How pet care businesses can use customer data to engage Millennials

By Fran Quilty, CEO and founder of e-commerce data specialist Conjura

The pandemic saw a surge in pet parenting in Millennials, a digital native audience that thinks online-first. This represents a clear growth opportunity for the pet care and pet tech segments to turn new owners into loyal customers for continued growth post-lockdown.  However, that will only be possible if businesses have the means to capture and make sense of data they hold, both on the owner and the pet.

Interrogating data surfaces the insights that will help grow your business in a way that is informed by facts, rather than by opinion or intention – after all customers don’t always act exactly as they claim they will.

This data then presents an opportunity to drive growth through existing customers, rather than focusing solely on chasing new ones. Customer acquisition is already expensive, but it could become even more so when Google finally cuts out tracking Cookies next year.

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1. Omnichannel thinking

Pet parenting can be emotional, and emotionally fraught, your job is to guide new owners through the ups and the downs. The best way to drive loyalty is through understanding your customers and developing a data-informed relationship.

As such, make the most of your omnichannel estate using the appropriate digital channels to meet the needs of your audience at any given time. Use tailored content in the right places to drive acquisition, typically social media. Also bear in mind that the boundaries between social and e-commerce are blurring for younger consumers, so your online shop shouldn’t necessarily be the only end point in the sales funnel.

New parents need education and reassurance so use blog posts, YouTube and podcasts to bring Millennials to your brand when they are actively seeking advice, whether that’s at home or on the move.

Sometimes, nothing less than a one-to-one consultation will do. Be prepared to answer questions on an ad hoc basis over social, or to schedule consultations over Zoom or an even an old-fashioned call if customers need a more in-depth discussion around something like a personalised healthcare plan.


2. Take home the best in breed

Once you have reached an annual turnover of around £3-5 million you should have sufficient customer data/opt-in marketing data to allow for meaningful segmentation. It’s at this stage you need to look to data analytics to maintain growth.

Before you are in a position to make the most of that data, it’s necessary to get your (data) house in order. Attempting to retrofit a standard e-commerce and CRM suite is more trouble than it’s worth and will only lead to frustration and wasted time in the longer term.

The value of your data model is defined by output. This will be dictated by how much preparation goes in at the very start, if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out. As such, it’s well-worth investing in a specialist cloud-based solution from the outset. All existing user data sources should be extracted, cleaned and deduplicated to be combined into a single, accessible database. This ensures the data can be ‘read’ by the chosen analytics engine.


3. Avoid data for data’s sake

There will be, or should be, a lot of data to work with – the big question is where do you start? The key is to decide exactly what data you ‘really’ need` in line with specified strategic priorities. Most typically, this is to find out how marketing spend on customer acquisition is performing to understand what channels and what campaigns are driving most growth. Or you might want to identify and engage with existing customers that offer the highest potential lifetime value.

Over time, you can expand the parameters beyond marketing to provide bigger picture insights on operations – to optimise factors like customer service and deliveries. In the first instance though, it’s sensible to start with the most pressing strategic growth priority.


4. Read the signs

Interrogating the data helps you understand the needs and motivations of particular audience segments. How you define each category should be informed by the demonstrable, and most reoccurring, needs of these different cohorts. For instance, reorder rates and pricing will differ in line with different species and/or different breeds, as well as age, and these factors dictate when and how regularly to engage with owners.

Also, watch out for customers whose behaviours suggest they have the potential to churn: indicators might include diminished engagement with the website or app over time, viewing Ts & Cs pages in the case of a subscription business etc. A bit of detective work, combined with an understanding of their particular needs and pain points allows you to reengage with them with tailored offers or similar.


5. Think growth

Customer acquisition will be the primary driver as businesses scale up. However, in the post-cookie world, it will pay to take extra attention to the needs of your existing customers. Behaviours can be used to identify sales opportunities including new product and service lines, or business models including subscriptions: for example, owners of pampered pets that regularly buy treats and toys could be upsold to pet fashions; customers who have invested in pet monitoring technologies or calming canine pheromone sprays might also appreciate dog walking or doggy day care services.

As such, it’s important to set aside regular time – at least weekly, but preferably daily – to review the behaviours of your customers, particularly the high-value returning ones. Good data management will allow you to be far more responsive to opportunities as they present themselves and also to respond to competitor activity. It means marketing budgets can be reallocated daily if the data suggests a higher value customer can be secured via a different channel, thus driving profitability. It will also mean that you’re not wasting your online marketing spend driving customers to buy products that are out of stock.

We are all very aware of the rush to online over the past year, it means the market will be much more competitive once the market stabilises. There is a clear opportunity to secure the loyalty of younger pet parents, and do bear in mind the digital-first world the Millennials inhabit will be become the norm. As such, it is only those companies that have embraced data and analytics that will be positioned to grow at pace.

By Fran Quilty, CEO and founder of e-commerce data specialist Conjura

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