eCommerce Marketing Guide for the Pet Industry: Strategies for Pet Product Marketing
Carrying out general eCommerce marketing strategies is all well and good, but general strategies won’t get you the results you’re after. You need to prioritise the strategies that are going to work best and bring in the most revenue for your industry - the pet industry.
We’ve developed our proven growth framework which is split into demand generation, demand capture, and retention. To successfully grow your business and achieve your full potential, you need to target all 3 areas of the framework in your marketing strategy.
Throughout this blog, we will guide you through every aspect of the framework with strategies that are specifically for businesses within the pet industry (like yours). We’ll also throw in some real-life examples to give you that extra level of understanding. So let’s get started.
Want to talk to us about the strategies that might work best for your business? Simply get in touch.
For your target audience to become paying customers, they first need to be aware of your brand and have a desire for your products. That’s where demand generation comes in. But how do you get your brand and pet products out there and in front of your target audience? Just follow these three strategies and you’ll be well on your way.
Paid Socials Ads
It may seem like an obvious statement but animals are very popular on social media. It’s almost impossible to scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing at least a handful of posts about your friends and families dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, or whatever other pets they adore. And it’s not just that people love posting about their pets, people also love seeing other people's cute and funny pets.
This is where your audience is.
Creating social media ads will get you in front of your audience who are already interested and ready to engage with animal content on social media. But you need to create a hook to grab the attention of your target audience. This could be by the angle you take or by offering an incentive. Ensure your ads are engaging, entertaining, and provide some information about your brand and products to encourage your target audience to pay attention to the ad and gain an awareness and understanding of who you are and what you sell. We recommend testing different angles and offers to see what best resonates with your audience.
When it comes to types of social ads, there are a wide range of formats that you can choose from. But to start with, we recommend creating the 4 best ad types - photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, and story ads.
Firstly, if you’re wanting to focus your ad on a single clear message, like information about a sale, a photo ad might be the best way to go. Using a single image combined with a heading, description, and call to action will allow your message to stand out. For example, Blink Cat Food use a single image in this ad to clearly communicate the message that customers can get a trial pack for £1.
The next ad type we recommend is video ads. With a single short, eye-catching video, you can stop your audience mid-scroll. Like photo ads, video ads are good for getting a single clear message across and should be combined with a heading, description, and call to action. For example, Pet Zone has created a single video ad of cute dogs playing with their product - a frisbee ball. This video aims to entertain their audience to encourage them to watch the video as well as providing a clear message that the watcher can get a free frisbee ball.
Carousel ads are made up of 2-10 images or videos in an interactive slideshow that the user can flick through at their leisure. This type of ad is great for highlighting your best selling products or promoting your product categories. For example, The Crafty Dog Co ran a carousel ad with 10 images of products including dog seat belts, dog bow ties, and bundle deals.
Last (but not least), story ads allow you to get in front of your audience when they are highly engaged. Create an image or preferably a short, engaging video to get your customers attention. This should be followed by a single image with overlaying text summing up the main message of your video and a call to action. For example, Denzel’s created a Facebook story ad which includes a video showing off their range of dental sticks followed by an image with text listing the benefits of the dental sticks and the “Shop now” call to action.
As well as family and friends posting about their pets on social media, it’s very likely that you also follow influencers who post content with or about their pets. These influencers often have a large following of people who would also be part of your target audience. Working with influencers to use and promote your products will bring awareness of your brand and products to the influencer’s (and your) audience.
However, working with big influencers can be very costly which increases the risk of not seeing a ROI. One alternative is to work with micro-influencers within the pet industry to promote your products. However, this also comes with a cost. We have an alternative that just involves sending out a free product rather than paying for influencer marketing - product seeding.
Instead of having a short-term business deal, you want to develop a long-term relationship with influencers. This long term relationship begins by offering to send one of your products to an influencer for free with no expectations of anything in return.
So how exactly do we do this? The first step is to reach out to at least 500 influencers within your industry offering your free product around once a month. At least 100 influencers out of the 500 should agree to receive your free product. At least 30 of these influencers usually go on to produce a couple of pieces of content featuring your product, generating around 60-90 pieces of free and unique content. You can then use these pieces of content in your paid ads. Not only does this add an essential human element to your ads, it also helps to combat ad fatigue as you’ll be generating a bank of influencer content that you can use every month.
