The Pet Business COVID-19 Bounce Back Kit

Erin Michie Creative Director at Creative Growth Agency

Erin

Creative Director

For pet business owners, COVID-19 and 2020 has probably felt a little like one big ‘throw fakeout.’

You know… when you’re chucking the ball for your dog, and pretend to launch it in one direction – sending your dog sprinting off, ears flapping and little paws pumping – when really you’re twisting to chuck it in a completely different direction.

Except, now the shoe is on the other foot. Rather than us psyching our dogs out… we’re the ones who’ve been psyched out.

We started the year, thinking we were on one path, heading towards realising our business dreams, only for coronavirus to swoop in and completely derail us, jerking us in a new direction altogether.

Needless to say, the unexpected (and unwelcome) coronavirus pandemic has massively impacted small businesses. And when the economy suffers, we’re unfortunately often the first to feel it.

But don’t get too ‘dogged’ down (sorry, we couldn’t resist that pun), as we’re about to offer some helpful advice to support you in bouncing back from coronavirus – ideas for adaption, innovation, and more.

So let’s not wait a whisker more.

Despite the challenging circumstances we all currently face, research indicates that pet purchasing and adoption rates around the world have, in fact, boomed.

In Victoria alone, the Guardian reported that the RSPCA received 20,000 online adoption applications since the start of the pandemic. Whilst in the UK, in March pet charity Battersea reported rehoming as many as 150 dogs and cats in a single week.

The reason why is kinda obvious, isn’t it? As people have transitioned to predominantly WFH, the opportunity has opened up to invite a new furry friend into the family. Where before trogging to the office may have meant an inability to take care of an animal companion, now people have the time and ability to make that commitment.

But that’s not the only reason. We don’t need to tell you that tensions are running high right now, or that a lot of us are feeling the mental, emotional and physical strain. However, pets are known to be a well-known remedy for stress, offering us a sense of purpose and love in times of uncertainty or upheaval. And it appears the general public have recognised this too.

So as a pet business, how can you take heart from this?

Because the demand for pet products is now going to increase exceptionally, with new and existing pet owners searching for top quality treats, toys and fashion accessories to spoil their furry (and not so furry) friends with.

To help you capitalise on this opportunity, we’ve put together a simple COVID-19 Bounce Back Kit for pet businesses in Australia and the United Kingdom. If you’re ready to adopt new strategies and seek out new opportunities – this one’s paw-fect for you.

Covid Bounce Back Kit

The Pet Business COVID-19 Bounce Back Kit

Step 1: Communicate

Now’s the time to communicate. With your staff, and with your customers.

People expect change. Nobody has come out of 2020 unscathed.

Make the changes you need to make with transparency, empathy and thoughtfulness. Scale back if you need to, or let your customers know that access to your products/services may change. Don’t put a brave face on for the sake of appearing ‘in control’ of the situation.

In fact, most people are actively seeking to support small businesses during this time, and they’ll respect you even more if you’re honest. Share your challenges with your customers. Talk to your team and ask for their input on solutions. Reach out to other small business owners and seek advice on what they’re doing to tackle coronavirus.

Because you’re not alone here. And the first step to bouncing back is building a community and network around your business. This community will help you to weather any tough times ahead, and will also help uplift and support you to succeed, despite the obstacles you may face.

Step 2: Don't Forget the Future

The future might seem a bit difficult to picture or predict right now. But you still need to think ahead where you can.

Keep one eye on the present, and one on the future of your business. Never let yourself forget that this time will pass. Many animals in rehoming shelters had to be patient while they waited for their forever family, and look where they are now!

Perhaps you started off 2020, believing you were going to achieve XYZ with your business. And when those plans began to unravel, maybe you panicked and decided to focus on simply surviving rather than thriving during this period.

We completely understand. However, you don’t need to give up on your goals altogether. There’s still time to reassess and reposition your business to smash out small successes.

The aim of the game is to keep moving forwards, in whatever capacity that takes. So take a moment, right here right now, and consider what future you want for your business.

In fact, why not start by listing three small achievable goals you want to meet by the new year. Decide what stepping stones you want to take right now, to work towards a brighter future for your business.

Step 3: Money, Money, Money

There’s a lot of number-crunching involved when running a small business, and we don’t always love it. Like our own pooches, Winnie and Ash, we much prefer crunching biscuits rather than numbers. But it has to be done.

It’s vital that you come up with a realistic budget, stick to it, and try to build up an emergency fund during this period. If coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s the importance of being prepared. Knowing where you stand = knowing how to move forwards.

