Throughout the course of the pandemic, a series of lifestyle disruptions quickly followed. While a lot of those changes will likely return to some semblance of normal over the next year, others are here to stay. Namely, the increased awareness of personal hygiene and the inclination to keep an even cleaner house.
Surprisingly—or unsurprisingly, given the humanization of pets—this increase in cleanliness quickly found its place in the life of dogs. With a series of discourse about the likelihood of pets carrying or spreading the virus, coupled with the realization that pets could carry the disease, pet parents turned their attention to scrubbing down their pups more frequently.
However, implementing new habits isn’t easy, especially in times of economic downturn and turmoil. As dog owners became more aware of how they budgeted and allocated their money, they ended up in a tough place where they wanted to provide the best products for their pets, but it wasn’t financially difficult. As a result, they turned to the internet to guide them.
“Pet parents have become more value- and health-conscious,” said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager at Cosmos Corp., parent company of Tropiclean. “They are demanding brands they can trust and support, seeking high-quality products that are safe and effective. With the uptick in online purchases, pet parents are researching more to make sure the product is precisely what they need.”
There are two key components to skin and coat care: Grooming and preventative. Grooming provides a deep cleaning experience, while prevention revolves around proactive measures.
Get Your Groom On
All responsible pet owners are familiar with grooming, and likely have some sort of shampoo or mild wipe on-hand for full baths or the occasional spot clean. However, given the humanization of pets, owners are realizing that relying on just a shampoo is akin to using a bar of soap for a total body clean on themselves. There’s a need for a comprehensive portfolio of grooming products.
That need was only exacerbated by pandemic-related widespread closures, when most pet parents turned to at-home grooming and care for their pets. With the limited ability to get pets in for a veterinary exam and concerns about hygiene and sanitation, pet parents took matters into their own hands.
“With social distancing and concerns over exposure, we’ve seen more pet parents caring for minor skin issues and doing grooming themselves,” said Geoff Hamby, director of marketing for Vetericyn Animal Wellness. “While many issues still require a visit to the vet or groomer, pet owners are finding there is a lot they can manage on their own.”
Of course, this trend of caring for pets at home is nothing new—it’s been around forever; the need for it has just been underscored by current events.
“At-home grooming is a popular, continued trend from 2020,” says Lara Bernhardt, director of consumer marketing for H&C Animal Health. “With an increased focus on self-grooming, pet parents are paying more attention to their pet’s skin and coat care. They are looking for innovative products to make grooming easy and products to help maintain hygiene in between grooming.”
In that search for innovative products, the awareness of skin and coat supplementation emerges. As pet owners incorporate vitamins, oils and other wellness-boosting items into their personal routines, the benefits of an additional, internal component to their dogs’ care is being realized.
Of course, these supplements are held to the same standards the grooming products themselves are, as there’s a demand for eco-friendly, all-natural products that benefit the environment as much as the user.
“There is also a continued humanization of pet skin and coat care,” says Bernhardt. “Pet parents are looking for products and supplements with natural ingredients. They also recognize the relationship between animal skin and coat health and the food their pets eat, seasonal allergies, even the effects of stress.”
Taking Extra Care
Skin care often gets pushed to the side when pet parents are formulating a grooming routine and stocking up on products. The term “preventative care” tends to be a bit misleading, as it conjures up the image of a magic formula that evades any future ailments. In reality, preventative care is needed to help mitigate the effects of a potential problem.
“It’s important to start and maintain a grooming routine because the health of our pet’s skin and coat is more than just hair,” says Brandly. “The pet’s skin and coat play a vital role in their overall health, helping protect internal organs from external objects and environmental stressors, helping maintain hydration and even helping properly regulate body temperature.”
These experts aren’t just recommending that pet parents incorporate skin care into their grooming portfolio. Instead, they’re promoting it as an element that’s essential for a pet’s overall health and well being.
“Preventative maintenance is critical,” says Hamby. “Along with regular bathing, if a pet owner manages topical skin issues or irritations on a regular basis, they can greatly reduce the chance of serious problems or infections.”
The reasoning behind the importance of skin care revolves around how essential the skin is to daily activities and to a pet’s health. Think of a pet’s skin like a book—it often tells a story that’s reflective of how a pet’s feeling that day or if there are any underlying ailments.
“The skin is the largest breathing organ of the body and as such, releases and reflects what is going on inside,” say Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein, co-founders of Earth Animal. “A shiny, odorless and itch-free coat tells us—at least superficially—that all is well. Likewise, unhealthy skin is a great storyteller and often will shed light on inner conditions, allergic responses to pesticides, chronic drugs, food ingredients or emotional imbalance, such as chronic anxiety.”
When it comes to merchandising the products, retailers should lean into the power of impulse purchasing. Brandly cites data from the Point of Purchase Association International that says customers make 82 percent of their buying decisions in-store.
“This statistic proves how helpful, knowledgeable staff and in-store marketing is to generate sales,” he explains. “Point of purchase displays and counter displays provide additional product information, a variety of products and stand out from other store items.”
However, having a well-educated staff will always prove to be the most beneficial marketing tactic. Not only does it help to have a sales team member have the ability to match wits with a customer, it also opens the door for conversations regarding up-selling the items.
“The best way for retailers to merchandise and market these items is to ensure they and their teams are as educated as possible,” says Bernhardt. “They should know the ingredients, health benefits, tips for different breeds/coats/skin types, etc. The biggest opportunity to market these products is to look beyond topical-only solutions and approach skin and coat care as part of the pet’s overall health and well being.” PB