An example of this is from LumoLeaf who sent a dog treat ball and a dog bowl mat for free (without payment to promote the products) to Meg, the owner of the popular TikTok account mickeymarisandmeg. Meg then created content about these items to say thank you to LumoLeaf for the free products, ultimately spreading awareness of their brand to Meg’s 283.8k followers
A unique aspect of influencer marketing within the pet industry is that the influencers you reach out to might not always be human. With a growing number of people creating social media accounts for their pets, and many people flocking to social media to see entertaining and educational animal videos, you’ve got a huge amount of animal influencers you could reach out to as well as human animal-loving influencers. For example, the TikTok account hazel_theminiwiener is set up so that the account and most of the videos are from the perspective of the dog Hazel rather than her owner.
As we’ve mentioned, many people (a lot of which will be your target audience) flock to social media platforms (like TikTok) to be entertained by cute and funny animal videos. To target these potential customers we recommend creating an account for your eCommerce business and producing engaging animal videos that are both entertaining and informative.
The great thing about TikTok is that your target audience don’t have to be following you to see your videos and interact with your brand. On TikTok, most people spend their time flicking through the videos on their For You page. Instead of all of these videos being from content creators they follow, many of them are from creators they don’t follow and may not have seen before.
The TikTok algorithm chooses which videos to show the user based on their interests. Therefore, if the user regularly watches, enjoys, and interacts with animal videos on TikTok, the algorithm is likely to show them more animal videos from a range of content creators. This is great news for you as a pet business owner because as long as you create good content, the TikTok algorithm should start showing your videos to animal and pet lovers on the app, aka your target audience.
This algorithm also allows for videos to go viral. If you create or are featured in a video that goes viral, this will greatly increase your organic reach, getting you in front of more of your target audience. As well as extending your organic reach on TikTok, viral videos are also shared across other social media platforms, extending your organic reach even further.
For example, Milunova created Stop & Go Poop Bags which are colour coded to tell dog owners when the roll of bags is coming to an end. On their TikTok they created a video of this product which went viral and has been seen by 9.2 million TikTok users and has been shared 8590 times, increasing their organic reach.
The next stage of the growth framework is capturing the demand for your products. Some of this demand will have been generated through the strategies in the previous section. However, some of this demand will come from people who are searching for your products without knowing that your brand exists. You want to capture both of these kinds of demand as both can lead to conversions and revenue growth.
When you want to buy a product online, where’s the first place you go? Most people will go to a search engine to search for a type of product and see what brands and specific products appear in the SERPs. So if you’re wanting to capture the demand for your products, the best place you can be is on the first results page when your target customer makes that search request.
So how do you get on that first page? The quickest way is through paid search. Placing your brand as a sponsored ad on the first few results pages should boost your brand's visibility to your target audience. But first you need to use keyword research to decide which keywords you’re going to display your ads for.
Depending on the keyword you’re targeting and the range of products you sell, you might want your paid search ads to take your audience to a category page or a product page. Ideally you should avoid an ad linking to your homepage as this is likely to have a higher bounce rate as customers wouldn’t want to spend time searching for the product.
For example, The Red Dog Company has a paid search ad for the search term “dog bed” which takes users to their dog bed collection page. In this ad, The Red Dog Company has leveraged the option for extensions including site links, call out elements, and review ratings. They also have Google brand verification which shows their logo. Adding these elements to your paid search ad doesn’t cost anything extra but has a positive effect on increasing your CTR. Not only does the logo make the ad stand out, but the extensions mean the ad takes up more SERPs real estate, increasing the chance of your target audience clicking on your ad.
For paid search to be effective, it’s important to target the search engines that your customers are using. This is often traditional search engines like Google and Bing. But it’s also important to consider search engines like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram. After all, almost 40% of Gen Z prefer using TikTok and Instagram as a search engine over Google.
As well as paid search, paid shopping ads are also a great way to get in front of your target audience when they are most likely to engage and convert. Highlighting only one product per ad, shopping ads include an image to capture your audience's attention and attract them onto your site. For example, Lords & Labradors have set up Google shopping ads for three of their dog coats. Therefore, when a potential customer searches “Tartan dog coat” in Google, their ads appear:
Like search ads, shopping ads appear at the top and bottom of the SERPs. However, with shopping ads you’ll need to focus more on feed optimisation in your Google Merchant Centre as you won’t have as much control over which keywords your ads will be listed for.
