As the New Year commences, shoppers will come to your store excited about their new puppy or kitten. With a new pet comes new responsibilities, and many owners find the list of things to do (and purchase) a bit daunting. Retailers who assist customers with relevant, easy-to-understand information and suggestions are doing these consumers a real favor. With that in mind, here are some things you can do to assist new pet owners.
Offer behavior tips: Work with your local dog trainer and come up with some simple behavior tips for
new owners. These tips can be printed and given out at your store and/or put on your website. Common topics for puppy owners include housetraining solutions, and how to curtail chewing, nipping and jumping. Don’t forget feline behavior tips, including how to stop kitty from scratching furniture and, of course, litter box training. Remember that problem tips should not be commercials intended to sell products. Some problems like housetraining and chewing will utilize products. Others, such as teaching puppies not to jump all over people, won’t.
Puppy and kitten starter kits: Offer discounts on products purchased by new puppy and kitten owners. Popular products include a six-foot nylon training leash; collar; chew toys; interactive play toys; exercise pens or kennels; chewing repellent spray; odor neutralizer; litter boxes; litter; a proper scratching post; decent, properly sized food and water bowls; training treats and premium food. I am well aware that most people reading this article can recite a list as easily as I. The point is to make something like this list available for clients to see so they don’t forget to purchase important items.
Product advice: Stores with staffs that offer helpful instructions on the use of various products will almost always stand out. This can also help decrease refunds. Often, product advice involves simple suggestions. For example, when using a pen or crate, put some of the dog’s favorite toys and a blanket inside. When giving the dog a toy to chew on, make it a point to play with the dog and this toy each day for the first week or two. Make sure multiple cats have more than one litter box, and once you find a litter the cats use, stick with it. Again, simple tips about product use can make a difference to clients with little experience.
Referrals: New puppy owners don’t enjoy the same network as those with experience. They might not have a veterinarian, groomer, pet sitter or dog trainer. The key to offering referrals is to make sure the people you refer your customers to have good reputations. Some pet stores ask why they should bother to refer clients to services they don’t offer. The answer is twofold. First, for the same reason you offer problem solutions that don’t involve products you sell—because it is helpful to your customers and can help build loyalty. The second reason is because all of the businesses you can refer have it in their power to be extremely effective referral sources back to you.
Classes: Work with a dog trainer to offer training classes at your store. If your store isn’t large enough to accommodate seven to 10 dogs and their owners in a dog training setting, at the very least have a dog trainer give lectures at your store. These lectures don’t require the dogs to be present and can be helpful to customers, not to
mention good for product sales. If you offer something like this, coordinate with the trainer to make sure the products they recommend in class are ones you carry in your store.
While none of the ideas presented here are unique or even new, a great many stores either don’t implement them or don’t do so in an organized fashion. In today’s competitive retail environment, consumers have a greater number of choices as to where they can purchase products than ever before. Stores armed with behavior tips and an updated referral list of veterinarians, groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers, doggie day cares and dog trainers will stand out. Establishments that employ an educated staff will have an advantage over stores that don’t.