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How Independent Retailers Can Succeed Against Online Competition

As brick and mortar retailers, you pride yourselves on being the local pet food experts. But in this digital age, you’re likely finding that competition with online retailers is escalating.

The good news is, local pet stores have the edge in a number of ways, if leveraged properly. As independent retailers, you stand out from the competition with personalized customer service and strong involvement and presence in the community. And, what keeps people coming back to local pet stores is that warm human interaction and shared connection.

Let’s dig deeper into how you can set yourself apart from the giants.

Demand For Specialty Pet Products Is On The Rise.

A whopping 85 million American households own a pet. That’s more households (66 million, to be precise) that own a pet than have kids under 18 years old.

With pet ownership on the rise, the demand for specialty products is increasing. Locally sourced farm-to-table food is trending for humans, and pet parents want the same for their furry friends.

Amazon And Chewy Can’t Keep Up With The Demand For Specialty Pet Products.

You can get a lot of things from online giants, but fresh, raw pet food is not one of them. “Online retailers mainly offer dried food or freeze-dried food...these platforms simply can’t compete with the variety of raw and fresh food we offer in-store, along with customer service” — Brad Romero, owner of Ben’s Barketplace.

Something else mass online retailers will never be able to deliver: personalized pet nutritional advice. Not only does this position local pet stores to swoop in and take over some of the new market share, but it also offers the chance to build stronger relationships with customers by offering that personalized insight that they can’t get online.

Deliver Superior Customer Service And Possess Excellent Product Knowledge For Consumers.

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The diet industry is huge, and people often need help finding what will work best for them. It’s no different for our furry friends. More and more, pet owners are seeking out similar advice for their animals.

Case in point: 4,500 new pet products were introduced in 2017. Local and independent pet stores are the best equipped to educate customers about all of these new offers.

We know that finding answers online can be difficult at best. It’s also impossible to actually speak to an employee. As a consumer online, you either need to be an expert, or be extremely online savvy and self sufficient.

Your helpful, human presence in your pet store will always set you apart.

Leverage Technology Whenever Possible.

Nearly 90% of shoppers’ journeys begin online. Yes, that is huge, but you don’t need to develop an entire ecommerce platform in order to compete.

46% of shoppers still prefer to buy in an actual, physical location. And, in this expanding raw and fresh food pet space, pet parents are even more likely to depend on local retailers like you for the nutritional advice they need.

The World Pet Association is getting in the game to help retailers get on the map with local consumers. They partnered with Pointy to integrate with a retailers’ POS system to populate the store’s Google “See What’s In Store” directory listing. “Month by month we’re noticing an increase in the volume of searches for more unique pet products, such as raw and fresh goods,” says Mark Cummins, Pointy CEO and co-founder.

Create A Fun And Engaging Retail Environment Designed To Showcase New Products And Services.

Leverage your store services and engagement with the community to keep pet parents coming back. Support community events like adoption days and other “pet-centered” social events to drive traffic and build a strong community. Being a leader in the community will go a long way in building trust in your expertise.

Think outside the box — what else do you offer that customers just can’t get online? Whether it’s veterinary services, pet pharmacies, or grooming and boarding services, focus on innovative ways to bring consumers back for that unique experience they’re looking for.

Above all, pet owners want the kind of personalized advice and care that they expect for every member of their family. Furry members are no exception.

For more ideas on staying relevant in the digital age, download our eBook: Meeting the Needs of the Pet Parent.

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