Pet Food Purchasing
With pets in over 70% of American homes, pet-ownership cuts across all demographics. Consequently, where information specific to pet-owners is unavailable, we have used sources pertaining to the American public in general. However, we needed to narrow this down somewhat to provide meaningful insights. Therefore, since Millennials are "the primary pet-owning demographic," owning 35% of all pets in the US, we will focus on the purchase journey specifically for this generation.
- Most Millennial pet owners distrust pet stores to properly educate them, with 63% stating that they know more about cats and/or dogs than pet store employees.
- Veterinarians are still the information source of choice among dog (60%), cat (49%), and horse owners (70%), but the internet is nearly as important to the owners of most pets (42-52%) and is the primary source of information for small animal and reptile owners (61% and 71%, respectively).
- However, while the internet is a common place to learn about new brands (32% of pet owners), new brands are most commonly discovered while browsing in a store (58%), followed by TV ads (39%) and recommendations from friends and relatives (31%) or veterinarians (25%).
- Those who discover new pet brands online most often come across the company websites (63%), Facebook pages (47%), or product review sites (43%).
Choosing a Brand / Pet Food Preferences
- The general Millennial stress on the importance of sustainability and animal welfare carries over into their buying habits for their pets, with 99% willing to pay more for "fully transparent products."
- Additionally, as noted by Packaged Facts, "a greater degree of transparency on the part of pet food marketers will be key to winning and keeping pet owner trust, with 'clean' labels that tout ingredients sourced in a safe, sustainable, and ethical manner playing a big part in pet owners’ decision-making process."
- This trend is sometimes referred to as the "mindful choices" trend and includes wanting 100% traceability on ingredients.
- As Euromonitor notes, the new generation of pet owners "is trading up to foods that match their own dietary trends, including premium and less processed pet food."
- Personalization, already a trend in the non-pet space, has become important to pet-owners in choosing their brands as well; this desire is expressed in, among other examples, the practice some have of mixing real food with their pet food.
- Apart from these, one of the greatest motivating factors for Millennials in choosing a brand is price, largely because the 2009 Great Recession and high college debt have forced them to live more austere lives than prior generations.
- Millennial pet owners are less concerned about brand loyalty, being more likely than other ages to have tried a new brand of dog food within the last 30 days.
- That's not to say that they have no care for the brand name; in fact, "significantly more Gen Y pet owners feel that brand name is very important when shopping for pet care items."
- Moreover, they're not unreasonably fickle; 60% of Millennials state that they have loyalty to brands that treat them well via a "customer-centric experience" and 75% desire to support brands that "give back to society instead of just making a profit."
- As noted by Nathan Richter, a senior partner at Wakefield Research, "Younger shoppers are quite discerning when it comes to the products they consider good enough for their pets. Whether it’s food or clothing and accessories, their preferences differ depending on whether they are shopping at large versus small retailers, or online versus in-person. This is not the generation that is looking for one-stop-shop convenience, so retailers need to be sure they have an optimal mix of high quality and specialty products."
Where They Buy
- 77% of Millennial pet owners (up from 40% in 2017) prefer to buy at least some items online than in-store, such as toys (40%), accessories (32%), and pet food (31%).
- As a result, 2018 alone saw a 53% increase in online sales of pet consumables.
- However, most prefer to shop for treats, bedding, and clothing in-store, with most preferring smaller, local pet stores to large chains, and 51% of pet owners (not limited to Millennials) state that they don't plan to ever shop online for their pet needs.
- Pet stores have capitalized on "non-medical pet services such as grooming, boarding, and training" which require an in-person visit to draw customers.
- When shopping for their pets online, Millennials are likely to add something to the cart for themselves, typically pet-themed merchandise like calendars (43%), clothing (e.g., t-shirts; 42%), cups or mugs (37%), door signs or welcome mats (33%), and paintings or posters (32%).
- Interestingly, men are more likely to buy pet-themed merchandise than women (86% to 79%).