Deck the Halls with Paws of Holly
When it comes to holiday shopping, one in five pet owners will spend more on their pet than on their mother-in-law! I mean, can you blame them? After all, we are talking about four-legged furry friends who show unconditional love year-round. More than two-thirds of pet owners consider their pet to be a family member, and owners are placing toys, treats, accessories, and clothing under the tree for their pets every year.
In 2013, the U.S. pet industry expenditures totaled an impressive $55.72 billion, and according to the American Pet Owner’s Association, owners spend an average of $5 billion on pets during the holiday season alone. Retailers and brands that are savvy to holiday pet trends are using it to form deeper relationships with their customers and communities.
So, how can retailers and brands take advantage of holiday pet shopping behavior? First, retailers should look to time-tested merchandising techniques — placing items strategically in-store to capture the “impulse buy.” Travel-sized items and treats placed at the register would make “purrfect” stocking stuffers. Additionally, stores can create “impulse alleys” by grouping seasonal items together in high-traffic areas.
Next, retailers can generate market buzz by engaging in preplanned holiday sales or events. Consumers will already be approaching the holiday season with the intent to purchase, and temporary price reductions or limited-time deals can help capture dollar share. To entice consumers into the store, retailers can employ techniques such as extended store hours and lucrative giveaways. For pet retailers, hosting an event that pet owners can enjoy with their pets is a unique way to capture the attention of shoppers while creating a memorable experience. Not only does the consumer have an enjoyable time with a loyal companion, but these types of events can also help retailers create a bond between the pet owner and the store.
From the brand perspective, producing holiday-themed packaging for treats and other products has proven to be very successful. Creating the impression that a product has a short availability period, limited-edition packaging can make a product seem more exclusive, and give consumers an extra “nudge” toward purchasing it. However, brands should play into the holiday cheer strategically, however – a Christmas-themed bag of dog bones may spur a consumer to purchase outside their regular buying cycle, but a 20 lb. bag of Christmas-packaging dog food may not. And with any limited-edition item, brands need to consider time from manufacturer to shelf, planning appropriately to ensure that the product is on-shelf during the height of holiday shopping.
One of the main brand benefits of a limited-edition item, outside of increased sales, is increased brand loyalty. Limited-edition items make “new” products out of items that may have been on the market for years, if not decades. Consumers are given the illusion of choice — even if they don’t buy the limited-edition item, it looks as if the brand has offered them something new, timely, and unique. This helps generate brand loyalty, and helps encourage repeat purchases.
Beyond in-store and at-shelf, brands and retailers can further nurture relationships with consumers during the holidays via social media. More specifically, social media not only lets brands and retailers promote their products, it also creates a venue for posting things that their followers can relate to. For example, a proven way to engage followers is to have them submit photos, and during the holidays, brands can “theme” the request, asking consumers to submit a cute photo of their pet in a holiday outfit. A photo that resonates well with other followers may encourage additional photo posts and online engagement, and, in turn, this can increase the followers’ sense of belonging to the brand’s social media communities. This, ultimately, will cause consumers to become more loyal to the brand and increases the likelihood of future product purchases.
The holiday pet-shopping trend has grown tremendously in the past 20 years, and there is no sign of it slowing down for this holiday season. As it becomes more acceptable for animals to receive presents during the holidays, more and more pet owners are adopting the tradition into their own homes. And, in turn, we expect that more brands and retailers will react to this trend, adjusting their marketing tactics to align with the “paw-pulor” demand.
For other non-holiday pet marketing trends, Made in the USA is becoming a powerful sub-segment of the pet marketplace.