Identifying an Opportunity
Pet identification is becoming less noisy, yet more social, as pet parents seek effective solutions that will easily help identify their animals while maximizing safety and comfort.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only 26 percent of dogs and five percent of cats that enter shelters as strays are returned to their families. But manufacturers are offering new hope that more pet owners will be reunited with their four-legged friends by bringing innovation and creativity to pet identification products. As a result, the pet identification sector of the market has grown beyond simple government-issued licenses and microchips to include QR (quick-response) codes, soft and silent tags, and engraved products that are customized to reflect an animal’s personality, yet all have one common goal—to accurately identify animals.
To safely return animals to their homes, many pet parents rely on community efforts. Whether posting flyers in public spaces, joining pet-finder social media groups or canvassing neighborhoods, pet parents usually search for missing animals by tapping into all available resources. Now manufacturers are elevating that community-focused pet search approach with 21st century technology.
“A standard pet ID tag generally has one or two pieces of identifying information,” says Lorien Clemens, director of municipal and marketing programs at PetHub, which designs digital identification products. “Ours is unlimited. You need an ID tag that fits our modern society, and there are many people touching the lives of these pets. A standard ID tag can’t do that.”
By offering around-the-clock support from human representatives, PetHub has established itself as a trusted brand and community resource.
While pet searches bring a community together, manufacturers are creating opportunities to connect consumers under less severe circumstances, as well. Julie Woertz, founder and CEO of The Bog Tag, LLC, developed her ABS plastic tags to display whether a dog is male or female and avoid the awkward moments when new acquaintances mistake the sex of an animal, but she also wished to provide a starting point to engage in conversations with new pet parents.
“The world we live in has become very social with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The problem with this is that people are hiding behind their computers and not out in the world being social with one another,” says Woertz. “I wanted to change that with two simple, yet effective gender ID tags. Dog owners can now be approached with two simple questions, ‘What is his name? What is her name?’ I am hoping that in 2017, we can all be a little more social with one another face to face.”
Many manufacturers are proving to be quite social themselves by connecting with retailers in person. Rather than growing a brand solely through social media or online marketing tools that can seem impersonal, these companies are also relying on visiting retailers, remaining accessible and maintaining a family-centric image. As SiliDog CEO and founder Michael Lickstein explains, the core values of his silicone dog tag manufacturing company were founded on a family legacy of service and cultivating strong personal connections with the people who sell his products.
“We’re not just meeting our retailers over the phone—about 90 percent we meet in person. When we first started, I went door to door, and [retailers] still speak with the CEO and founder every time they call,” says Lickstein. “We are making sure our relationship and availability is always there.”
ID Made Easy
Simplicity and accessibility are key features that will draw consumers to pet identification products. Consumers often remember to update their pet’s ID right before an event during which pets are more likely to become lost—such as the Fourth of July or a family vacation—so they may only have a small window to make a purchase. These time-sensitive shoppers want “[the] ability to have a high-quality, durable tag engraved when they leave the store,” says Gregg Newman, managing partner at VIP Engravers.
Retailers that can offer an immediate identification solution to these time-sensitive shoppers will have a leg up on the competition. “[Retailers are] extremely happy that they have a solution for their customers who need to purchase a high-quality engraved tag without them having to visit a competitor’s store or big-box retailer for a tag,” Newman says.
Safety is also a major consideration for pet parents who don’t want to expose animals to products made from potentially harmful materials. Twigo Tags owner, Janine Berger-Gillet, reveals that in addition to creating a noiseless product that is easily personalized, she was also interested in developing a tag that could meet the safety expectations of consumers.
For example, as pet parents continue to research the origins of product ingredients to ensure safety, manufacturers must source non-toxic materials to remain relevant in the identification product market.
“Twigo Tags are made from silicone rubber, which is highly durable,” she says. “I made Twigo Tags to meet the CPSC [Consumer Product Safety Commission] regulations for children’s products. My pet is just like a kid, and I want him to be safe too. Phthalates and BPA are found in plastics for various reasons, but are known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters and should not be ingested.”
Identifying Future Trends
Due to campaigns by local governments advising citizens to take all animal-safety precautions and efforts by shelters to prevent the return of adopted pets into the system, public conscientiousness is driving the demand for innovative identification options. Manufacturers of traditional tags remain competitive by introducing new products that afford detailed personalization items for consumers and unique technologies for specific retailers.
“From completely self-service machines like f.i.d.o and TagWorks, which are proprietary programs designed for specific retailers, and our Quick-Tag kiosk, designed specifically for high-volume stores, to tabletop engravers such as PetScribe, which is ideal for boutiques and smaller stores where a variety of product is a priority, there is an in-store I.D. tag engraving solution for everyone,” reveals Tom Glessner, The Hillman Group’s senior director of kiosk and personalization products.
The growing market of pet identification products will continue to evolve by offering new technologies that work with the latest devices and applications. While manufacturers that have invested in using social media to build pet identification products are relying on technology, they are aware that this is not the final stage of evolution in this corner of the industry.
“After listening to pet owners and surveying the market, we created Pawsitively Safe, the lost pet finder system,” says Kate Jones, Platinum Pets president. “Products will continue to evolve so that devices will be smaller, more powerful and give pet owners greater capability in tracking the whereabouts of their pets. We’ll continue to invest in product development to make sure Platinum Pets is among the industry leaders.”
While tag and collar technology is going to drive future growth within the market, retailers must offer the most recently launched device-compatible products as well as traditional tags. These products can work in tandem, as technical glitches are not uncommon, thereby maintaining the value of traditional tags, while products based on new technologies provide details regarding the pet that offer greater insight regarding the animal’s needs.