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Win-Win Situation: Tips to Consider When Promoting Pet Lifestyle Products

Glenn Polyn//July 1, 2024//

Win-Win Situation: Tips to Consider When Promoting Pet Lifestyle Products

Glenn Polyn //July 1, 2024//

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There’s nothing like having company to make you take a close and critical look at your home. A few weeks ago, I had a friend coming to visit for a long weekend and I realized my house looked more like a no-frills boarding kennel than a home. There were plastic crates everywhere and a lone, rusted wire one in my living room and industrial stainless bowls spaced around the kitchen. In a panic, I ran to my local pet store and bought some better-looking crates and bowls; however, I found that my options were quite limited.

If you have customers like me who are looking for pet accessories and equipment that are beyond the basics and that better fit in with their décor, their lifestyles and personal styles, it may be time to up your game on the lifestyle products front. However, before you go out and start stocking up on high-end or designer lifestyle products you’ll want to do some homework first

People who consider themselves “pet parents” rather than “pet owners” are more likely to look for lifestyle products because they see their pets as an extension of themselves and their lifestyle. This demographic might include millennials who are delaying having children, older couples whose children have left home, or fashion-forward individuals who want their pets to mirror their aesthetic tastes in their own attire and in their homes. But does this reflect your clientele?

To find out, you’ll want to be sure you have clear customer avatars. I wrote an entire column on avatars in the April 2023 magazine, so be sure to go back and check that out. However, in short, a customer avatar is a fictional representation of your customer, usually your ideal customer, that is based on research you’ve done on your them; who they are, how they live, their likes, habits and more.

Creating an avatar is important because it gives you a clear image of your customer that allows you to decide what products to stock for them and how to market to them. It’s likely that any pet business will have more than one customer avatar and that’s fine. The key is being able to answer, “Do I have enough customers who will want to buy this product to make it worth carrying?”

For example, my daughter Kelsey is in her 30s and has a dog named Gigi who is her baby. Any clothes, collars, or leashes that are coordinated and make Gigi look cute when she goes out are appealing to Kelsey, especially if they’re embroidered with her name. Kelsey also likes themed toys based on holidays and movies she likes and toys that look like human food and products. When it comes to pet bowls, Gigi has colorful custom-made ceramic bowls with her name on them. Gigi’s “house” (aka crate) looks more like a high-end side table and fits right in with Kelsey’s furniture.

However, what if you don’t have “pet parents” as customers and instead your primary avatar is a “pet owner”? I’m in my 50s and, although I love them dearly, my dogs are my pets, not my children. I am a no-frills person, so they don’t wear clothes, except some winter coats that look like horse blankets, and I’m lucky if their collars and leashes are the same color when we go out. I already told you about my bowls and crates, so you can see functionality was my primary concern when I made those purchases. For someone like me, taking the approach that my dog will look cute in that raincoat and boots might not help you make a sale, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get me to buy them.

Focusing on quality, safety, pet health and convenience are things that will appeal to a customer like me. When it comes to clothes and boots, focusing on keeping my dogs warm, the fact that I won’t have to wash their feet when they come indoors or use up a bunch of towels drying them off is going to get my attention. For bedding, sharing how quality pet beds can provide essential support for my older pets’ joints and help in managing arthritis, is going to get me to break out my wallet. Having endorsements from veterinarians or pet care experts for your products can also provide a significant boost in credibility. These experts can attest to the health and wellness benefits of your products, helping to shift the perception from you trying to sell me “fluffy extra stuff” to essential pet care items that I must have. For carriers, highlighting how ergonomic pet carriers can offer safety and comfort to my cats is more important to me than the color choices. Bottom line, you’ll want to make it clear that while some lifestyle products might seem like luxuries, they’re cost-effective investments in the long-term health and happiness of my pets.

Beyond one-on-one customer interactions, you should take full advantage of social media for promoting lifestyle pet products. Real-life examples and testimonials can be particularly convincing. Share stories from customers who observed a significant improvement in their pet’s comfort or health or their home’s aesthetic after using your lifestyle products. These stories can change perceptions by providing social proof of the benefits of products rather than just you or the manufacturer claiming them. Ask customers to share photos such as before and after photos, to go along with their testimonials. Using platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are particularly effective due to their visual nature and the high engagement rates of pet-related content. For Instagram, whenever possible try to show real photos of your products in use, or in your lifestyle store displays to showcase them, rather than stock images provided by manufacturers. For Pinterest, focus on DIY, decorating, and style guides in the form of infographics, checklists and photos.

A lifestyle experience in your store or in photos while they’re shopping online can create an experience that allows pet parents to visualize their own pets or homes looking great. There’s a reason most furniture stores set up rooms rather than just having a section of the store that’s all sofas and one that’s all chairs. It’s to let the buyer see how great their home would look with that furniture. Even if you have limited space, a small, simulated home environment where products are displayed can showcase how pet beds, bowls, or toys fit seamlessly into attractive home decor. If your business is online, use lifestyle photos and consider adding a blog that includes how to and problem-solving posts on things like “Decorating on a Budget with Your Pet in Mind,” or “How to Choose the Perfect Pet Stroller for Summer Sightseeing Trips.”

Engaging with your community through events can create brand loyalty and awareness. Whether you host your own events or are a guest at a larger event, you can do things like sponsoring pet fashion shows, adoption events, or pet-friendly gatherings at local businesses or yours. To combine some of those ideas, you could host or sponsor a “Rescue Dog Fashion Show” featuring local adoptable pets wearing products you sell. This allows you to give back, get pets adopted, and provide live product demonstrations. You could even provide opportunities for your customers’ pets to try on apparel or interact with your products. As an added benefit, you’ll have the chance to get on-the-spot product feedback from participants and the audience alike. Even if big events aren’t something you can do, you can still offer demonstrations either in-store or through video content online. Show your products in action, such as how easy a carrier is to assemble, how nimble a stroller is navigating a crowd, or how a particular type of dog bed supports a dog’s body and looks great right next to your own bed.

Finally, as a trainer and educator, I’m a big fan of educational events as an opportunity to inform, grow your customer base, and increase sales. You can host workshops or webinars and invite experts to discuss pet care, product selection, and integration of pet products into daily life. For example, partnering with a local interior designer and co-hosting a session on “Integrating Pet Décor Seamlessly in Your Home” can guide pet parents on how to choose products that are both functional and stylish. It’s also a win-win for you and the designer, as you’ll each showcase your services and products to each other’s audiences.

Promoting lifestyle products effectively means more than just understanding the pet market; it requires understanding the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of your human customer. By targeting the lifestyle aspirations of pet parents, leveraging the right marketing tools and creating positive experiences, you can help all your customers better integrate their pets into every aspect of their life. In doing so, your business is not just selling products; you’re enhancing your customers’ bonds with their pets.

 

Amy Castro is a business and leadership expert who speaks, trains and consults with pet businesses that want to build best-in-show teams that deliver a Five-Star Customer Experience. She’s also the host of the Starlight Pet Talk podcast, where she interviews pet industry experts and others to give advice and information for pet parents to help their pets live long, happy lives.