Customizing Subscription Boxes For Dogs With eCommerce

pet products

To provide pet owners (and their dogs) with treats and supplies tailored to their unique needs, eCommerce merchants are tapping into the subscription business model. Take PupJoy, which offers custom subscription boxes for dogs. Shoppers enter the company’s website and provide some information about their pups when they sign up for a plan. “We give them a number of options that they can select” and then personalize a subscription that works best for them, PupJoy Founder and CEO Dustin McAdams told PYMNTS in an interview.

Shoppers can choose what kinds of products they want in their boxes (treats, toys and chews; toys only; treats and chews), the kinds of treats they prefer (all-natural, organic, grain-free, protein sensitive) and toy types (variety, plush). The company has different box sizes for different sized dogs ranging from “tea cup” to “huuuge” along with plan options that range from single box to multi-box plans. And the platform is continually updating and rotating its product mix “to keep things interesting for folks,” McAdams said.

When it comes to curating the items, the company sources from and partners with independent artisan firms, and McAdams says that the baseline of quality for anything it carries is high. The company also aims to work with companies that have a positive contribution in some way to the world — those that have eco-friendly practices, for instance. Shameless Pets, for example, is one company on the platform that has upcycled ingredients in the treats it makes.

Upcycling refers to the practice of reusing discarded material or objects in such a way as to make an item of higher value than the original. In the case of Shameless Pets, the company’s lobster roll treat uses parts of a lobster that would otherwise be thrown away. (According to PupJoy’s website, “Every 12 bags sold saves 1lb of food from going to waste!” PupJoy also has another offering on its website from Shameless Pets called “Break An Egg,” which is described as “upcyled egg & cheese yumminess, boosted with superfoods.”

PupJoy also has a traditional eCommerce shop beyond its subscription box. Through the shop offering, the company carries a number of products that it delivers in the boxes. It is, in essence, a mechanism for shoppers to find the products they like that come in their boxes and reorder. And, when it comes to the company’s focus demographic, McAdams says it is anyone who has a dog and likes to pamper their pup a little bit. Those it tends to attract the most are people who have an affinity for ingredient transparency and higher-quality type of products.

The Market

The company, however, has a very wide base. When McAdams started the business, he fully assumed that its primary demographic would be an urban dweller. He has found, however, that customers span suburban and rural territories. And, for promotion, the company conducts paid search and has a loyal fan base that refers new customers. The company also teams with select blogs and websites. It also works with hotels and property management companies, which provides a level of access to customers.

The company also offers a loyalty program that offers rewards for referrals and cash back on purchases as well as renewals. For payments, PupJoy currently accepts major credit cards as well as checkout with PayPal. (And it plans to include a couple more payments options when it relaunches with an updated environment.) When it comes to the timing for the service, McAdams pointed out that the millennial population has greater affluence and is waiting longer to have children. A pet becomes, in essence, a starter child — and a pampered one.

At the same time, a healthy adult population or empty nest population often have one or two dogs in a household that are treated like secondary grandchildren. In other words, consumers are humanizing their pets. Nielsen, for instance, noted in a paper on pet care trends in last year, “The humanization of pets has played well for brands and retailers that have developed or pivoted their strategies for consumers looking to treat their furry friends to the best that life has to offer.”

Beyond PupJoy, other digital eCommerce players have brought subscription offerings for dogs to the market. Some companies are offering freshly cooked meals for dogs delivered to consumers through the subscription business model. Pet Plate, in one case, has a service that built off of the profile of each dog designed for a dog’s age, breed, weight and lifestyle. And based on whether the dog is active or sedentary as well as overweight or underweight, the company will adjust the number of calories the dog will receive in every meal.

From Pet Plate to PupJoy, eCommerce companies are tapping into subscriptions to provide products (or services) that serve the unique needs of pet owners and their dogs.