Everyone has seen them—lost dog posters thumb-tacked to a grocery store bulletin board, masking-taped to a lamppost or tucked under the windshield wipers of every car on the block. However, while a photocopied black and white flyer may, in fact, lead to a joyous reunion between a lost pet and its master, nothing works quite as well as a tag.
And yet, there are plenty of dogs walking around without ID.
Those tag-less dogs represent untapped sales potential for pet specialty retailers, and it is an opportunity that many have yet to embrace. Pet identification product manufacturers say that selling tags and offering tag-engraving services build traffic and generate profit for pet stores, and these companies have been doing their best to make it as convenient and cost-efficient as possible for retailers to delve into the category.
“ID tags are one of the most purchased non-food pet-care items,” says Tom Glessner, senior director of engraving products for the The Hillman Group, which offers tag-engraving machines and kiosks for retail use. “If you are not providing customers a way to buy them through your store, then you are missing out on a product that will generate incremental revenue and allow you interact with your customers on a more personal level than a lot of other products.”
So far, however, major big-box pet chains seem to be enjoying the lion’s share of the revenue to be made in the category. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2013-2014 National Pet Owners Survey, 59 percent of respondents who have bought pet ID tags in the past 12 months did so at a pet chain/super store, compared to 10 percent that bought IDs at an independent pet store. The remaining tag business went to discount/mass, grocery, Internet or mail order, veterinarians or “other.”
Considering that big-box pet chains have the money to invest and the floor space to spare, it is not surprising that they have been the most optimally suited to offer such services. However, that has changed, say pet ID product manufacturers. From counter-top engraving machines to self-serve kiosks to ready-made tags, there are options for every retailer.
For stores that choose to do engraving onsite, among the simplest, least-expensive strategies is to invest in a manual engraving machine. The option is not ideal for every store—the retailer needs to have a trained employee on hand to operate the machine—but a manually operated machine can give a small store a chance to compete with the big guys, according to Daniel Bayerdorffer, vice president at Numberall Stamp & Tool Co., Inc., a metal-marking equipment manufacturer.
“Major pet retailers have added computer-automated engraving machines to their locations,” he says. “This works well in an environment that has high customer volume, where the expense of such equipment can be justified. For smaller businesses, the expense of such equipment is not justifiable.”
Bayerdorffer points to the Numberall bench-top-sized manual 40B as a affordable choice that allows retailers to interact with customers and perhaps upsell other items in the process.
“Tag marking on premises allows you to satisfy your customer’s requirement immediately versus them having to wait for delivery,” he adds. “It also allows you to make ancillary product sales, such as collars and leashes.”
Bayerdorffer is not the only one in the business touting the benefits retailers reap from offering engraving services. It is a convenience that both drives traffic and builds customer loyalty.
“Providing an in-store service like ID-tag engraving gives retailers another chance to fully engage their customers in the buying experience, since the product they are buying is being personalized just for them,” says Glessner, whose company makes PetScribe, a tabletop computerized tag-engraving system and Quick, a standalone self-serve kiosk.
Computerized systems simplify the process for retailers and their employees, making it much more intuitive than manual systems. Meanwhile, the instant gratification it offers customers is another boon, adds Glessner. Customers may be more likely to have one made on impulse rather than take the time to order one and wait to receive it in the mail.
The most pervasive reason to offer a tag service, however, boils down to revenue.
“Offering in-house engraving provides retailers with a new high-margin revenue stream for their store while taking very little time and requiring very little retail space,” says Gregg Newman, managing partner at VIP Engravers, which offers computerized pet ID engraving systems. “Providing this service keeps the customers in their store eliminating, the need for them to shop elsewhere to receive a customized ID product.”
The Greater Good
Of course, there is more to be gained from selling ID tags than the financial rewards that retailers can hope to earn. Tags result in a happy ending for many lost pets, and they can even save lives.
“Visible identification is the number-one way to ensure that a lost pet is quickly reunited with their family,” says Newman.
According to the latest APPA pet owners survey, approximately 50 percent of dog owners have a dog tag—meaning there are plenty of dog owners with untagged dogs for retailers to sell to. The key, however, is to convince consumers that they need a tag in the first place. Customers who travel with their pets, for example, may certainly benefit from the recommendation.
