Consumer Trends: Pet Products and How to Effectively Advertise to Pet Owners

September 11, 2018 - 14 minute read
Pet ownership in the UK is steadily declining. As hard as it might be to believe, what with consumers’ collective infatuation with #dogsofinstagram and the enduring success of Grumpy Cat, they’re increasingly getting their fluffy fixes online, and less are committing to owning pets of their own.

In 2018, the pet population of the UK totals 51 million; in 2017 this was 54 million, and at its peak in 2013 there were 71 million pets owned by UK consumers.  

51 million pets, spread over 12 million households, is still a huge population, though. There are 11.8 million more pets in the UK than Facebook users. So, in essence, a huge target audience for manufacturers of all things canine, feline, equestrian and aquatic.

And pets are no cheap hobby. They’re members of the family, and are treated as such when it comes to providing for them. Dog owners spend on average £240 per month on their pets, while cat owners spend £100 in the same time. That’s no small budget.

Whether they own one, properly pampered pooch, or a whole troop of pristine ponies, pet owners can often be defined by this ownership, as their lives revolve around their four-legged friends.

The pet market is filled with necessities - insurance, food and training equipment - as well as a wealth of frivolous and luxurious items for devoted pet owners. With the end user unable to verbally attest to the quality of your products, pet owners can fork out repeatedly on products until they find the one they’re sure their precious poodle loves.

But does this incite loyalty from pet owners, just like in their trusty labradors, or do they behave more like non-committal cats, flitting from brand to brand depending on who offers the most attractive proposition at the time?

We surveyed 1000 UK pet owners (with dogs, cats, birds, amphibians, fish, horses, reptiles and other small animals) to help you to better understand what makes them tick. Read on to learn how to successfully market to this unique segment, by better understanding their wider interests and behaviours, as well as their buying habits and brand awareness in the market.


Interests and Behaviours

Media habits

What personality traits and behaviours set this consumer group apart from the wider population, and how can brands tailor their messaging for this unique opportunity?

Reflecting the wide variety of pets that UK consumers own, these consumers also have a variety of external interests. They ranked sports as their preferred news coverage (with 19.7% of the vote), but only very marginally above Showbiz & Lifestyle (19.1%) and Family & Education (17.5%). It seems, then, that pet owners cannot be easily segmented from the rest of the population by their keen interests in one particular type of news stories. Except, perhaps, for their relative disinterest in Opinion pieces (6.5%), Culture (6.5%), Business (7.5%) and Politics coverage (7.9%).

NewsStoriesPets

Mirroring other consumer segments we’ve already surveyed, Facebook continues to be the most-used social media platform, with just over half of pet owners (51.5%) voting for this channel. Tumblr is their least used platform (2.5%).

The photo-sharing site, Instagram, comes in in a respectable 2nd place with (19.4%). This is unsurprising given the success of Instagram accounts dedicated to pets. A cute Pomeranian (@jiffpom) has 8.8m followers, more than fashion power-house Marc Jacobs (7.5m), model and influencer Demi Rose (7.4m), world famous singer Mariah Carey (7m) or Olympic gold medalist boxer Anthony Joshua (6.8m).

SocialMediaPets

Pet-Specific Habits and Interests

What is it that drives pet owners to choose brands for their dearly beloved animals? Is it the recommendations of other dog-walkers, or the glossiest adverts? Or perhaps it’s the ease of picking up the perfect product while racing around the supermarket to get back home to their pets as quickly as possible.

What can brands do to capture the attention of these dedicated consumers, committed to little-else than the happiness of their animals?

AdvertsPets

Like other consumer segments, pet owners are most drawn to TV adverts, with 35.1% of them saying they most like to see adverts for pet products on the small screen.

They’re least interested in radio adverts, with just 3.4% of consumers rating this as their favourite channel.

Horse owners buck the trend, though, with the highest proportion of these consumers (34.4%) voting that they’re most receptive to adverts for pet products on their social media feeds.

Bird owners are also flying in the face of the rest of the population, with an equal number (25.6%) preferring to see adverts while they’re on websites, as those who want to see TV adverts.

DecisionMakingPets

When shopping for a product for their pet, these consumers will turn to Google (23.8%) or Amazon (20.5%) as their first port of call. They’re less influenced by the opinions of friends and family, or review websites, than other consumer groups we’ve surveyed; parents, for instance, voted that they’d go to friends and family 3rd (13.7%), compared to pet owners who ranked these 5th (11.1%).

MotivationPets

Similarly, word of mouth endorsement falls down to 5th place in its likelihood to motivate pet owners to try a new brand. Quality is their most motivating factor, with 27.7% of the vote, with lower prices coming in second (16.4%). Both of these motivations were ranked more highly than the preferences of their animals, as only 14.5% of pet owners would move to a new product just because their pet doesn’t like the one currently used.

 

What precisely are they looking for?

ImportantPets

Following on from this, the highest quality and durability of products was voted as the single most important thing for them when deciding to buy pet products (36.6%). Those who own dogs, the ultimate destroyers of toys, sofas, slippers and other non-pet-specific products, vote the durability and quality of products even more highly, 40.3%, but Horse owners are most preoccupied by quality, with a vote of 46.9%.

Recommendations come in in second place, with 14.2% of pet owners prioritising this. Those who voted this way also scored above average for review/comparison sites and friends or family being the first port of call when making a decision to buy a pet product. They’re also almost twice as likely to be motivated to try new products by word of mouth endorsements than the rest of the population (16.9% versus an average of 10.5%).


