If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s how much pet owners LOVE their pets.
Dogs, cats, fish… hedgehogs… chinchillas… mini pigs (so cute) — you name it. Pet owners will go to great lengths to care for their pets.
It’s no wonder the global pet products market grew to an estimated $180 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow to $255 billion by 2027.
But as a small pet store owner, how do you compete in this market when you’re up against the PetSmart’s and PETCO’s of the world? Or the shmAmazons and Ch*wy.com’s online?
Answer → With a comprehensive marketing strategy tailored to your pet business, built with your niche audience in mind, and aimed at driving online sales and in-store foot traffic, it’s certainly possible to carve out a slice of this multi-billion dollar pie.
In this article, we’ll walk you through:
- how to compete as an online pet product retailer,
- how to grow your brick-and-mortar and online pet store business, and
- how to create a pet store marketing strategy that’ll knock your dog socks off.
The Foundations of a Solid Pet Store Marketing Strategy
A great pet store marketing strategy stems from what you do best. From the pet supplies you sell to the types of pets you cater to, understanding your competitive advantage will help when it comes to mapping out your marketing strategy.
Before you decide you need SEO, or want to run Google Ads, or need help with social media, it’s important to start with:
- What am I better at than my competitors?
- What can I provide that others can not?
- What makes my shop unique?
Starting with what makes your brand and products unique will help you identify which channels of marketing to best utilize. With that said, here are the 10 areas of digital marketing we’ll cover in this post — feel free to click to jump:
- User Experience
- Online Presence
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media
- Paid Ads
1. Providing a Great User Experience — Always
Everything revolves around a great user experience. This goes for both in-store and online.
Your quality of service, knowledge of your niche, and overall friendliness with your customers will leave a lasting impact on them.
If you can’t compete with big-box retailers on price, you need to provide a user experience that pet owners can’t get anywhere else.
- Make recommendations for dog toys for a specific breed
- Help customers find what they’re looking for easily (both in-store and online)
- Take the time to teach a customer about an important topic for their pet
Establish Trust & Showcase Your Expertise
Establishing trust and showcasing your expertise will reward you with loyalty. For small pet stores, loyal (returning) customers are the lifeblood of your business. Making a great impression leads to so many benefits down the line.
Maybe that customer will recommend you to their friends. Maybe they’ll come back when they need something new. Maybe they’ll post on social media about your shop or product that they bought.
Your professionalism in the store can lead to followers, shares, and purchases online.
2. Branding Your Pet Store
Your professionalism in-store also has brand implications. If you’re sassy with your customers, they’ll remember your brand as being cold, rude, or even *gasp* pretentious.
Ironing out a brand strategy for your pet store is key to reaching your target audience and differentiating yourself from the competition. For your pet business, this means:
- Written Content
- Visual Identity
- Tone of Voice
- and so much more
“Your brand is a person’s gut feeling about your products and your store. Everything needs to coalesce into one central identity to give off the “vibe” that you wish to give off.”
Examples of Pet Brands Online
For example, PetSafe manufactures — you guessed it — safe pet products. Everything from their name to the design of their website to the written content they use revolves around their core brand attribute — safety.
Another example, Feliway makes stress-relieving products for cats. Visit their site. What color do you see? Purple. Purple has a calming effect on the mind and body and therefore is perfect for a brand selling stress relief.
Orienting your brand identity around your core competencies, culture, and values is the way to go. Doing so will help you reach your target audience.
3. Reaching Your Target Audience
Who are you doing this for? Understanding your audience is the cradle of your marketing strategy. Before you go investing money in paid ads, or creating blog posts, you need to understand who you’re going after.
For small pet store owners, your first thought should be local. Capitalizing on your local market is key before trying to expand into national ecommerce.
Understand the customers in your neighborhood, city, or region. How can you adapt your marketing strategy towards them?
This could be as simple as adding your city to your website, to target local keywords, i.e. “Specialty Dog Food Supply Store in Portland.” Or it could be:
- Participating in a well-known local community event.
- Partnering with local news organizations for PR opportunities.
- Collaborating with local influencers to review your products.
- Adding “buy online, pick up in-store” options to your website.
- Hosting a “pet happy hour” at your location
Understanding your local audience is an excellent first step.
