yesince the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the entire world just two years ago, no topic has become more interesting to the public than health care. As health care suddenly became the center of every decision, from venturing to the grocery store to hugging loved ones, that hyper-awareness translated from humans to their pets.
Of course, the pandemic was not the only factor influencing awareness; Concerns about pet health care have been on the rise for some time. When pet parents realized the benefits of supplements and other remedies in their own lives, they brought these same principles to the care of their pets. For retailers, this means there is a huge opportunity to generate new business by offering all the health care products pet owners need, as long as they are well educated.
“Health care, if properly understood and used as a service and with sales, can go a long way to the success of a retail store,” says Susan Goldstein, co-founder of land animals and retail store manager for Earth Animal. “The knowledge involved in the proper sale of health care products, based on the individual needs of the animals, is the strongest point of differentiation. Health care represents recurring business as food and supplements become part of the dog or cat’s daily routine. They pave the way for additional purchases in other categories, like supplies.”
Health care products are good for businesses, pets, and pet owners, and provide many upsell, cross-sell, and add-on opportunities. With pet parents wanting their pets to be healthy in ALL aspects of their lives, retail healthcare will become commonplace in stores across the country.
“The impact of the pandemic on pet owners’ demand for drug-free, home-tested wellness products will continue to have a lasting effect and have become the new normal,” says Debra Decker, director of marketing for Pet King Marks. “This is due to the added value to pets and their companionship that they provided us during very difficult and isolating times, coupled with limited access and rising costs for veterinary services.”
External Trends Influencing Healthcare
However, this focus on pet health care did not come out of the blue with the pandemic. Perhaps the biggest trend strengthening the perspective on pet health care is the increased humanization of pets. With pets dubbed the new children of Millennials and Gen Zers, according to findings from the American Pet Products Association, this trend continues to grow.
“Pet parents are concerned about the health, well-being and comfort of their pets,” says Decker. “This philosophy has increased over the years due to the humanization of pets and the idea that pets are family, increased access to health information due to the Internet, and increased awareness of their own health that translates into in a greater awareness of their pets. All the pandemic did was amplify these concerns and awareness.”
It is not only humanization that brings medical care to the fore; An additional trend is the advances manufacturers are making in product formulation. Since the infamous pet food recall of 2007, pet supply providers have been refining and improving their formulas to provide additional benefits and create a more holistic product.
“Retail trends can definitely influence healthcare, particularly when it comes to food and supplement innovation,” says Goldstein. “CBD is the perfect example, as it paved the way for a new level of interest in health care. We believe that the success of CBD has opened the door to general supplements and supplements for specific conditions.”
Of course, health care is not a simple subject. If the legislature and the confusion surrounding CBD taught the industry anything, it is that education is the key foundation for curing any kind of retail selection.
“Education is critical when it comes to health care,” says Goldstein. “The goal of health care is to offer products, education and services that enable pet parents to achieve their goals, which is to provide quality of life and increased longevity, if possible. This requires continuing education and study.”
Choice of manufacturers that put health first
Underpinning the education is the importance of understanding the ins and outs of a chosen manufacturer’s products, including everything from sourcing to packaging. For most reputable medical device providers, veterinarians provide the formulation of all consumables to ensure maximum safety and efficacy. However, the education does not end there, as retailers need to go one step further and understand the qualifications and experience of the veterinarian behind the brand.
Fortunately, “Earth Animal has the advantage of having Dr. Bob Goldstein at the helm of product development,” says Goldstein. “Dr. Bob has over 40 years of clinical experience treating dogs and cats using nutrition (food and supplements as a modality). He has taken many of his protocols and remedies, which worked particularly well in cancer patients, and reformulated them to meet with the most common conditions that pet parents face on a daily basis with their dogs and cats.”
Additionally, retailers should seek to partner with companies that are transparent with their offerings and solutions. Even better is partnering with a manufacturer that creates condition-specific solutions that reflect some of the biggest and most recurring challenges pet parents face. Also, partnering with manufacturers that offer solutions that prove their worth helps accelerate sales.
“For example, the top reasons for a visit to the vet for both dogs and cats are ear infections, allergies with itchy skin, and dental problems,” says Decker. “Pet King Brands’ veterinarian-recommended remedy products, ZYMOX Enzymatic Dermatology and Oratene Brushless Oral Care, are products for the prevention and resolution of these often recurring conditions for many, many pets. Providing products like ZYMOX and Oratene helps build retailer loyalty and ultimately helps dogs and cats find relief from common health problems.”
Medical care in retail stores
After selecting a collection of reputable health care products, it’s time to promote and market health care products. The secret to offering health care products is to position them as a “one stop shop” for consumers, Decker explains.
“Consumables such as diets and candy have historically accounted for the majority of the retailer’s repeat business,” he continued. “Health care products that solve problems commonly affecting both dogs and cats are in high demand and represent an additional revenue stream that can also translate into repeat business.”
For Goldstein, an effective strategy he uses to attract customers in the store is to organize health events focused on specific products. Event-style in-store experiences help build product awareness and, unsurprisingly, draw people into the store.
“Aligning national and local calendar events with products and seminars is a powerful way to introduce healthcare into your store,” says Goldstein. “Inviting local vets to speak or express concerns is also a great way to promote medical care, such as how to administer first aid. In-store demonstrations that offer a visual and tactile experience of foods and supplements work effectively.”
However, as diligent as retailers are with their education and research, some pet owners are still concerned about taking advice from anyone other than their veterinarian. For that, it is beneficial for retailers to build relationships with veterinarians in the area, and can even be leveraged to help on the event side.
“There is an opportunity to partner with local veterinarians,” says Goldstein. “Earth Animal actually lists and refers to veterinarians in the community that align with his philosophy. It always offers a platform for local vets who want to make information public. We are also featuring the ‘Ask Our Vet’ livestream with Dr. Kris Hansen on Facebook, which is an ongoing educational service that covers all aspects of healthcare.”
It is clear that there is a strong market for retailers to expand their offerings and incorporate modern trends, specifically healthcare. Through education, product knowledge, and strong partnerships, retailers can thrive with in-store healthcare offerings. PB