need to be ‘survival of the dog with the biggest bite’ either. There’s plenty of ways to get your business to stand out in the pack, without dragging down your competition.
Just think about the last time you did some online shopping and the sheer amount of choices you had at your fingertips. Your customers face that very same dilemma when shopping for their pets.
Especially if they’re new pet parents, they may be even more confused about where to go. Which is why it’s so important to clearly highlight to your customers exactly why your business is the cat’s whiskers + what you can offer them that no one else does or can.
If you’re a service-based business, take a look at the competition in your area and identify the small or big ways you differ. For example, if you’re a dog groomer, do you specialise in certain types of cuts? If you run a cat hotel, do you offer a bespoke VIP package?
Also, make sure to check out reviews of other businesses online (try sites like Trustpilot and Yelp). This can offer great insight into what customers in your area are looking for – maybe owners near you want flexible hours from dog-walkers or eco-friendly grooming products? Find the gap in the market and fill it.
If your business is all about providing products, is there something quirky or unique about how you manufacture or design your items? If you offer beautiful pet accessories, are they handmade or produced by a partner in the UK? Is your dog food brand all organic? If you distribute pet supplies, do you offer express delivery or a price match service?
A USP doesn’t just need to be about the product or service either. It might be a set of core values that define your business. Are all your staff pet owners themselves? Do you donate a portion of your profits to an animal charity? These are the kinds of things that will make customers remember you and connect with your business on a much deeper, more meaningful level.
No matter what kind of professional service you’re looking for, whether that be a beautician, an electrician or a dog-sitter, chances are that the first place you’ll look will be online. And guess what… pet owners do exactly the same!
And that’s why it’s super important to ensure that your business has a strong online presence.
If you’ve got a clean, modern website which clearly displays all the key information your customers may need (pricing, contact details, about the team), you’ll have an instant advantage over other businesses with out of date websites. Make sure your pages and content flow, so that your potential customer gets answers to their questions quickly.
Top tip: Making your customers jump through needless hoops to access vital information on your site may mean the difference between prospective customers choosing the competition over you.
You’d also be barking mad to build a site that looks great but is impossible to find, so take a few steps to get your website appearing (and even topping) Google searches.
This includes having individual meta-title and meta-descriptions for each page of your site, with keywords that are relevant to your business and local area. You’ll also want to set up a Google My Business page. This gives you the opportunity to show up on Google Maps (which you want, especially if you’re a service-based business… trust us!) And also make sure to list your website on third party directories too, like the Good Vet and Pet Guide and Dotty4Paws.
Including a blog on your website can also help raise your ranking, whilst giving you somewhere to publish educational, entertaining or inspiring content which builds trust with potential customers. For example, if you manufacture dog whistles or other training tools, publishing a blog on how to build strong recall can generate traffic for your site, whilst simultaneously helping to position you as an authority in your field, demonstrating that you ‘know your stuff’ to your customers.
If you’re creating and publishing valuable resources that answer pet owners’ burning questions, you’re likely to scoop up customers who are doing their research online before they buy.
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you tickle your dog’s tum? Or when your cat curls up on your knee and starts purring as loud as a car engine?
Then you understand what it means to be a pet-owner and that’s one of your most valuable assets.
Pet ownership is an emotional business and if it’s clear in your branding and communication that you share a deep love for pets, customers are more likely to trust and relate to you.
Make sure you’re speaking from the heart in everything you do. Customers will be able to pick up on inauthenticity, so don’t force it. But do let your passion shine through, in every little detail of how you represent yourself.
As consumers, we’re tired of engaging with empty and artificial brands who are purely out to make a profit from us. We want genuine connection, knowing that the brands we engage with hold our best interests at heart and value us as individuals too.
Having a pet can be a costly affair. Owners are usually happy to spend on their best buds, but everybody loves a good deal, right?
If you’re a dog groomer, can you start up a loyalty card system that offers the fifth groom at a reduced rate? Or a free pawdicure or doggy facial with every full groom? If you’re an eCommerce business can you give a 10% discount for first orders from new customers, or a dog chew with every order over a certain value?
If you’ve got a brilliant offer on, make sure you let folks know about it too. Shout about it on your socials and keep your website up to date with any special discounts. Oh, and don’t forget to sprinkle your meta-data liberally with info about your promos.
You’d trust your friend or neighbour’s opinion over an algorithm, wouldn’t you? Nothing has more power than a personal recommendation.
Prompt existing customers to review you on your own website, Google or on other relevant third-party sites, and don’t be afraid to also ask if they’ll share and like posts on social. You could also set up a referral scheme, so that customers who recommend you get a discount on future purchases – rewarding kindness with kindness.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – social is king. If you’re top of customers’ feeds, you’ll be top of their minds when they’re looking for a product or a service for their pets.
And here’s a top tip for your social strategy… Create content that’s relatable and shareable. Humour goes a long way when it comes to content that sticks, and pets provide endless hours of entertainment (just take a look at @animalsdoingthings on Insta – we could literally scroll for days).
Be responsive when you’re receiving messages on your social accounts too. It shows you really care and are attentive to your community, giving customers the sense that they’re dealing with real pet people, not just a faceless brand.
The same goes for any online reviews you might be chalking up – it’s a good idea to reply publicly, whether the review is good or bad. In fact, it’s especially important to reply if they’re bad, as this gives you a chance to visibly address or rectify any problems. There’s nothing worse than a bad review that’s just left hanging… and prospective customers will understand that you’re only human, so mistakes do happen.
However, if you take responsibility for a negative review and demonstrate an empathetic tone of voice, or alternatively highlight what measures you already put in place to provide a great customer experience, then prospective customers will likewise appreciate your self-awareness and diligence.
Think about the last time you saw someone ranting about an unacceptable meal at a restaurant. Did the restaurant reply? Did they outline any contributing factors which lead to this customer’s experience, or offer a form of apology if it was due to their personal negligence?
Now think about a time you’ve read a positive review about an AirBnB or hotel. Did the host respond? Did they highlight what they did to ensure their customer had a great experience (as this is another way of subtly promoting your USPs)?
However these businesses dealt with those reviews could’ve massively influenced your perception of those brands, even if it was only on a subliminal level. You may have chosen to swerve that restaurant because they offered an arsey response to the review, or you might have booked a room at that AirBnB because of how attentive the hosts seemed in their reply.
And the way you handle reviews for your business can be just as important too.
So put a system in place to address reviews, good and bad, and present yourself as the attentive and conscientious brand you are.