Paid shopping ads tend to be cheaper in terms of CPC than paid search ads with a $0.66 average CPC for Google shopping ads and a $2.69 average CPC for Google search ads. This makes paid shopping a great place to start (if you don’t currently have any paid ads) or a great place to focus your optimisations (if you’re already running paid shopping ads).
Although paid search and paid shopping ads get you where you want to be (the first results page) and fast, they’re not the only method you can use to get traffic to your website from the SERPs. You’re going to want to add organic SEO into your strategy to further increase your revenue.
However, it takes time to reach organic success with little returns at the beginning of your organic SEO journey. This is why paid search and Google ads are great for getting sales while you’re building your organic SEO channel.
Once you’re achieving organic success, keeping your paid ads alongside your organic listings will take up more SERP real estate. The more SERP real estate you have, the higher your chances of potential customers clicking through to your site and ultimately making a purchase.
There are many SEO strategies you can use to increase your organic success with the main pillars being technical, content, and authority.
Technical SEO is the foundation upon which the rest of your site relies. If your foundation isn’t sturdy, the rest of your site won’t reach its full potential. Optimising the technical foundation of your site ensures search engines can access, crawl, and index your site, allowing them to properly understand and rank your site in the best way for their users.
So now you have some understanding of why technician SEO is important, but what exactly is involved in optimising the technical side of your site? Some of the core aspects of technical SEO are ensuring your site has fast loading speeds and the correct canonical tags and no-index tags in place, as well as ensuring your site architecture is clear, easy to navigate with faceted navigation, and user-friendly.
Although these are some of the main things that will improve your technical SEO, there are other strategies you should consider to further boost your SEO (and improve the user experience). This includes using hreflang tags for international, fixing broken links, and making sure your website is mobile-friendly. After-all, almost 50% of eCommerce sales are done on mobile devices.
As the name suggests, content SEO is all about optimising the content on your site. To optimise your content, you’ll need to do keyword research to understand what keywords your target audience are using, what their intent is with these keywords, and whether you’ll be able to rank for these keywords. We recommend targeting long tail keywords as these will be less competitive and users are more likely to be further down the funnel with a higher commercial intent.
Once you’ve done your keyword research, it’s important that you don’t overuse your keywords in your content. Instead you want to use them naturally throughout your metadata, headings, subheadings, and body of text. Over time you should monitor your rankings and make any adjustments based on changes in your keyword research.
We recommend breaking content SEO down into three areas - current content, new content, and content strategy. To optimise your current content, ensure it includes the right keywords and aligns to the user intent for those keywords. Next, create new content that targets useful keywords that you’re not currently targeting. And finally, create a content strategy to plan and create regular content aimed at your target audience at every level of the content funnel.
The last pillar of organic SEO is to build your site’s authority. Search engines want to provide their users with the best experience. Therefore, they’re more likely to rank the sites that they consider reliable, trustworthy, and useful to their users above other sites. To rank higher in the SERPs, you need to have a similar or higher authority to that of your competitors. But how do you prove yourself to search engines and build that all important site authority?
Authority comes from gaining backlinks to your site through link building and digital PR. But you don’t want just any backlinks. To help build your authority, the back links need to be from relevant and authoritative sites. This tells search engines that your site is trustworthy and your content is valuable.
If you would like to discuss your approach to SEO, our specialist team is here to help. Simply get in touch.
Nearly half of shoppers bypass search engines and go straight to large eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy. Therefore, if you’re not selling on marketplaces, you’re not capturing this demand and are losing possible sales and profit. For example, the image below shows the organic opportunities on Amazon for pet food brands.
Listing on marketplaces, specifically Amazon, is your first step. But this is a basic necessity when it comes to marketplace success. You can’t just list your products and expect a rise in sales. Like with search engines, over time your products may gain some organic traction and rise within the listings. But to ensure you get in front of your marketplace customers and quickly, you’ll need to capture the demand through paid ads.
