While safety remains a top priority for pet containment products, many pet owners now also see visual appeal as a deciding factor when selecting a gate, pen or crate.
When it comes to keeping pets in or out of certain areas of their homes, owners are looking for more than just function. Besides keeping pets safe and contained, gates, crates and other containment products now have to blend in with a home’s style, complementing rather than clashing with the furniture and décor.
“Consumers are looking for high-quality products that they wouldn’t mind putting in their home or their backyard along with the rest of their furniture,” says Ashley Hoffman, e-commerce and digital marketing manager at Advantek. “Now that it’s more common for dogs to be living inside, pet owners are looking for high-quality pieces of furniture that double as a way to secure their pets. Because of this trend, we are seeing fewer dog houses and more dog crates doubling as nightstands or end tables.”
This trend toward products that combine style and function is one retailers should be sure to take advantage of, as it has the potential for bigger sales. Hoffman adds that many pet owners, particularly Millennials, are willing to pay more for attractive products that suit their taste, rather than those that get the job done but lack visual appeal. However, this trend is about more than simple style. More and more, pet owners feel that their animal companions are part of the family, so they want their pets’ spaces to reflect that.
“As a pet manufacturer, we recognize significant transition in today’s pet ownership. Pet owners are now pet parents, considering [their] pet as a family member, instead of just to have [for] companionship,” says Noriko Scott, senior marketing coordinator at Richell USA. “Therefore, pet containments have drastically changed from a few simple barriers to a host of solutions to fully include pets in our daily lives.”
Because pets are more fully integrated into the home, manufacturers have to take the layout of the house into account when designing products, offering a broader range of products that can fit in various types of spaces.
“With the uptick in open concept floor plans within houses, we are seeing the need for super-wide gates to keep pets contained,” says Brianna Becher, marketing coordinator at Carlson. “A larger door is needed to make the large gate more functional, rather than stepping over or squeezing through a small walk-through space.”
As in many other pet product categories, there is also a growing trend toward high-tech solutions as an alternative to traditional gates. Some manufacturers have developed innovative products that create invisible barriers that don’t hinder the movements of the owner while keeping the pet confined to a desired area.
“Innovation is alternative solutions that manage the pet’s access, but do not interfere with the pet parent’s ability to go from room to room,” says Marcus Wolf, containment program manager at PetSafe. “The Pawz Away Threshold works great to keep your pets out of a room, or off the stairs, without having to step over or mess with a physical barrier.”
In addition to the convenience of being able to move easily through their home, pet parents want portability when it comes to their pens and crates. It’s important to remember that as more dog owners take their pets on the road with them, they need easy-to-transport containment options as well. In particular, Hoffman recommends offering portable products suitable for hiking or camping trips, allowing outdoorsy pet owners to include their dogs in these activities as well. Pet owners increasingly want the ability to share as many aspects of their lives as possible with their pets, and they are looking for products to facilitate that.
“Pet owners are active and want to bring their dog on their adventures,” says Becher. “Foldable pet pens can aid in the ability to bring your dog with you, while still having safe containment.”
Safety is, above all, the most important aspect of any confinement product. Though pet parents are concerned with style and convenience, the most important thing is still to keep their pets safe, either from themselves or from dangers in the environment.
“Safety and security continue to be a driving force with crates,” says Becher. “Heavy duty crates are coveted by owners who have escape artist pups.”
“We sell pet containments that provide both pet owners and pets with safety and security,” says Scott. “In light of the current trend, our gates and crates are made of natural wood and stylish to accommodate with any home décor while they are very easy to use.”
Building a Selection
Manufacturers are striving to keep the range of consumer desires in mind while designing products. In turn, retailers need to work to offer a wide array of pens, gates and crates to meet the varying needs of pet parents.
“Retailers should look for a full line of options, from physical barriers to electronic solutions,” says Wolf.
In helping owners with their selection, retailers should keep in mind the target customer for each product. By working with manufacturer partners to find out what products are best suited to which types of buyers, retailers can increase their chances of making successful sales and sending customers home with the right solution for them.
“Retailers should consider their target market outside of the regular demographics and psychographics that one would normally associate with pet owners,” says Hoffman. “They should also determine their customers’ preferred style of décor and whether they are the types to spend time outdoors or indoors with their pets.”
Retailers need to take the time to understand their consumers’ needs on an individual level so they can match each one with their perfect product.
“Solution selling is key,” says Wolf. “Let the customer identify the issue or problem they have and what products can help solve those issues.”
Active education and marketing efforts will also help customers make the right decision regarding confinement products. In particular, marketing materials that show off the practical applications of various gates, pens and crates can help customers visualize how the product will fit into their life, whether in their home or on the road.
“Marketing will rely on showing the products in settings that best match the lifestyle of their target market—for example, an ad with a dog kennel in a backyard during a summer barbecue where the dog is able to be kept secure while the barbecue is on,” says Hoffman. “This not only addresses the safety benefits of the product, but also puts it in a setting where customers can imagine using it.”
This kind of information is especially important for new pet owners or those who see containment as just a punishment for their pet. Retailers can play a key role in educating their customers about the benefits of crate training for their pets, helping create an easier adjustment period for both pet and owner.
“We always keep in mind that crate training is a challenge, but also an important step to have lives together with pets, especially puppies or adopted dogs that may not be able to easily take to a new environment or can have separation anxiety during potty training,” says Scott. “We are also aware that often the crate system can be misread as trapping pets in one area, instead of providing pets with special area. It is important for us to help new pet owners who do not know what they are looking for or need from pet containment. Our retailers can put together a whole household training system, including pet containments, in one stop.”
The most important thing is to ensure that pet parents have a wide array of options to meet their needs, whether their highest priority is style, safety, portability or convenience.
“Retailers can help customers by asking and answering plenty of questions to seek the right pen, gate or crate for the new member of the family,” says Scott.