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To Remain Relevant, Pet Brands Must Prepare to Pivot


The current economic recession, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, looks different from past recessions. Spurred by a public health crisis, it has stimulated extensive and abrupt changes around the world; consumers are staying home more and priorities have shifted.

Even though the pet industry is often considered “recession-proof,” individual brands need to remain vigilant and positioned to pivot in order to keep their brands relevant. It’s also important to remember that what this recession shares with those of the past is simple: consumers are seeking value from their purchases.

Here are three important ways you can recession-proof your brand to be ready for the predicted downturn and remain as relevant as possible in the COVID-19 environment.

  1. Build into the trust your consumers already have for your brand.

One of the best ways to remain on top of shifting expectations is to call upon the existing trust that your consumers have for your brand, which is particularly important when it comes to one’s pet. At a time when everything is uncertain, consumers want to trust the familiarity your brand can provide for their pets. Clear communication about certain supply chain concerns and about the sorts of precautions taken can offer a sense of security to anxious consumers. Here’s an example of how ProPlan has built trust for a dog parent.

  1. Meet your consumers where they are.

The retail channels that you used previously to reach consumers may not be viable or available during the recession. This is especially true for pet brands, as fewer consumers enter physical retail stores and instead turn to online retailers like Chewy or Amazon. The global pet care e-commerce market size was valued at USD 20.75 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3 percent from 2020 to 2027.  Failing to adapt to this situation will be detrimental to your brand’s survival.

Even a cursory search of recent dog food reviews on eComm sites shows us how COVID has shifted consumer behavior over 2020:

One easy way to ensure you’re meeting your consumers’ needs in this space is to optimize your product detail pages (PDP) with all the relevant details consumers will need when making a selection. The PDP presents a detailed description of your product offerings such as form, formula changes, size, price, shipping information, reviews, and other relevant information consumers may want to know before making a purchase. A well-optimized PDP uses the right keywords that increase search engine ranking and entice consumers to click through and convert.

  1. Harness user-generated content to capture actionable insights.

A primary difference between past recessions and the approaching recession is that brands have greater access to the voice of their consumers; as more turn to e-commerce channels, more leave consumers reviews and social comments, or user-generated content (UGC). UGC can be harnessed to provide insights at a faster rate, with voluntary, real-time feedback. UGC in the pet industry is abundant and will only continue to increase.

UGC provides a new dimension to your brand performance, more effectively than traditional research methods and without the bias of groupthink. For example, you can apply “value” words or “trust” words your consumers are using toward understanding how your value proposition manifests in reality. You can also use this language to communicate with your target market in a language that resonates with them.

The pet industry was strong pre-pandemic and is thriving in the COVID era as people turn to pets for comfort. But pet brands can’t be complacent in adapting to the dynamic factors of the pandemic and its impact, especially on the perceived value of your products.

Value has always been a priority for consumers. Recession-era spending habits reinforce its constant importance, and this recession is no different. Brands must act to secure their value proposition, adjusting to new expectations from consumers who may notice the benefits and shortcomings of a brand’s product more directly than before. Pet brands must adjust how they communicate and deliver their value proposition.

The good news is that with access to our consumers through UGC, we’re able to understand those shifting expectations in real-time and more accurately. The brands that thrive through this recession will be agile enough to leverage those capabilities to act quickly on insights while also adhering to the fundamentals of maintaining the right value equation as consumers shift the expectation on value.

Mark Jeffreys is the CEO and founder of 4Sight. 

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