Those goals you outlined in step two? They’ll be much more achievable when you know what resources you can allocate and where.

It’ll harm you more to bury your head in the litter tray, than to sit down and properly outline your current and predicted revenue, profits and expenses.

Additionally, once you know where you stand financially, you will be able to identify exactly what sales you need to aim for in the coming months. Having that clarity and certainty will support you to then implement the measures – whether that’s reassessing your pricing structures or your marketing strategy – to meet those benchmarks.

Step 4: Mix It Up

Coronavirus has offered us time to think about new business ideas. The most successful small businesses are the ones that know how to innovate. See this new, strange world as a chance to mix things up. A chance to be creative and produce exciting new things that match the demands of the pandemic-struck world.

Never be scared of change. You may have even heard of other pet businesses ‘pivoting’, which is just a fancy way of adapting and evolving their products or services. And you can do this too. 

Here at The Growth Genies, we particularly admire the way son and father duo at Creature Cadets have adapted their pet care and sitting services to actively address their customers needs post COVID. Whilst many would expect Creature Cadets to be forced to scale back on looking after pets around Brisbane, what Riley and Mark have done instead is switch up their internal systems and client interaction processes to be COVID compliant, whilst ensuring their clients receive exactly the same quality of pet care services.

So take this opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect on your own business structure. Have you limited or reduced the availability of your products/services? Could you instead adapt your offerings and increase availability again in a new way? 

For example… if you own a physical retail space, have you considered transitioning to eCommerce or introducing a dropshipping model? Or if you’re already online, have you thought about packaging up your own expertise into digital resources – such as Zoom consultations or online training courses?

Set aside some time to brainstorm and get creative with how you could mix things up.    

Step 5: Have Confidence

Coronavirus has hit the economy hard. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

With the number of pets that have been adopted in the middle of a lockdown, this clearly shows that people are still more than willing to spend on certain areas of life. True, we might not be so trigger happy with purchasing non-essential items right now (she says, side-eyeing the lava lamp she was convinced would add some flair to her desk during lockdown.)

But you know what? Pet products are essential, even when they’re strictly… not. Proud pet parents are more likely to want to commit to a purchase that benefits their animal companions, than they are willing to spend their disposable income on themselves. Plus, there are also the products/services we do need for our pets, such as food and hygiene and general pet care.

Additionally, with this boom in pet purchases and adoptions – as we mentioned earlier, this has also meant the demand for pet business worldwide has surged too. And not everyone is immediately turning to the big generic brands to fulfill their needs; they want the value-driven, quality, personalised connections offered by small businesses.

Our point? Be confident that there are people out there who want and need what you’re offering. Right now, you may feel like you’re barking into the wind and finding it impossible to promote your products/services.

Switch up that mindset. Present your business with the belief that with your continued commitment to providing high-quality products/services, alongside consistent messaging across your socials/website, you will attract the right community to you.

Better yet, ask your existing customers and connections to review your business online or recommend you to their friends/family. Don’t be shy about putting your business out there and demanding the recognition your dedication to animals deserves.

Step 6: Form a Plan

This step is very reminiscent of step two, but in a slightly ‘bigger’ capacity. Here, we want you to think beyond those immediate short-term goals, to really consider what you want your life – not just your business – to look like by this time next year.

If you had a pre-coronavirus business plan, it’s time to scrap it and start afresh. Start to build a new plan for 2021, one you’ll actually be able to follow, and try to establish a loose timeline around achieving this vision for your future. More importantly, remember not to be too precious about your goals. We hate the phrase ‘we’re living in unprecedented times’, but there is some truth to it. If coronavirus has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t exactly anticipate what’s around the corner.

Ask yourself: How would your small business be affected if something like coronavirus happened again? What protective measures can you put in place now to help you in the next 3, 6, 12 months? What team do you need to build to support you, regardless of what new challenges emerge?

A lot has changed since March. Now, it’s time for us to buckle down and tap into our resourcefulness and determination as small business owners. Coronavirus psyched us out with a fake throw, yet we have the ability – right here – to change trajectory and strive forward with purpose.

If you’re based in Australia or the United Kingdom and coronavirus has affected your business, please reach out for support. We’re here to help you in whatever capacity you need, whether that’s a consultation to bounce around ideas, an in-depth assessment of your current website/social media set up, or to help you implement a marketing plan for 2021 that’ll see your business truly bounce back from COVID-19 to be better than ever.