Selling pet products online (nationally) takes an intimate understanding of your pet niche and your audience. A comprehensive understanding of your audience typically includes their:
- Pain points
- Online activities
- Media consumption
- Social media usage
- City they were born in
- Mom’s maiden name
Ok, maybe not those last two. But you get the point. Understanding ALL of these areas helps you formulate a strategy to target your audience with the best approach.
Reaching your audience through the right channels and providing them with solutions to their needs is the name of the game. Doing so, while providing a best-in-class user experience and by developing trust in your brand — wow — now that’s what leads to brand loyalty.
4. Maintaining an Active Online Presence
Online presence, visibility, “findability” — whatever you want to call it, people need to be able to find you online.
There are a couple of areas that are no brainers for ensuring your pet store can be found online:
- Business listings: Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places, Yellow Pages, BBB, etc.
- Website: examplepetstore.com
- Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
Optimizing your website and business listings for local search is at the heart of a good SEO strategy for pet stores. Not only must you be findable, but you also want to outrank your closest competitors.
Over one-third of all clicks on Google go to the first result, while two-thirds go to the top 5 results. Working with an SEO agency to improve your rankings will help your business grow long-term.
5. Setting Up Your Pet Store as an Ecommerce Website
Creating an ecommerce store for your pet business is the best way to increase your sales. However, there’s a little more to it than simply setting up an online shopping cart and checkout feature.
A great pet store ecommerce website will have:
- A beautiful design highlighting your brand, logo, and colors
- Intuitive “add to cart” and “buy now” functionality
- Simple usability and easy navigation
- Product search functionality
- Unique product descriptions
- Proper site hierarchy with categories and sub-categories
- Product recommendations
- Upselling and cross-selling functionality
- Compelling calls to action (CTAs)
Ecommerce stores can quickly become expensive sites to build and run, however there are many website builders out there that make setting up your store fairly easy.
Utilizing Shopify for Easy Ecommerce Building
Shopify is the top ecommerce platform and offers a variety of themes for building your store. The Shopify developer network is also one of the largest in the world, which means there’s always someone to hire for help building or implementing your store.
Blending a Local & National Ecommerce Strategy
Just because you want to sell nationally, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your local market. In fact, local customers will prefer the online option for purchasing your products.
Leveraging “buy online, pickup in-store” options is a great way to capture online sales that may have otherwise gone to Amazon.
“Sure it may be hard to compete with 2-day delivery, but if you can offer local customers the option of picking up their favorite gourmet dog food in-store, same-day, it might be just enough to persuade them to buy from you (or to pay that little bit extra).”
Cashing in on Local Products
Similarly, utilizing “shop local” phrasing across your site might also help convey your shop as boutique, specialty, or even mom-and-pop. 83% of shoppers say they would rather support a local business than a large corporation, while 7 in 10 say they would intentionally go out of their way to support local businesses.
Just because you ship nationwide doesn’t mean you need to give up your locally-focused, community-driven brand.
6. Driving Traffic & Visitors to Your Website through SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like building a road. Would you rather have a dirt road or a highway leading to your store?
Investing in SEO for your pet store will help with both online and in-store sales, help you become more findable online, and grow your overall presence on the internet.
“Working with an SEO strategist early (ideally, before you begin building your site), will be the single best thing you do for your ecommerce website.”
SEO Best Practices for Pet Stores
Many of the basic SEO best practices for websites will apply to pet stores. However, there are some unique ones that are worth mentioning too.
- Optimized Title & Meta Descriptions based on Keyword Research
- Optimized Product, Category, About, and Location Pages
- Optimized URL structure
- Optimized ALT text for images
- Optimized Anchor text for Internal Linking
- Structured Data for Business & Product Details
Not to mention the complicated technical SEO factors such as crawling, indexing, page speed, and 301 redirects which often are major factors with ecommerce websites.
Additional reading: 5 Ways to Drive More Organic Traffic to your Pet Store Site
Unique SEO Strategies for Pet Stores
Example 1: Blogging. Blogging is a great way to expand your keyword reach and bring in quality traffic for topics that matter to your customers. You could blog about topics related to the products you sell and even feature the products in your blog and sell them directly from your blog.
