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How to Choose Pet Products That Align With Your Strategy

Have you noticed? We're right smack in the middle of trade show season. This means pet product manufacturers are launching their latest and greatest dog toys and cat food, and they all want you to know about it.

Whether you're looking to add a couple new products to spruce up your shelves or are planning a complete category overhaul, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed right about now with all the choices.

The key to avoiding overwhelm when choosing new pet products for your pet store is to stick with vendors that align with your brand strategy. This is the best way to better ensure that the products you chose will actually sell, and not just collect dust on your shelves.

This process is easier said than done. However, these are a few elements you can look at to get you started.

Target Demographics

Imagine you're walking through your store, checking through inventory of product on your shelves. The doorbell rings, signifying someone has just walked in, and you look up. Who's in your store?

Take the image of the person in your head and write down key features about them. How old are they? Where do they live? What are they here to buy? What kind of pet do they own? What stage of life are they currently in?

These outline your target demographics - the type of people who shop at your store on a daily basis. They're who you market to and are ultimately the main drivers of profit.

Related Article: How to Win Over Millennial Pet Owners in 2018

Now, take this information and compare it to the products you're considering. Would Sally - an all-natural organic food obsessed millennial - enjoy buying a mass-manufactured giant bag of treats with who-knows-what ingredients for her sheltie? Conversely, would Hector - a 57 year-old man in the south - purchase the latest trend in pink polka-dotted collars for his turtle?

You know your customers best and the vendors whose products you're considering should know theirs. If you're not sure who their customers are, reach out and ask! If they're focused on marketing to a completely different audience, they're probably safe to pass up.

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Mission and Vision Statements

As we discussed in a recent article, we're all in the pet industry for a reason. Whether your goal is to provide your neighborhood's best with the highest quality food in the market or with the funnest experience of picking out a new toy for their pet, you should know your why for why you run your business.

Similar to the target demographics, take your company's mission and vision statements and compare them with potential vendors. Do they align?

If you're trying to maintain an eco-friendly and sustainable environment but they don't mind making a little extra waste, they may not be a great fit. Not only will it create contention for your relationship with the vendor, but it will also make it harder to sell their products to your customers.

Related Article: Pet Business Marketing Guide - Step One: Creating a Marketing Plan

Merchandising

So, this vendor has the same target customer as you and the owners share similar values. But maybe you just don't have enough room in your small shop for the dang thing. What now?

The product might be the coolest thing to hit the market since backpacks to hold your cat, but if you can't display them in your store, then there's not a whole lot you can do.

If you're very passionate about the product, however, you may still have a few options:

  • Talk to the vendor and ask them if they'd be open to doing a drop ship program to allow your customers to special order and get it shipped directly to their door or your shop
  • Take a look at your other products in the category - maybe there are a few things that just aren't selling very well
  • Get a bigger store. Just kidding...kind of!

Another thing to consider is the packaging. In some cases, the product may be great, but the packaging is another issue altogether. This is another scenario where you can talk with the vendor and see what they can do. Who knows, maybe they've been considering re-designing their packaging, and your email is what pulled the trigger!

Educational Opportunities

There are so many brands. So many different pet food trends. So many opportunities to confuse one thing with another. Wait, which one was the good ingredient, again...?

Unless you spend all your time studying pet food trends and enveloping yourself in everything there is to know about pet products, it's easy to get things confused. While you might have it down to a science, we can pretty much gaurantee many of your employees don't.

Related Article: How to Hire and Retain Pet Store Employees

Employee training is important because it helps you stand out from the competition, boosts employee engagement and confidence, and allows them to create customized solutions for your customers.

There's only so many hours in the day and only so many times you can remind Rebecca why taurine is good for cats. Why not bring in the vendors of the products themselves to give mini training sessions?

If you're thinking about bringing in a product that's completely different and new and/or something a little more complicated than the standard dog bed, consider asking the vendor if they have employee training programs. Who knows? If everything else checks your boxes, this could be your deciding factor between two brands.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer and writer for the pet industry. Growing up in the pet industry, she has keen insight on market trends and a passion for helping small businesses grow. Her portfolio includes various topics from pet food trends to using technology and marketing strategies to boost pet business sales. When she's not writing articles or working her day job, she's playing with her cat (Chewie), reading a book, or hiking one of Washington's many trails.

Visit her: Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

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