Pet retail is having a moment, with innovation and other efforts helping merchants better reach owners of dogs, cats and other household animals. The new developments show, among other things, the importance of social media — and also prescriptions — when it comes to capturing the dollars of pet owners, who are always a steady source of both digital and physical commerce.
One of the latest developments comes from a company called Pawscout. Its main mission is to update those analog lost-pet posters via a a Bluetooth-enabled tag that not only helps pet owners find their wayward pets, but also gives them access to other digital and mobile services. In a recent PYMNTS interview, company founder Andrea Chavez talked about bringing more online efficiencies to pet ownership.
Better Pet Tag
“The goal is to create a really affordable, much better pet tag,” she said. And the idea is to take advantage of the ongoing rise of mobile commerce and social media to create, in essence, digital communities centered around pets — and not just ones that spark to life when little Fido goes missing, or plots an escape from a dog park or a particular section of the beach in the summer.
Pawscout, as it turns out, just launched its $20 pet tags in Walmart — and is selling the product via other retailers, Chavez told PYMNTS. After all, pet supplies, according to her view, are a “recession-proof” industry.
The way the tags work is to create what Chavez calls a “virtual leash” set by the pet owner via the company’s smartphone app — any time the pet leaves a predetermined digital parameter set on the app, the pet owner gets a smartphone alert. Any dog owner who goes to a dog park or beach knows how easy it can be for those curious, playful animals to get into their own grooves and travel widely.
The company also offers a “lightweight, Instagram-like feed” through which pet owners can interact with each other — perhaps admiring each other’s dogs and cats, or setting up “pet play dates,” she said. That feature just launched about six weeks ago. More recently, news emerged that Pawscout has secured $3 million in seed funding from Leadout Capital.
Online pet pharmacies also are pulling greater weight in pet retail. At least that’s the message sent recently by Walmart. The retail chain is rolling out an online pet pharmacy and opening additional veterinary clinics. The retailer plans to bring its number of clinics to 100 from the current 21 in operation.
Walmart will kick off the expansion with new clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Pets can get care for minor illnesses along with vaccines and routine exams. In addition, Walmart will roll out a WalmartPetRX.com eCommerce pet pharmacy with prescriptions for cats, dogs, horses and livestock. Chewy.com already has an online pharmacy business.
The idea of offering wellness and minor medical care inside stores to increase foot traffic and brick-and-mortar sales is not limited to pets, of course. Human care clinics are a common and growing part of the U.S. physical retail landscape.
Wellness is definitely part of the battle over pets — indeed, the number of cat and dog healthcare products on Walmart’s website has risen by approximately 60 percent during the past year. Amazon also has its Wag pet food brand, and Target has teamed with BarkBox to offer chew toys and treats online and in-store.
Pet owners are nothing if not loyal to their dogs, cats and other animals. And as recent news demonstrates, the battle for pet retail supremacy is gaining fresh fuel.