Sometimes we in the pet industry get a little lost in the trees and fail to see the forest. Happens to everybody, so let’s just take a moment to zoom out and focus on retail as an industry, and marketing as a facet of that industry. After all, brick and mortar pet stores are obviously retailers, and when you’re wondering how best to market your pet store and promote your pet supplies, it’s a good idea to see what’s trending, working, and succeeding in the rest of the industry. At Pet Engine Marketing, we aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, or set a new standard among marketers and marketing strategy. We’re just going to find out what works, adapt it to the pet industry, and improve pet store businesses.
Marketing on Social Gets More Focused
Social media is a growing part of retail marketing. As young shoppers turn to social media not only to talk to each other, but also to interact with some of their favorite brands, retailers are getting more engaged on some of those platforms, encouraging shoppers to talk to them about everything from customer service questions to changes they'd like to see. For pet stores in 2019, it’s critical to ensure that your marketing reaches your audience where they already are: social media. Focus on two-way engagement, creating conversations and solving problems in the public sphere to maximize your impact.
“Programs will need to be an extension of where shoppers already are, and that's online, on social media platforms, where they can integrate user generated content like videos and reviews," says Ray Hartjen, director of marketing and corporate communications at RetailNext. "Effective programs will be as much about listening as broadcasting, and they'll provide customers the opportunity to connect with the community as a whole, and not just a unidirectional interaction with the brand."
All in all, if social media isn’t a growing part of your pet store marketing strategy, it should be! Schedule a call with us to see how we can get you growing online.
Loyalty Gets an Update
Loyalty programs can no longer be just about spending $100 and getting 10 points toward an unclear rewards system. Retailers across the country are updating old systems, replacing them and incorporating them into stores in new ways. The types of rewards loyalty members receive are also rapidly changing.
Lets take a quick look at some of the leading retailers in the United States. Innovations like Sephora's members-only social platform and Nike Live, the athletics retailer's members-only store concept, are giving shoppers more reason to join, and offer arguably more compelling benefits than the usual rewards points. The loyalty program employed by Starbucks allows for a personalized experience that eliminates the need to wait to order and wait to pick it up, destroying a common friction point for retail shoppers.
Personalization and value will be important when it comes to loyalty program updates in the coming year. So let’s apply this to your pet store marketing strategy: ensure that your dog-shoppers aren’t getting the same rewards or emails that your cat-shoppers are getting. Another example would be establishing a higher type of customized reward for some of your top customers. Check out our helpful resources on email impact and email segmentation 101 for more ideas!
Loyalty: Emotional vs. Transactional
Retailers should look beyond tiered programs built around traditional loyalty and benefits—points, dollars off, gifts, mailers—that at best elicit “transactional” loyalty. In an industry shifting toward experience-based models, retailers should look to make emotional connections, not just transactional ones.
With a genuine approach to driving consumer loyalty, retailers can optimize loyalty programs and make them even more valuable. Aligning the program with the values and the consumer conversation is imperative. Recently, loyalty programs have been expanding to focus on convenience (with home delivery or issue resolution) and experience (with exclusive events and limited-edition products). We encourage you to try and implement some of these ideas one by one in your pet shop.
Store Concepts Keep Rolling
Brick-and-mortar stores continue to evolve in many ways, and more and more retailers are using physical space to experiment with technology, location size or customer services. Many store concepts in 2018 involved downsizing, with Ikea, Barnes & Noble and Nike all opening or announcing plans for small format stores. For Ikea, the move was motivated by the needs of urban shoppers, while both Barnes & Noble and Nike focused on creating community-driven spaces for customers.
For Nike that meant the Nike Live concept, which has localized products and an intimate feel thanks to its tie-ins for its NikePlus members. The concept also pushes mobile technology in stores, including in-store pickup lockers and the ability to reserve products, which also influenced Nike's new flagship on 5th Avenue.
For pet stores, try utilizing your space in new, exciting ways that encourage your customer based (human and pet) to stay in the store ten minutes longer. How about a pot of coffee, samples of a new product (toy or treat), and some literature on a table? What you lose in retail space you gain in customer loyalty, customer frequency, and customer volume and value.
Retail as a Service Expands
Retailers are exploring options to create a more personalized experience for consumers, and for good reason. Accenture and the Retail Industry Leaders Association released data earlier this year that indicated more consumers than ever want retailers to personalize their shopping experiences. 63% of consumers surveyed indicated that they were interested in personalized recommendations, while 64% revealed they were willing to share personal data in exchange for benefits like loyalty points and automatic credits for coupons.
Ultimately, retailers should figure out how to scale these solutions and embed them into their way of doing business. To leverage the true power of next-generation technologies, retailers should make some significant changes. They should be able to consistently mine the data they collect, transform their operations to deliver on the brand promise, and adapt to the future of work.
We touch a bit on what data you can collect to build your email list (and when and how to collect it) in order to personalize your marketing to specific segments. Combined with customer service and the in-store experience, data will be the most important way to maximize your return on your assets as a pet store owner going forward into 2019.
Cause Marketing Builds Your Brand
Driven by consumer demands, retail is inching toward a future where companies stand up for causes that matter to their customer base — and marketing efforts have started to reflect that. Dick's Sporting Goods made waves last year when it announced it wouldn't be selling assault-style rifles at its Field & Stream stores anymore in the wake of the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. The company also went a step further, calling on lawmakers to ban assault-style firearms, high capacity magazines and bump stocks, raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms to 21 and require universal background checks.
The response was mixed, and controversial, but many studies found Dick's benefited from the move in a climate where customers are more and more interested in brands standing up for what they believe in.
Corey Pierson, co-founder and CEO of Custora, says that “maybe a couple of generations back, a retailer would never speak about something political. For a millennial, it's not that unusual … I think it's going to be front-and-center and brands are going to have to be very intentional with which issues they do attach to."
Incorporate some cause marketing into your pet store marketing strategy. Promote your pet store with the help of local charities, partner with local businesses making a social impact, and see what happens through the benefits of co-promotion, co-sponsorship, and cooperation.
If you’re not trying some of these things, we definitely recommend it. It’s working for giants like Nike, Sephora, Starbucks, and more. Want to talk more about retail trends? Give us some feedback! Feel free to reach out to us on our social feeds or on our site! Hope you found some benefit to this when it comes to marketing your pet store.