Tags can also be especially useful when a dog with special needs or serious health conditions goes missing. Alarm Charms seeks to meet that need with ready-made tags bearing well-recognized symbols to represent the health condition the pet has. Once purchased, the owner can enter information about the pet on the Alarm Charms website. If the pet gets lost, the tag will direct the finder to the website and allow them to access the pet’s profile and the owner’s contact information using the unique ID number printed on the tag, explains Resa Peck, the company’s president.
“For pets with medical ailments or allergies, the ability to be identified to a rescuer can be lifesaving,” Peck says, adding that the customization is a critical component. “Each tag is color coded to a pet’s special needs. Each unique ID links to the custom content the pet owner has provided. Now your lost pet will get the needed care during the time it takes to be reunited with its family.”
Naturally, not every customer—whether the pet has medical issues or not—considers it important to tag his or her animal. Depending on where a person lives and the pet’s daily routine, some owners may not see the need. But many customers need only a reminder and a nudge in the right direction to make the decision to buy a tag for their pet, and seeing ready-made tags or finding out that one can be made on the spot may be all the encouragement a customer needs.
As Newman points out, “Knowing how easy and hassle free it is to obtain an ID product—tag, collar—is important to prevent an owner from procrastinating and causing the pet to go without identification.”
Identifying the Options
VIP Engravers (vipengravers.com) manufactures the patented CE-1000 computerized pet ID engraving system featuring the exclusive “Auto-Clamp ID System,” providing retailers the opportunity to offer in-store ID tag/product engraving. VIP systems include a free lifetime warranty, free logo software upgrade, toll-free customer service and a comprehensive assortment of engravable ID products.
Alarm Charms (alarmcharms.com) are medical ID charms for pets that identify a pet’s health condition with a universally known medical symbol and text. Alarm Charm offers six charm—with four more styles coming soon—and an Emergency Pet ID card set. All products come with a unique ID number that can be used to document and tracks a pet’s medical condition and vital contact information on the company’s website. If the pet is lost, Alarm Charms alerts the finder to the pet’s medical condition and guides them to a database with the owner’s contact information and everything they need to know about the pet, until it can be reunited with the owner. Alarm Charms are eco-friendly; scratch, rust, fade and UV-resistant, waterproof and jingle free.
Quick-Tag (quick-tag.com) offers a stand-alone vending kiosk that allows customers to create engraved personal and pet ID tags. The system uses computer-driven engraver technology, and an easy-to-use touch screen that makes the process convenient, easy and fun. Also available is PetScribe. For retailers with limited space, PetScribe offers an easy-to-use, self-contained, computerized tag-engraving system. Its small size allows it to fit easily on most counter tops, giving retailers the ability to create affordable, custom engraved ID tags in less than a minute.
BARKCODE (barkcode.com) offers QR code Pet ID tags and collars in a number of designs, including ones specifically targeted for specials needs pets. By scanning the QR codes, the person who finds the pet is taken to its profile page, which lists medical needs and other important information. The finder can also simply enter their phone number, hit send, and all the contacts that are listed —up to six—on the pet’s page will get a text with the finder’s phone number. The company’s newest offering is its NFC “Touch Tag.” A pet finder with an NFC-reader-equipped phone can simply touch the phone to the tag to receive the profile information.
Numberall’s (numberall.com) Model 40B Numbering & Lettering Press can be used to customize a variety of dog tags or collars. Due to the Model 40B’s simple, quiet, manual operation, it can used in a retail environment. Weighing only 40 pounds, it is portable enough that it can be used anywhere. It is ideal for stamping dog tags and collars and smaller characters, and it can stamp aluminum, brass and steel parts.
PetHub, Inc. (pethub.com) offers high-tech pet ID tags and lost-pet recovery systems. Member benefits include a free online pet data profile that can be updated at any time, and tags that display an easily scanned QR code, a web address and PetHub’s free 24/7 Found Pet Hotline. The company’s latest innovation is the incorporation of Glympse technology into its pet protection program. Glympse allows users with an Internet-enabled phone or computer to view a pet’s location through its PetHub.com. online profile. Using a GPS-enabled mobile phone, the pet parent will receive a Glympse link through which he or she will be able to see the pet’s location in real-time and follow the pet’s movements through the cellphone of the human that is with the pet.