4 Key Takeaways from SuperZoo
Walking through the doors of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and into the organized chaos of SuperZoo can be overwhelming for first time attendees and new exhibitors, with trends appearing to jump out from every corner and newsworthy events happening at every booth. As I entered the show with experience as a pet owner and the eye of an editor, here’s what drew me in.
With everyone competing to have the best booth on the show floor, the companies that stood out were those that fully embodied and represented their brand from top to bottom. Premium grooming brands that featured swanky, lounge-type set-ups akin to high-end beauty salons and bar-like booths that accompanied drink-themed plush toys gave the impression of uniformity, organization and, quite frankly, fun.
It made me think about how essential branding can be to success, even for pet retailers. If a retailer’s looking to provide a classy pet boutique experience, their store has to look the part. If the self-wash station in the back is growing a little moldy and the walls are plastered with hair, the whole illusion is instantly shattered. In the same vein, a store that’s aiming for more of a casual, every man’s place can’t emanate fragile, “don’t touch!” vibes.
Another aspect to curating a fully cohesive brand includes appropriately dressed and knowledgeable sales staff armed with comprehensive brochures and pamphlets. Utilizing this method shows that companies are prioritizing consumer knowledge and helping them make an informed purchasing decision. Of course, the literature must also be on theme: a data sheet outlining the seriousness of pet health shouldn’t feature a hundred different colors and childish fonts.
Education is Essential
Just like many other attendees, clarity was one of the main things I was looking for. Some companies can be muddy and vague with their wording, leaving me to wonder what the story behind those products actually is. Many businesses opted to bring in either industry speakers, the creators of its products or members of pet industry-adjacent councils to inform potential customers. The guest speakers explained the principles they built their brand/products on and cleared up misconceptions about emerging trends in the pet space. That form of engagement brought to mind the many opportunities retailers have to bring representatives into their stores to help educate their staff and/or customers on hot-button issues and current fads.
Mobilizing Your Brand
Just as curiosity and the search for knowledge is an innate human behavior, the desire for complimentary merchandise seems to be, too. While many brands opted to hand out either full or miniature-sized versions of their products, most of the freebies were quickly thrown into bags emblazoned with another company’s logo—generally a competitor’s. Sure, the potential consumers at the receiving end will likely be impressed with the product and turn into a repeat customer, but handing out the actual product only reaches one, maybe two or three people, if the customer recommends it. Many booths were offering large, reusable canvas totes, with their brand name prominently featured, and even writing utensils, such as pens and pencils.
The reusable bags are twofold: the carriers get a useful, practical item, and the makers receive free advertising that can extend beyond the show floor. Turning this form of marketing into some sort of sales promotion might actually be beneficial to retailers. Printing up a large batch of canvas bags and offering a deal along the lines of, “spend X amount of money and receive a free tote!” is a good place to start, or it can even be used as an opportunity to appeal to the eco-friendly consumer as a replacement for plastic bags.
When it comes to the hot items, the show floor was inundated with an endless amount of CBD products, treats, toys and beds, as expected. With such a wide selection, it’s tough to choose just one brand or product that stands out. The products that interested me the most were those that were multi-functional, such as treats that double as calming aids and beds that moonlight as carriers. It would be smart for retailers to look into these types of products and carry them in stores, both to save space on shelves and offer multi-functional options that can give consumers more bang for their buck.