As times have gotten harder, self-care has increased in popularity. People are investing in bath bombs, aromatherapy lotions and scented to candles to give themselves a calm-ing, spa-like experience, and they’re looking to apply the same logic to their dogs.
This concept, of course, falls in line with the continued trend of humanizing pets. While this idea initially took root in the food segment, it’s quickly expanding to encompass the bathing and spa category.
“When you think of the word spa, you think relaxed, pampered and rejuvenating,” says James Brandley, associate trade marketing manager at Cosmos Corporation, manufacturer of TropiClean Pet Products. “Pet parents are looking for products with long-lasting fragrance, soothing attributes and formulas that enrich their pets’ lives.”
This trend is all about the experience, continues Brandley, as pet parents want to approach the grooming process as a treat, not a chore. Since most dogs find bath times stressful, this trend extends a pampering aspect that makes cleaning a pet easier and more relaxing for all parties involved.
Though spa products don’t necessarily conjure up images of practicality, many of these products are focused on the overall health and wellness benefits they can provide to dogs, in addition to making the experience more pleasurable.
“Pet parents want their best friends to look great, but they also want to help keep them in great health, as well,” says Doug Gleason, founder of TrueBlue Pets. “When a pet parent is looking for a shampoo, they want one that will make coat look good, but they also appreciate that it needs to be easy on the skin [and] not drying.”
Benefits Beyond Bath Time
As pet parents reflect their own desires into their pet’s products, the “less is more” trend applies to creating a spa-like experience. Consumers are concerned with what’s inside the products they’re using and are turning toward items that have simpler and fewer ingredients.
“We’re seeing the natural trend continue to be a leading trend as pet parents view fresh, natural and pure attributes as an indication of quality products,” explains Brandley. “Pet parents are seeking products that include ingredients they trust and understand.”
Beyond ingredients, dog spa products mirror those in human products, explains Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Glo-Marr Products, Inc., as “what is currently the hot scent or beneficial ingredient will usually be offered in the dog spa market.”
Another desire on pet parents’ lists is products that are tailored to specific breeds, coat types and ages. Cleansing needs will vary from dog to dog—floppy-eared breeds require more frequent ear cleaning, for example, and pups that love a good roll in a mud puddle will need more intensive soaps than those that tend to keep their paws on the pavement.
“We noticed consumers are gravitating towards narrower, more accurately defined products tailored to their pet’s unique needs,” Brandley notes. “Following extensive research and development, we are excited to introduce a grooming line called TropiClean PerfectFur, which will provide pet parents with shampoo as unique as their dog, tailored to specific coat types such as curly and wavy, short-haired, or long-haired breeds.”
Given that pet parents are also looking for more specific products, retailers should also stock a variety of products, so all types of pups are represented.
“I think retailers should make sure that they have the wellness end of the scale covered, that their product mix is not just about how the pet looks, but how it feels as well,” Gleason elaborates. “In addition to shampoos and conditioners, you ought to have a selection of things like ear cleaners, dental care and skin care.”
Knowing Your Brands
With all this to keep in mind, it’s more important than ever that retailers are familiar with the ins and outs of each product in their inventory. While pet parents are often the experts on their dog’s personality and behavior, they may not necessarily be up to speed on the specific breed needs.
“Retailers need to be familiar with the brands they offer in their store,” says Leoso Duncan. “Most of the time, the pet owner doesn’t know which product will benefit their pet most.”
She continues that it’s important for retailers to make sure they’re getting information about ingredients, benefits and features from manufacturers, so they can lead their customers to the best products for their dogs.
Hands-on marketing strategies are some of the best ways to showcase these types of products. Brandley recommends hosting in-store spa days (with proper social distancing protocols in place), transforming a section of the store into a stress-free zone and ensuring that pet parents learn about different shampoos, conditioners, fabric sprays, facial cleansers and other similar products.
Acknowledging that hands-on marketing is more difficult in today’s climate, Brandley suggests substituting in “floor displays, endcaps and shelf displays that highlight key benefits” for the time being.
Even while keeping social distance, though, it’s possible for retailers to show off the benefits of products through demonstrations and providing samples for customers to try in store. This helps show easy ways for pet parents to include spa and bathing products into their regular grooming routines and show them alternatives to products they might be using but not enjoying.
“Retailers can play a key role in helping to educate pet parents on how easy it is to incorporate some basic wellness into their spa routine,” says Gleason. “Manufacturers can [also] help by providing lots of product for sampling. Here at TrueBlue, we provide lots of ear wipes so that people can try them out when they are in the store. Many pet parents may have tried an ear cleaning liquid or powder and found them difficult and messy to administer. Then they try an ear wipe and see that it’s much easier to do.”
For retailers that have seen a shift to more online rather than in store buying, product demo videos and clear explanations for each product for sale on the website can help achieve similar outcomes. Ultimately, retailers should provide as much information as possible to help pet parents make the best choices for their dogs. PB