With paid Amazon ads you have two options. You can either run automatic ads that use the keywords throughout your product listing to choose which keywords your ad will be listed for. On the other hand, you could run manual ads where you can pick which keywords you target. We recommend running manual ads as this gives you more control over who searches your ads are listed for and where your budget goes.
One key part of the structure of manual Amazon ads is that you get to choose whether you want to list for exact matches, broad matches, or phrase matches of your chosen keywords. We recommend setting up separate ad campaigns for all three of the types of keyword matches. This allows you to control and spread out the budget for each type of keyword match. If you don’t separate your campaigns, your budget won’t be split equally across your ad groups. Instead, all of your daily budget could be quickly used up on high-bidding exact keywords. Therefore, creating an ad structure with separate campaigns and one ad group per campaign gives you more control (and more success) than having one ad campaign with multiple ad groups.
Email marketing is often used as part of the demand retention aspect of the framework (which we will come to later), but it also has its place as part of demand capture.
To be able to leverage email marketing, you first need to get a list of your target audience’s email addresses. To build this list, we recommend encouraging your website visitors to sign up with their email address.
But they’re not just going to give you their email address for no reward, you have to give them something in return. This could be to receive a discount code, when signing up for a free sample, to be entered into a giveaway, or while taking a quiz you’ve created, for example, what are the best food ingredients for your dog?
When signing up, it’s useful to gain some information about the customer in order to be able to send them the most relevant emails. For example, create a multiple choice question asking what type of pet they have, breed of dog they have, or what their main pain point with their pet is.
For example, FreshPet has created a quiz to help their website visitors find which of their pet food is best for their pet. In this quiz, questions are asked about which ingredients to avoid, what common health issues their pet struggles with, the type and name of their pet, and the all important email address question.
For more strategies on how best to build your target audience email list, check out our blog.
Once you’ve got these email addresses, you’ve got a way to capture the demand of people who have shown some interest in your brand and products. You can then use email flows to move these potential customers further down the funnel and on to conversion. For example, you could send out a welcome series flow to provide your audience with more information about your brand and your products, customer reviews, and limited discount codes with a countdown. All of these will build trust and encourage conversion.
Here’s an example of what a welcome email series could look like:
You could also use email marketing to encourage purchases around certain times of the year. It’s clear that pet-owners love to spoil their pets with research suggesting that around 70% of dog and cat owners buy Christmas gifts for their pets. Therefore, on special occasions like Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s day, and the pet’s birthday (and even more unconventional holidays like national dog day), pet owners are more likely to want to treat their pet to a new toy, a new collar, or a special dinner. Sending out emails targeting these special occasions using messaging that focus on the emotions of the pet (like “don’t let your dog feel left out this Christmas”) alongside possible pet presents, is likely to encourage the pet owner to make a purchase. For example, VioVet sent out this email to encourage subscribers to buy christmas presents for their small pets.
Once you reach the demand retention stage, the good news is that customers are buying from your site. But you don’t want your success to stop after just one purchase. The beauty of the pet industry is that most of the products people buy for their pets won’t be one-off purchases.
With the average lifespan of dogs and cats being 14 years, rabbits being 7-10 years, and horses being 25-30 years (as well as many other pets with lifespans of years to decades), you have the potential to keep your customers buying from you for the duration of their pet’s life and beyond (with many people owning multiple pets throughout their life).
So how do you retain your customers and keep them coming back for more?
Whether you have a sign up system of gaining your customer’s email addresses before they purchase or not, once a customer has purchased from your site, you should have acquired their email address. If this isn’t part of your checkout process, you’re missing out on vital marketing opportunities including improving your customer experience by sending delivery updates and confirmation emails, as well as asking for customer reviews and the opportunity for retention emails.
Once you have your email list of customers who have purchased from you, you can send out email flows to encourage cross-sells and upsells that would go well with their recent purchase. For example, if a customer bought a dog collar, you could promote a matching lead, dog coats that would go well with the collar, or an accessory like a bow for the collar.
Your customer retention list could also be used for promoting pet purchases for special occasions and holidays, like discussed in the above demand capture section.
As well as cross-sells and upsells, email marketing can also be used to encourage repeat purchases. Depending on the average lifespan of your product, you can target your customers for a repeat purchase once the product lifespan is coming to an end.
