From veterinary consultations to pet food sales, the petcare sector is going digital. And with the UK buying 3.2 million pets during the pandemic, that’s just going to increase.
At the same time, the market is getting ever more saturated and it’s harder than ever to gain clout as a new-to-market brand selling online. It’s predicted a third of global petcare sales will be e-commerce transactions by 2026.
SME brands, particularly those new to this market, may be looking to ramp up their own e-commerce options and try to drive traffic to their websites. However, in many cases they may be better served to look at joining an existing online marketplace.
A site like Amazon, Rakuten or Walmart may actually be the optimal launchpad for a petcare brand that wants to establish itself as a reliable supplier and target the new wave of owners.
The value of the ‘Golden Quarter’
Most companies that sell to consumers know the importance of the Golden Quarter – the three months from Black Friday/Cyber Monday to Christmas and the New Year. For pet owners – and soon-to-be owners who don’t yet know about the puppy that will be under the Christmas tree this year – it’s even more important.
Data shows that dog owners are 35% more likely than average to have made an online purchase via Amazon during the 2020 Black Friday shopping event, while cat owners are 21% more likely than average to have made a purchase during that event.
This means marketplaces are a shortcut to the right demographic at the right time.
The overheads that come with launching a website can be challenging: web hosting alone can set sellers back quite a bit. But marketplaces take those costs on themselves, giving brands spare income to invest in marketing strategies that will grow their businesses, like sponsored display ads and retargeting.
Take advantage of product searches
Many shoppers research products, not brands. With that in mind, SME petcare brands shouldn’t worry about being swallowed up by the household names that are usually already selling on the marketplaces. In fact, they should use it to their advantage.
While competitively-priced products with unique functionalities can certainly win over iconic brands, the bottleneck online has always been visibility.
However, many marketplaces allow sellers to place advertisements directly onto competitor product pages, filtering out the risk of showcasing products on an irrelevant listing. It also helps to start a relationship with a pet owner already interested in the category.
Marketplaces do sometimes run into an issue of trust. Pets are part of the family, and shoppers will be cautious in what they buy online.
Phoney reviews, for example, are spiralling into social media and are now almost impossible to police. While the five-star rating will always be a bonus, the value of a review in making a purchase decision dwindles if it becomes harder to authenticate.
This is where the distinct brand voice comes in. While websites are more effective in engaging with customers on issues like refunds, vouchers and things that can be solved by a chatbot, marketplaces enable personal relationships with shoppers.
For example, sellers can respond directly to reviews for their aquarium filters, cat food and chew toys, driving loyalty from the existing customer base and reassuring newcomers erring on the side of caution. They can also make the purchase journey easier by sharing FAQ answers to common questions on their landing pages.
A wide range of tools and tricks
There are many unique tools, like storefronts and rich media, that are also key to establishing trust. Storefronts allow petcare brands to engage with shoppers just like bricks & mortar stores by showcasing hallmark holiday ranges, discounted offers and new product launches.
Brands can also curate landing pages: integrating banners, text boxes and enhanced imagery that mirror a traditional website. The ability for SMEs to build bespoke profiles will matter to consumers, as sellers with curated storefronts and landing pages tell a brand story while also reassuring shoppers wary of counterfeits.
In addition, products can travel far and wide with offsite retargeting ads, which can display products a user has searched on third-party platforms for up to 28 days. A distracted shopper can soon find themselves back to the listing when nudged by an ad.
Sponsored display ads are also an effective tool in building broader awareness across the different corners of your chosen marketplace: product detail pages, search results and even the main home page. They can pique the interest of shoppers, whether on a targeted search or exploring wider categories.
Measure and optimise
Of course, petcare brands will also need to track precise metrics: monitoring which products gain the most impressions, how long a customer stays on a landing page and which browsers convert into sales. An insight-led marketplace strategy will only have benefits if activity is optimised 24/7.
But those willing to invest will gain an acute targeting of their key audience while also attracting new visitors. Sites like Amazon already attract millions of shoppers, so petcare brands have a ready-made audience just waiting for them.