Traditional Pet-Owner Market Evolves as Channels, Brands Expand

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Market Directions, Inc. recently performed and analyzed a probing study of pet owners' spending habits in relation to the veterinary-oriented pet products industry.

Market Directions, Inc., a brand performance consultancy, recently performed and analyzed a probing study of pet owners' spending habits in relation to the veterinary-oriented pet products industry. The Pet Owner Channel Use Study is based on a survey of a random national sample of more than 1,000 dog and cat owners fielded in September 2007. Comprehensive analyses of the data presented a broad view of consumer habits, buying preferences and channel use among the nation's pet owners as relates to veterinary-centric purchasing.

Produced in collaboration with Dallas-based Brakke Consulting, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in the animal health and nutrition industries, the subscriber-based report offers pet product companies useful, strategic information for use in business planning.

Four distinct segments
The primary research data was tabulated in total and by many of the variables assessed, including demographics, product category spend, channel use, veterinarian influences and brand use. In addition, several advanced analysis were also performed. As a result, four distinct segments of pet owners emerged and were labeled Pet Lovers, Friends, Companions and Caretakers.

Effectively targeting these segments depends on the channel used, the product sold, and the brand's position. Generally speaking, those pet owners with more intense relationships with their pets are bigger spenders and have more of an affinity to remain loyal to the traditional veterinary channel. From a channel perspective, Pet Lovers and Friends represent the greatest business opportunity. And from a product perspective, premium brands will be best served in targeting those two segments. Value-priced brands and value-priced channels are more suited for Companions and Caretakers.

The Pet Owner Channel Use Study furthermore indicated that younger pet owners tend to spend more while relatively older pet owners and retired pet owners spend less. Urban pet owners are more likely to buy their products from the veterinarian, whereas suburban pet owners more likely shop at pet super stores and rural pet owners more likely do their pet shopping at mass merchandisers.

Fundamental changes underway
Several conclusions can be drawn from the study, including the overall fact that fundamental changes are underway in the veterinary-oriented pet products industry. For example, the youthful urbanites are the most likely to visit the veterinary. Other changes? The number of pet products is proliferating, and the use of the Internet for gathering product information and making purchases is also rising.

Whether or not a pet owner buys a particular product from the veterinarian, the fact remains that vets still have significant influence on consumer buying decisions including brand selection. Product categories in which veterinarian recommendations have most influence are: heartworm prevention, therapeutic pet food, flea/tick control, pain management, joint health supplements, wellness pet food, and dental products.

Pet Insurance
About 11% of veterinarian-using pet owners have had first-hand experience with pet health insurance. Six percent currently have it; five percent have had it in the past. The cost of pet insurance appears to be the biggest impediment to its widespread use. Among non-insurance users, the biggest reason cited for not using it was price. Since it is a relatively new product category that has yet to catch on, those pet owners using insurance also demonstrated a low level of product or brand loyalty.

About Market Directions
Market Directions is a Brand Performance consultancy that provides clear direction for brand growth through the voice of the customer. The company helps businesses through new brand acquisition, repositioning, brand extensions -- no matter where the brand is in its lifecycle. Market Directions can help define a solution that will translate into business results. For more information visit http://www.marketdirections.com.

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Lyssa Surface
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