How Much is that Doggie in the Window?
It’s pretty much a given – pets are big business. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) industry trends report predicts that US households will spend just north of $50 billion on pets in 2012. Increasingly, businesses in the pet sector are finding success using customer relationship solutions to build customer loyalty and attract new buyers.
Dick Van Patten, a comic actor baby boomers might remember best for his lead in the 1970’s TV series Eight is Enough, began Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989 with the intention of “developing the best natural pet food on the market.” Today his products are sold globally to an expanding consumer market of pet owners with a lot of buying power – according to a study on ibisworld.com, the pet store industry has pulled in $14.7 billion so far in 2012, with 58% of that coming from pet food sales. That’s a lot of chow, and a lot of loyal customers to curry. To accomplish just that, Natural Balance has signed on with SugarCRM, one of the leading customer relationship management companies.
Natural Balance needed a solution flexible enough to be tailored for the pet sector, across a worldwide landscape and, according to SugarCRM “to provide the ultimate customer experience.” When your ultimate customer is someone’s dog or cat, their ultimate experience is the food – do they eat it, or turn up their whiskered noses at your offering? There are a lot of foods that pets will eat – certainly dogs show little discretion, although cats can be fussy – so a key goal of the CRM is to create an emotional bond between the company and the pet owners that differentiates one brand from another. The ibisworld report concludes that pet sales are driven even during tough times by “an increasing number of ‘pet parents’ – pet owners who treat their four-legged friends as family members” and want to indulge them with purchases like all-natural and organic pet food – a good trend for Dick Van Patten’s product line.
CRM Aimed at a Market that Reaches 70 Million Homes
According to the American Pet Product Association survey, 62% of US households own a pet, and pet ownership has been growing slowly but steadily for the last two decades. 76% of dog and cat owners consider their canine or feline companions to be part of the family. 72.9 million American homes are homes with pets, and a CRM that interacts with the owners by sharing a passion for these pets, can grow customer loyalty. The big pet store chains are all crafting loyalty programs now as a facet of their CRM solutions, offering discounts and personalized sales opportunities based on customer purchasing habits.
According to a recent article on petbusiness.com, the most popular loyalty perk is “a discount at the register. There are many subsets of these loyalty programs designed to target different types of subscribers, including relationship marketing, database marketing and reward-based programs.” Leslie May, founder of Pawsible Marketing, a firm that helps pet businesses build their brands, notes, “As pet lovers increasingly become concerned about the health and safety of what they purchase for their pets, brand loyalty and customer loyalty programs involving continuous and evolving communications are key to keeping customers.” That’s what CRM does best, and in the pet sector, customer relationships become even more important, because pets are a part of our emotional lives, where our hearts sometimes lead our sales decisions.