Evolving App-etites

The growing popularity of pet-centric mobile applications can provide retailers with insight on how to appeal to increasingly technology-focused consumers.


If you want to see the future of shopping, look no further than your customers’ smartphones.

In GfK’s 2013 FutureBuy report on the evolution of shopping, one in four consumers said they had made an online purchase with a smartphone while in a store, and 17 percent had done this with a tablet. One-third of shoppers had used a smartphone in-store to find the best price for an item, and 24 percent had checked online reviews while cruising the aisles. 

Mobile devices are enabling a new breed of empowered shoppers who are both technology savvy and hungry for bargains. They are determined to “win” at the game of finding the best value for their money, using their digital gadgets to gain an added advantage.

A crucial part of the mobile experience—on smartphones and tablets—is the ubiquitous apps that provide one-stop access to a host of tasks and diversions. There are apps for accessing coupons, for comparison-shopping and more. And they are favorites of some of today’s most desirable consumers—the Millennials.

GfK MRI research shows that consumers in the Millennial generation (born 1977 to 1994) are almost twice as likely to own smartphones as Baby Boomers or GenXers. Millennials are 64 percent more likely to have used a shopping or retail app in the last 30 days, versus the average adult, and 54 percent of adults who have purchased a product via their mobile device are Millennials.

The pet world has already discovered apps; a little research in Apple’s App Store and elsewhere turns up a host of interesting tools, including:

• Dogbook—Facebook for Fido, allowing owners to connect with a community of over three million canines.

• Whistle—A health diary that helps you track your dog’s exercise, eating schedule and more.

• PetCube—This standalone device allows you to watch and interact with your pet remotely—a baby monitor crossed with a security device.

• Dog Translator—A clever bit of silliness that lets you “understand” your dog’s many pronouncements.

Not surprisingly, many of these apps have equivalents in the human world; they represent a new angle on the growing trend of humanization—catering to pets’ needs and desires as if they were people.

Of course, behind every app is a data-collection machine. At minimum, these programs are capturing simple usage stats from pet owners; if they also collect some basic personal information (pet types, location, family size), the ability to analyze grows exponentially.  

So what can retailers learn from this profusion of mobile resources?

Pet marketplace success is data driven.
Most likely, you do not have access to app data, but be sure you are using all of the information that is at your disposal. Think about ways you can collect a little additional information from your customers to help you learn more about their needs.

Cater to smart shoppers.
Let your savvy pet shoppers know that you respect their drive to get the best value; create a coupon club or special areas in your store labeled: “For savvy shoppers only.”

Mimic the apps that are meeting a need. 
If Dogbook has three million members, maybe you should create a “doggy meetup” at a nearby park to help your customers and their pets make new friends. Create a highlight reel of today’s extraordinarily popular dog and cat videos for your store.

Ramp up your own digital brand.
If your store is not on Facebook, consider it. While you don’t want to create a page that you cannot sustain, this is an essential way to be part of your customers’ digital world. Take on less, but do it well.

Sell items that appeal to tech lovers.
Give your digitally minded customers new gadgets, to show you get their desire for the latest tools.

The message is simple: Lean into your customers’ dependence on digital tech and their love of bargains. The opportunities for growing your business are extraordinary.

Maria Lange is Senior Product Manager on GfK’s Retail and Technology team, helping clients make the most of GfK’s pet specialty data and insights.

Want to learn more about pet owners and shoppers? Write to us about becoming a member of our POS database, and we’ll send you regular reports on retail trends in the pet space. Contact Dave Stevens at dave.stevens@gfk.com.

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