For example, if a customer bought pet food from you that should last 8 weeks, they should be looking to make a repeat purchase after around 6-8 weeks. Targeting them with an email or two about buying more pet food between weeks 6-8 (in this example) and a link to the pet food they bought will make it easy for them to purchase the food again.
Check out this real-life example from Chewy:
Although the lifespan of a collar will be longer than the lifespan of a bag of dog treats, at some point, most eCommerce pet industry products will need replacing. Sending repurchasing email flows around the time your customers are going to be looking to buy again will encourage them to purchase from you again.
As well as upselling and cross selling through email, you can also upsell and cross sell through retargeting ads on Google. To save money on advertising, you’ll want to make sure you’re only advertising to those who haven’t bought from you in a while or have stopped responding to your email marketing.
You also don’t want the same customers to be targeted with your normal ads as well as retargeting ads. Post iOS 14.5, you can’t exclude certain people from seeing your regular ads. Therefore, it’s not effective to target previous customers with retargeting ads as they will still be receiving your regular ads.
However, Google does allow you to exclude past customers from seeing your regular ads and just show them your retargeting ads. One way to do this is to link the email platform you use to your Google Ads account so that everyone in your existing customer email list will only receive retargeting ads. This process can be done dynamically meaning that as purchases are made, the new customers on your existing customers email list will automatically start receiving the retargeting ads instead of your normal ads.
Similar to email marketing, you can also keep your customers coming back for more through SMS marketing. Sending out marketing messages over text is much more personal and can increase the lifetime value of your customers. But how do you collect your customers' phone numbers? One of the best ways is to offer delivery updates to your customers through SMS during checkout. Alongside this, you could have an opt-in option for SMS marketing. Another way to collect phone numbers is with a pop up.
However, due to this more personal element, we don’t recommend using the same content or frequency of messages as you would use for email marketing. Bombarding your customers with text messages will likely just annoy them and they’ll form a negative opinion of your brand. Therefore, to keep your customers engaged rather than annoyed, you should only use SMS marketing 4-5 times a month. This could be to send out a welcome text or to inform your customers of a sale or a new product arrival. However, due to the higher costs of SMS compared to email, you may only want to target your best customers with SMS marketing.
For example, Pet Supplies Plus use SMS marketing to inform their customers of sales, like this extended Cyber Monday sale:
As we’ve identified, there are some pet products (like food, treats, and flea treatment) that customers are going to need to buy regularly. Creating a subscription option for your products not only ensures repeat purchases, but it also makes life easier for your customer. Subscriptions automatically turn up at your customer's door when they need it most, taking away the stress and worry of needing to remember to regularly purchase the product before they run out. To encourage your customers to sign up for subscriptions, you could offer a slight discount which increases with the length of subscription they sign up for.
As well as essential pet products that need to be regularly purchased, you could also create a subscription box for non-essential items. This could be a monthly or three monthly box sent out to customers that include different items per box like a collar or accessory, a toy, and a bag of treats for their pet. For example, BarkBox offers a monthly subscription box tailored to the customer's dog. Each monthly box has a surprise theme and contains a mixture of dog toys, treats, and chew sticks.
Customer retention can also be encouraged by building a community and a relationship with your customers. Using social media, you can build this relationship, leading to a higher level of brand loyalty and a higher repeat purchase rate in the future.
But how do you build this relationship and community on social media? As we’ve already established, pet owners love to post about their pets on social media, and some of these posts might include products they’ve bought from you. Sharing, interacting or creating a TikTok stitch with these pieces of content will not only improve the social proof and trust in your products, it’ll also show the customer that you’re interested in them, their pet, and how they’re getting on with the product.
Finally, encouraging your customers to tag you in their posts and to use certain hashtags will help to build a sense of community amongst you and your followers on social media, as well as increasing your organic reach. A great example of this is from Chewy who created a competition to find the pet that most looks like Yoda. This resulted in a large number of pet parents uploading photos of their pets, tagging Chewy and using hashtags.
By following these strategies from demand generation to demand capture and through to demand retention, you’ll develop trust, loyalty, and a strong community of customers. And you’ll achieve what all of this is ultimately about - growing your revenue.
If you want advice on marketing strategies for your pet business or have any questions, we’re here to chat.