Pet-Specific Brand Awareness

As the animals themselves can’t choose which food they’re fed, which toys they get to play with or which shampoo they’re washed in, pet-specific brands must appeal to the loving, caring natures of the owners to secure their custom. They must also provide a product which benefits the pet, owner, or both, over and above the myriad of other pet products on the market.

Which brands are resonating best with pet owners? We asked pet owners to name their favourite pet brands, the winners were as follows:

Pedigree

11.30%

Pets at Home

8.60%

Whiskas

7.70%

Felix

4.80%

Purina

4.30%

Kong

4.20%

Iams

2.90%

Bakers

2.10%

Royal Canin

1.70%

Dreamies

1.20%


99 brands were named in total, so the market is certainly not exclusively held by the big names. That being said, Pedigree do have a very strong presence in the market, with 11.3% of the unprompted brand recall.

The market is very heavily dominated by pet food brands, though, with 9 of the top 10 brands selling pet food or treats.

We also asked how loyal pet owners feel to their chosen favourite pet brand. It seems that pet owners like to stick to the brands they know their pet enjoys, rather than shopping around for the best deal, as 3 out of 4 pet owners feel at least slightly loyal to their favourite pet brands.

LoyaltyPets

In this relatively loyal market, where pet owners aren’t easily swayed to trialing a new option for their furry friend, we asked pet owners to name a brand whose adverts have impressed them within the last year, and the answers were as follows:

Pedigree

12.00%

Pets At Home

9.70%

Whiskas

7.10%

Purina

5.60%

Felix

5.00%

Iams

3.60%

Kong

2.60%

Bakers

1.80%

Dreamies

1.60%

Lintbells

1.10%

As the lists are almost equivalent, we might conclude that loyalty and awareness are interlinked. The brands with adverts getting noticed are the ones consumers are going on to buy and remaining loyal to, likely reinforced every time they see their adverts repeated.

Despite slumping profits and other financial struggles earlier this year, Pets at Home have done very well in both lists, the only brand to break the specific food theme.

We also asked pet owners to name the well-known person they’d most like to see endorse their favourite pet brand.

Overall winners

   

Popular influencers amongst women:

Men:

Under 40s:

40-year-olds and over:

1

Paul O Grady

4.40%

Paul O Grady

David Beckham

Paul O Grady

Paul O Grady

2

Tom Hardy

2.10%

Tom Hardy

Paul O Grady

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy

3

David Beckham

1.90%

Kim Kardashian

Brad Pitt

David Beckham

David Beckham

4

Brad Pitt

1.70%

Phillip Schofield

Cristiano Ronaldo

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt

5

Kim Kardashian

1.30%

Cheryl Cole

Russell Brand

Kim Kardashian

Will Smith

6

Phillip Schofield

1.00%

Simon Cowell

Ed Sheeran

Phillip Schofield

Katie Price

7

Simon Cowell

0.90%

Katie Price

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell

George Clooney

8

Russell Brand

0.90%

David Beckham

Ricky Gervais

Russell brand

Tom Cruise

9

Tom Cruise

0.70%

Brad Pitt

Queen

Cheryl Cole

Simon Cowell

10

Ed Sheeran

0.70%

Tom Cruise

Gordon Ramsay

Ed Sheeran

Russell Brand

Famous pet owners including Paul O Grady (who also works closely with Battersea Cats & Dogs Home and hosts a related TV show), Tom Hardy and Simon Cowell are all popular choices to endorse pet products.


Key Takeaways

With a huge population of pets in the UK, each with (at least one) dedicated and loving owner, the pet product market can provide high levels of loyalty to the brands who crack the right formula.

While the non-brand-specific habits of pet owners don’t converge on significant differences that set this market apart from the rest of the population, there are certain brands successfully capturing the attention of great swathes of this varied group. There are also some behaviours that unite them.

They’re digitally-savvy, with almost half (44.3%) turning to Google or Amazon as their first resort when making decisions about pet products. Continuing this trend they also voted social media (22.5%) and websites (16.6%) as the second and third places they most like to see adverts, behind TV with 35.1% of the vote.

Quality and durability is their first priority when shopping for their pet, while they’re not particularly concerned with convenience of use or buying, so they’re willing to go out of their way to buy the right products.

Pedigree lead the market as providing both the best advertising campaigns, and being the overall favourite pet brand. While Paul O Grady would be pet owners favourite influencer for these products.

They also self identify as being loyal to their favourite brands. It seems that once they’ve found a high quality, durable product, pet owners aren’t likely to shop around for alternatives.

 

The Next Steps...

In the pet market, there’s a handful of essential products all owners need to provide for their companions. Food is certainly the main product on consumers minds, as 7 of the top 10 favourite pet brands provide meals for pets. Two of the brands named exclusively sell treats for cats (Dreamies) and dogs (Kong), so there is room in this market for additional, discretionary purchases.

To successfully market to this audience you must offer high quality and durable products. Price is of slightly less importance, although 16.4% of pet owners would move to a new brand if the price offered was lower.

Securing Google and Amazon reviews should be important for your brand, as pet owners will turn to these websites first when making decisions on behalf of their pets.

If you’d like to delve deeper into pet owner’s behaviours and attitudes, or gather your own consumer insights on another market that matters most to your brand, get in touch with Attest today. Uncover unexpected behaviours amongst key consumes, and perhaps even discover new markets ripe for your brand.

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