The Selling Point

Is E-Commerce a Threat to the Pet Industry?

Note: This article is a shortened version of the eBook "The Ultimate Threat: How E-Commerce Affects the Pet Industry." Click here to download and read the full version of this information for free! 

Imagine this:

One morning, you wake up to Rufus licking your face, begging for you to wake up and fill his food bowl. You drag yourself out of bed, glancing at the alarm clock, and see that it’s exactly 38 minutes before you actually have to get up for work. You curse under your breath, but can’t keep yourself from smiling as Rufus wags his tail excitedly, practically shaking his entire body in anticipation. If only I was that excited about food every morning, you think as you walk over to the pantry that Rufus’ food is stored in. As you scoop out a bowl-full of food, you notice you’re almost out. While Rufus is happily gobbling away at his newly-filled bowl of food, you whip out your phone and within three minutes, a new bag of dog food is on the way, and will arrive in just two days. Perfect.

The idea that consumers can replenish their pet’s food, medication, or anything else in just a matter of minutes is one reason why online shopping continues to grow throughout the pet sector. Pet owners are now able to order and re-order their pet care products without even leaving the house.

While this may sound perfect for consumers, these efficiencies are understandably leaving many independent pet store owners bent out of shape. When your customers no longer need to come to your store to get their goods, it’s easy to see profits drop and overheads increase. As the popularity of online shopping rises, the question becomes: Is e-commerce becoming a threat to the pet industry?

The Growth of Online Shopping in Pet Care

Mobility and efficiency are the keys for success when it comes to capturing consumers’ attention in the digital age. These are two advantages that online shopping offers to the rising number of pet parents in America. This may explain the increase in popularity and success for retailers who sell pet products online.

Exactly how much is digital spending growing in pet care? L2 Inc. explains that online pet food sales were $760 million in 2015. This is an increase of 55% from the year before. Compared to other home care categories, it has the highest market penetration. Surprisingly, Amazon actually lags behind PetSmart when it comes to Google visibility. 

It is clear to see that online purchases of pet care products are on the rise. However, this is definitely not “new” news, as many publications have been talking about this trend for years. The question isn’t whether shopping online for pet products is growing, but rather how it’s affecting independent pet shops.

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Internet Versus the Independent Pet Store

It’s very easy for consumers to open their Amazon app and put their favorite brand of cat food in their shopping cart to arrive in two days. Believe it or not, this isn’t the way that everyone likes to shop. Even in the age of online shopping and the apparent “take-over” of Amazon, many pet owners still opt for visiting their local pet shop.

Related Article: How to Build Employee Confidence in Your Pet Store

What these shops have over online shopping carts is personal touch and customized product knowledge. Greeting customers (and their pets) by name, knowing what brands they prefer, and being able to answer questions that pertain specifically to their pets needs are all advantages that neighborhood pet retailers are able to offer.

No matter how much consumers love technology, we as humans are always going to crave that personal connection which is usually present only when shopping at a local pet store.

Are Online Sales Threatening Independent Pet Retailers?

Jen Schurrer, owner of Pet Supply Port, believes that there is a huge difference between the way the two business models are run. When asked how she differentiates her store from the competition, she replied with, “I personally care. I am onsite as much as possible, and can always be reached. […] The idea of being able to share an experience with your family, and come into a store, bring your pets in to visit, and know that we will greet you and take the time to talk with you and help you meet your family’s needs is so very important.”

Shurrer is concerned that in today’s society, people have become so okay and used to detachment. They’re becoming okay with not talking to one another, not taking the time to share, face-to-face, and that may have contributed to the growth of technology and mobility in commerce. However, she trusts that her customers realize that her store is not like that, and that’s what she believes has them coming back time after time.

Related Article: How to Compete Against E-Comm as a Brick and Mortar Pet Store

The backbone of the industry is not digital shopping carts, and it certainly won’t be any time soon. As Shurrer puts it, “small brick and mortar stores are what make our communities strong. We were here first with our love for pets and at least I know I will keep fighting.”

Tell Us Your Thoughts

What do you think, does the pet industry need to fear the threat of e-comm? Does the threat even exist? Let us know your thoughts on the topic in the comments below. We'd love to hear what you think.

Continue The Story

This article was just a brief overview of a brand new eBook called "The Ultimate Threat: How E-Commerce Affects the Pet Industry."  To get the whole story, download your free copy of the eBook today.



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Ashley Hoffman – E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager joined the All Points family in April of 2015. Ashley brings a fresh outlook to the marketing industry as well as a constant desire for learning something new. She is dedicated to consistently improving her skills and efficiency in the marketing industry and using those skills to promote APM and all brands we represent. Ashley has grown up with many animals throughout her life and is currently the loving owner of two cats.

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