Pet ownership and the way people care for their companion animals is undergoing a transformation. Trends are largely being driven by new consumer behaviors resulting from the surge in available technology as well as consumer desire for deeper experiences, a shift driven by the experience economy.
Modern pet owners (particularly Millennials) are seeking additional value from businesses in the form of high-tech, high-touch experiences that make them feel more connected.
So how is this affecting animal care? Owners are now more likely to consider themselves ‘pet parents,’ leading to the humanization of animal companions. In fact, pet owners view their pets as “members of our family” in 80% of households.1
This has created a “new breed” of multi-species families, and as a result, people are investing more in the experience of pet ownership, buying premium products to give their pets the best lives possible.
Veterinarians today need to maintain their role as trusted pet health professionals, educators and advisors. With a bit of insight and just a few adjustments, your practice can meet changing consumer expectations and ensure future growth and profitability.
1. Who owns all the pets?
Millennials – those who came of age after the year 2000 – now account for 35% of the pet-owner population.2
- 32% Millennial
- 14% Gen Z
- 24% Gen X
- 27% Baby Boomer
(2020-21 APPA National Pet Owner Survey)
Millennials and the generation that follows (Gen Z) will soon make up the majority of your client base. They may have a drastically different outlook on pet ownership than their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts, empowered by modern shopping habits. Growing up in the digital age with everything at their fingertips, they’re more likely to consult Google and shop online for products they think most beneficial for their pet. It’s important to take steps to meet these expectations around technology and customer experience to protect your most valuable relationships.
2. What pets do they own?
According to the APPA, the majority (70%) of US households own a pet. Fish are the most prevalent pet, while cats and dogs continue to dominate overall household share.
Insights into which animals make up the majority share of pet ownership can help you focus your business and better understand the needs of your clients. Data shows many multi-pet households, so if you offer services for furry friends of all kinds but mostly see just dogs and cats, ask about other pets to ensure they receive the care they need.
3. How much are they spending?
Total pet care spend is trending up 6.7%, from $97.1B in 2019 to $103.6B in 2020. This mirrors demand growth for overall veterinary services, in part as a result of higher spending per visit during COVID.
4. What are they buying?
The majority of the pet owner dollar is spent on food, which makes sense as this is an ongoing and essential expense. This category increased 9.7% for a total of $42B in 2020. Next is veterinary care and products, which increased by 7.2% to $31.4B in 2020 from $29.3B in 2019.
Nutrition and its increasing importance to pet owners is a key factor among the latest consumer trends. And as food consumes a large portion of pet owners’ budgets, there’s still a significant opportunity for veterinarians to profit from the anticipated growth in spending in this category. This offers an easy way to provide your expertise on what food and dietary considerations are best for the life stage of clients’ pets, according to breed, digestion, and weight management, etc. You can also make it easy and cost-effective for owners to purchase directly from a trusted pet advisor – you, their veterinarian.
Over the years there has been a consistent message that owning a pet isn’t cheap. However, Millennials and the other demographic groups who are fueling the experience economy are ignoring this call. They want the best for their ‘fur babies’ and are prepared to spend what it takes to add value to their lives and the lives of their pets.
This group is determined to ensure their pet’s life is as good as it can be. Adults 18-34 in particular seem more willing to spend a high portion of income on pets vs. older generations, with 35% putting pet needs above their own vs 20% of Gen X 3. In addition to the usual high-spend categories (veterinary care, food, boarding), pet parents are also spending a significant amount on treats, grooming services, toys, health supplements and pet technology.
5. Where are they shopping?
Unfortunately, many pet parents aren’t buying these items from their local veterinarian. The explosion of online shopping channels has made it easier to purchase pet products elsewhere. These digital channels can purchase premium products at an affordable price, offer a wide range of products and deliver straight to the pet parents’ home. Some retailers also offer subscription-style services, delivering food, medications or vitamins so the pet parent’s stock never runs out.
Fortunately, pet parents want to shop for pet care through their Veterinarian, but many don’t know there’s an online option.
- 63% of veterinary hospitals have an online pharmacy, yet only 16% of pet owners overall state their clinic has an online pharmacy
- 8 in 10 pet owners not aware of their veterinary clinic’s online pharmacy would consider purchasing their pet’s medications that way 4
While spending trends are up, there’s no denying consumer and pet ownership behaviors are changing. Staying on top of these trends offers opportunities to better understand your clients, encourage return customers and increase the long-term profitability of your practice.
Want more pet owner facts and data?
Find more resources and support for your practice from Covetrus software services.
- 2021 APPA National Pet Owners Survey
- AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook
- Alphawise, Morgan Stanley Research
- Trone Research and Consulting (2019). Balancing Act: Strike the Right Balance to Attract More Pet Owners—Product Pricing and Purchasing (N=1,002). Diggo Brief, Edition 1.2. diggovet.com.