Anyone who’s spent time at home in lockdown without a pet to keep them company must have felt the urge to take the plunge. The thought of a cheery welcome as we open the door, and the prospect of a new hobby as ‘pet trainer’ are almost too good to pass up.
And the urge many of us have felt seems to have translated into action. Our research shows that, of the key life events people might have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic, getting a new pet has been most popular in the UK. Beating milestones like starting a new job, buying a house and getting married, 27% of people got a new pet.
But was it a rash decision? What are these new pet owners’ approaches to buying pet care products? And how should pet care brands be supporting them? Our research has the answers.
One in four new pet owners have regrets
While a chunky 75.6% of new pet owners said they were very happy about their decision and wouldn’t change anything, a still significant 24% do have some regrets. For the most part, these people aren’t too unhappy – 15.6% said they were generally happy but wish they’d put more thought into it beforehand – while 4.4% and 4% said it’s not quite as good as they thought it would be or regretted it respectively.
In-store buying still rules (but only just)
New pet owners buy most of their pet products in-store, according to our research. For pet food, toys, cleaning products and furniture, more than 50% of owners buy in-store for each category, with pet food showing the biggest difference between in-store and online buying – 64% compared to 25.2%. Of the four product categories, furniture has the most even split between in-store and online purchasing, coming out as 50.8% for in-store and 40% for online.
Reassuringly, the only product that bucks the overall trends is pet medicine, which the majority (40.4%) buy from the vets. The remaining medicine purchases are made pretty evenly between in-store (28.4%) and online (23.6%).
Older new pet owners more likely to shop online
A particularly unexpected result from our research indicates that older new pet owners (35+) are slightly more likely to buy pet products online than under 35s. This is surprising since we tend to expect younger shoppers to incline towards online shopping. One explanation could be that young people have been more likely to go out in the context of the pandemic. And perhaps for people whose new lockdown pet isn’t their first, they already know what they want to buy and so feel more comfortable getting products online. It’s worth brands finding out where different groups of customers shop and how their knowledge and experiences changes their habits.
Pet shops trump all other sources of information
When we asked where new pet owners get information about their pets, an impressive 71.2% said trusty pet shops were their oracles for all pet-related tips. But there were also some surprising results – nearly half (46%) get insightful pupdates from social media, 39.2% trust people they know to impart their wisdom, nearly a third (31.6%) watch videos and a surprising one in five (19.6%) still get their information from books.
This is really useful insight for pet care brands who are thinking about where they can publish content and run campaigns. Knowing your target audience’s preferences and tendencies is really valuable.
Will pet owners’ buying habits change after the pandemic?
Following on from our earlier research into which buyers are expected to return to the high street after the pandemic, we also asked our new pet owners what their purchasing plans are for the future. In-store buying still appears to be people’s priority, being the clear favourite for pet food, toys, medicine and cleaning products. Buying from a mixture of in-store and online is also a popular option, being second most popular for those four categories and just beating exclusively in-store shopping for pet furniture.
While in-store shopping is still key, what our research reveals is that an omni-channel approach from brands will make sure you don’t miss out on vital customer groups.
See the full results from this research.