Competitive vet practices

Over the last few years, the veterinary sector has gone through a number of changes, including many practices now being owned by corporate groups – in 2018 the figure reached 50% of practices. This percentage is predicted to increase to 70% in the next five years.

Many health products are now available online and with growing consumer demand, pet health products are going in the same direction. The changing face of the high street means that instead of popping down to your local shop, everything you need is only one click away.

The veterinary sector is no different, pet owners are looking online to buy their pet products. Increasing competition from pet shops and online retailers means that pet owners are shopping around for pet’s health products and won’t necessarily get them from their vet, especially after the initial purchase. But what does this mean for veterinary practices? Could they be heading the same way as the high street? How can they remain competitive in an ever-changing sector?

Veterinary practices offer a professional service that you can’t get online. If your pet is unwell, you take it to your local vet for their trusted opinion. However, with an ever-growing online presence in households, pet owners have multiple platforms at their disposal to help diagnose their animal’s health problems and it may not be long before online consultations are more popular.

In a recent Nutravet survey, 80% of respondents said that if their pet is ill, their first port of call would be their vets and only just under 10% said they would Google the problem. However, in order to stay competitive and offer something unique, should veterinary practices be offering exclusive products that you can’t buy online, as well as treating our pets?

Pet owners trust the advice and product recommendations they receive from their vet or veterinary nurse due to their professional judgement, knowledge and experience. It can be frustrating for vets to recommend products, which clients then go to buy from other retailers. Selling veterinary exclusive products ensures clients can only buy these high quality recommended products from practices, providing not only the continued client contact but also the reward for their efforts and experience.

If they cannot purchase these products from their vet practice, pet owners will often buy different substandard products from pet shops or online retailers. If vet practices offer exclusive products which cannot be purchased elsewhere, this will ensure clients return to the practice, which benefits from the repeat business and are more likely to recommend those products and services to other pet owners.

The fact that anything and everything is now available online can lead to owners buying low quality drugs or health supplements that have not been recommended, without the right advice that meets the needs of the animal. Because veterinary practices offer a specific service, with their experience and knowledge, they are in a great position to recommend and sell exclusive products to owners. This will help to build good ongoing client relationships and provide opportunities to cross sell other products and services.

Matthew Shaw, managing director of Nutravet, said: “We have supported veterinary practices for the last 10 years by selling our high quality products exclusively through authorised vet practices and not selling to online retailers or pet shops. This helps to ensure that clients return to the practice to buy more products and continue to do so, increasing footfall. High quality veterinary exclusive products can help practices to stay competitive and bring some great opportunities for practices.”

Many practices are now also setting up out of town to avoid high business rates and become more accessible to pet owners. The vast changing marketplace and corporate ownerships means the once dirty word ‘profit’ is now becoming more and more important to vet practices and they need to look for new and unique ways to offer clients reasons to visit the vets or the high street curse will inevitably catch up with the veterinary sector.

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