New Study to Examine Shopping Habits of Pet Owners


A new research study of pet owner shopping habits will be launched this fall for the purpose of understanding how changes in the sales of pet product and pet pharmacy are affecting the average pet owner. Work on the project begins this month and concludes in January 2008. Market Directions and Brakke Consulting will conduct the study.

The Pet Owner Channel Use Study will be based on a survey of a random national sample of more than 1,000 dog and cat owners. The report will examine purchasing frequency by brand and by type of outlet, channel switching in product purchasing, and the importance of convenience, price and veterinary recommendation on purchasing patterns.

Products included are wellness and therapeutic pet foods; flea and tick control; heartworm prevention; dental health products; pain management and other chronic-use medications; joint health supplements; pet health insurance; and boarding and day-care services.

With the phenomenal growth in the number of available pet products, both ethical and over the counter, pet owners are flocking to the Internet for information and products as never before. Online pharmacies such as PetMed Express offer real alternatives to veterinary clinics for vet-only products, and are growing at a double-digit pace. Traditional veterinary clinics are trying to compete as the online boom continues.

This national study will explore how this shift in pet product sales is affecting the pet owners, and what it means for marketers of these products. The key topics the study will address are:

  1. What products do pet owners routinely buy, where do they buy them, how often do they buy them, and how much do they spend?
  2. How often do pet owners purchase prescription or vet-only products outside the veterinary channel? Why? From whom? Would they prefer to purchase the products from their veterinarians if the veterinarians competed on price and/or convenience?
  3. What perceived value does the veterinarian actually add to products sold through the veterinary channel? At what price discount, if any, would pet owners switch to identical products available through OTC channels?
  4. What role does convenience or store location play in pet owners’ preferences for purchasing from specific outlets, such as Wal-Mart, pet superstores, independent pet stores, veterinary clinics, catalogs and online retailers? Which products are most vulnerable to “leakage”?
  5. How often do pet owners actually consult veterinarians about product choices, and where else do they look for information? Who/what has credibility and who doesn’t?
  6. What is the demand for services such as pet health insurance, day-care and boarding? How well is the need being met? What value, if any, does the veterinarian add to these services?
  7. How does behavior in all of these areas vary by income, age, location of residence, behavioral segment, ethnicity and other demographic factors?

Market Directions is a Kansas City-based market research and brand performance consultancy firm. Brakke Consulting, Inc., is a Dallas-based management consulting firm specializing in the animal health and nutrition industries. Both companies profile themselves as having deep experience in the pet care and veterinary markets.

According to the press release, the Pet Owner Channel Use Study from Brakke and Market Directions “provides actionable data for every pet product marketer to use in designing marketing and sales channel strategies”. Upon publication, the price of the study will be $12,500.

Photo: Kramdar, some rights reserved.

8 Responses to “New Study to Examine Shopping Habits of Pet Owners”

  1. catmom5 says:

    Dontcha just wonder who’s behind this? Sounds like the pet food and related industries are trying to figure out how to get more of our money. I hope I’m one of the pet owners they decide to survey, although it doesn’t seem to be a very large sample.

  2. nora says:

    My thoughts exactly. WHO is doing this and how do they think they will get into my pocketbook again? NOT!!!!

  3. 8tiggers says:

    I hope I’m one of them, too. Unfortunately, with such a small sample, the odds are that those 1000 surveyed will be “average Joes” — and I *still* run into people with pets that weren’t even aware of the initial pet food recall or who thought that there was only one recall. I’m afraid their responses will simply reinforce the PFI’s lackadaisical attitude toward pet safety.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m ok with the petmed express option, providing petowners are well informed (not always so but more likely now), but does this provide alternatives to vet-only products? Also, some “vet-only” products are completely harmless and should be available without grovelling before the bar, particularly since no one would want them unless there was a known need. Having been in this situation, I can say this.

  5. Anonymous says:

    On #5:How often do pet owners actually consult veterinarians about product choices, and where else do they look for information? Who/what has credibility and who doesn’t?

    Highly dependent upon who is surveyed. Why don’t they ask people who have bothered to study animal health/healing because they DON”T feel trad. vet practices has credibility? What products do they use and where do they get the information and the products?

    The emphasis on veterinary sales and sales from megavendors is meaningless except to an online seller competing with them. This doesn’t mean an online vendor has better information or better products or that the consumer would be better educated when making a selection.

    A growing percentage of pet owners are now aware of the, shall we say, “disadvantages” of trad. veterinary protocols and the practice of making “pethealth” purchases from petindustry-preferred vendors such as wmar and vets offices.

    what do others think?

  6. Anonymous says:

    or, maybe the megavendors are looking for another sales avenue, since their image has been so severly tarnished. voila, methinks.

  7. Anonymous says:

    as in: (see prev thread)
    “The company is already selling 265 of the 305 products that were recalled, and they anticipate to stock all of the recalled products by the second quarter of 2008.

    The CEO said the pet food recalls will lead to a sales shortfall by the end of this year of “some tens of millions of dollars” for PetSmart.”

  8. Dave says:

    If the surveys are done via tradional outlets like pet stores and vet offices (where big advertising budgets & fancy packaging can be found, along with brain-wahed knowledge about pet nutrition), they will miss a huge growing market that is now feeding their pets real or human-grade foods. I subscribe to a number of pet business magazines and they seem to be somewhat oblivious to what is happening in the market place and the change in pet owner attitude and knowledge about nutrition, over-vaccinations, etc. Their editorials and pet articles are designed not to offend the big pet food companies as in “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. Let’s put “New & Improved” on the pet food packing to continue to fool pet owners.

    It is great to see magazines/on-line articles such as “Animal Wellness” and the “Whole Dog Journal” speaking up and helping pet owners learn more about proper pet nutrition and pet health. This is where the real market growth is taking place.

E-mail It