For the past year, I’ve been volunteering at a local animal shelter in Chicago, and I’ve loved spending my time caring for the dogs and cats there. While I’m not quite ready to adopt a pet yet, most of my friends are proud dog or cat parents, and being a “dog mom” nowadays has taken on new meaning, from taking “pawternity” leave to get your new pup acquainted at home to getting your pup into the most elite doggy day care.
What’s Dif-fur-ent Now
Overwhelmingly, millennials are more likely to become parents of pets than parents of children. While millennials in their 30s are half as likely to be married or living with a partner than 50 years ago, they’re now significantly more likely to own dogs or cats than the general population. As millennials find themselves putting their careers ahead of marriage and families, or making the decision to be child-free, pets provide worthwhile companionship without the costs and time required of parenthood.
Millennials are more likely to pamper their pets as well – special and limited ingredient treats, pet boutiques and dog bakeries are becoming increasingly more popular – on multiple occasions I’ve passed a doggy food truck that roams the streets in Chicago selling a variety of baked goods and treats just for pups.
Gadgets and technology are also growing in popularity in the pet market. Apps like Rover let dog owners connect with pet sitters and dog walkers, and DogVacay sets dog owners up with sitters in their area. Purina even has an app for cats: their “Cat Fishing” app lets your cat use their paws to “catch” fish on your screen in an engaging and challenging game.
With these advances in pet technology, would it be crazy to think that we could see doggy focus groups becoming mainstream or eye-tracking research for cats? It might be a little…far-fetched, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility.
Bark & Co., the company behind the successful subscription toy and treat service, BarkBox, has already experimented with giving dogs the ability to pick their own toys. Their pop-up store in New York placed RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags in toys, and put RFID readers on dogs to track which toys they interacted with the most, then provided that information back to the owners to help them make purchases for their dogs.
Ipsos is also able to use custom video and image analysis to quantify consumer behavior and this technology could easily be applied to pets as well. What does your pup think of his new leash? Combining consumer responses along with video analysis of your dog’s interaction with the leash on walks can provide the answer.
As millennials cling onto trends that integrate technology and personalization, such innovations will likely continue to poke through into the millennial-driven pet market. With the expansion of the pet market, consumer segmentation research is key to target consumers along the spectrum of casual pet owner to highly involved pet parent and understand the different functional and emotional drivers that separate these consumers from one another.
Like parents spoil their children, millennials spoil their fur babies – and as the pet market continues to grow, so will opportunities for innovators and marketers to understand the changing needs of both pets and their human parents.