Example 2: Link Building. Building links to your website is the best thing you can do to grow it’s authority (and higher authority = higher rankings). Reach out to local organizations, chambers of commerce, news organizations, community centers, and other local shops to ask for links. You could create a unique piece of local content for them to link to like:
- 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds in Portland
- or 10 Best Trails for Hiking with Dogs in Portland
7. Keeping Your Pet Website Fresh with Content & Blogs
A website is not “set it and forget it.” Neither is SEO. Keeping your pet website fresh with content marketing and blogs will help grow it’s rankings over time. After all, no one will find your website when they search “best dog food for senior dogs” unless you’ve written about it.
A comprehensive pet store blogging strategy for your pet store will help you target new, valuable keywords, and help newer (more national) users arrive at your online store.
Beyond the SEO benefits of blogging, it’s simply good practice to show your customers that you have thoughts about pet topics and regularly share them.
E-A-T: Google’s Definition of Quality Content
In the content game, E-A-T is everything. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness — three things you want all of your content to have.
- Expertise: Are you (the creator of the content) an expert on the topic you are writing about? Do you have credentials?
- Authoritativeness: Are you generally recognized as an authority on the subject matter? Do people know you, your background, and look to you as a leader in your industry?
- Trustworthiness: Are you a trustworthy source on the subject? Can people trust you to provide honest, true information that is accurate?
Having “E-A-T” content is not only good for ranking purposes but also extremely important in the pet industry. Pet parents need to trust you if they are going to buy from you.
They need to believe you’re an expert. And they need to see you as an authority. After all, it’s their furry friend’s health and happiness on the line.
Additional reading: Pet Store Blogging 101: Tips, Ideas & Strategies
8. Connecting with People on Social Media
It’s important to have an active presence on social media. It’s often one of the easiest things you can do as a pet shop owner, and one of the most natural ways to market your brand — seeing as though we are all so used to using it.
Find the channels that best fit your audience, and use those. For pet stores, this is almost always Facebook and Instagram. Depending on your social media savviness, Snapchat, Pinterest, and TikTok may also be viable options.
Paid Social Media to Boost your Reach
Organic social media is great, but it’s also limiting. Especially if you’re just starting out or have a low number of followers.
Running paid ads to reach a wider audience is a great way to showcase your products and brand across social media. Especially about a topic like dogs or cats — that evokes so much emotion — there are tons of pet store social media ideas out there.
Working with a paid social media strategist or agency is often the way to go. They can help with creating and running the ads while you focus on engagement with your followers.
Finding Influencers for Your Pet Niche
Influencer marketing is another different ball game in the pet business. It’s important to outline a clear strategy before you go partnering with just anyone. Think about the overlap between your audience and theirs.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How many followers do they have?
- Do they have authority in your niche?
- Are their followers truly engaged?
- Do their followers trust them?
- How much do they charge per mention?
Finding the right influencer can be tricky. You might have an idea just from running your store’s social media accounts. Or you can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find influencers and assess their engagement metrics.
9. Running Paid Ads to Maximize your Pet Store Sales
Selling pet products online is hard. There’s a lot of competition from big, well-established brands, many of which will outrank you.
“The cold hard truth is that outranking these legacy brands that already have established authority online is going to be massively difficult.”
This is not to say give up on SEO for your pet store entirely. No, there are still local implications and niche topics worth ranking for (and over time your authority will grow). It’s just that selling pet products online is best done with the help of Google Ads.
Google Ads for Pet Care Products
Running paid advertising for pet products is both an art and a science. You have to blend creative and compelling ads with a scientific bidding strategy. But the result is a boost to your sales that you couldn’t get from organic or social alone.
Paying to get your products to the top of the page — when organically you can’t — allows you to reach thousands of more potential customers. It allows you to hone in on your best sellers, and push your products with the biggest margins.
Google Ads can be magic for your online sales, but only in the right hands. This is not the place to DIY. These are best left in the capable hands of a professional Paid Media team.
10. Other, Less Common, But Still Valuable Pet Marketing Ideas
The major forms of digital marketing are listed above, but there are still more ways that you could market your pet business.
Getting your products on other websites is key for visibility, brand awareness, and sales. Creating an affiliate program to allow other websites to sell or link to your products in exchange for a commission is a great way to expand your online reach. Think of all those “Top 10” lists and “Best X for Y” articles.
Getting referrals from trusted professionals is a great way to increase your brand awareness. Team up with pet groomers, dog walkers, trainers, and veterinarians to get their stamp of approval. Reciprocate their referral by adding their pamphlets to your info rack in your store, or link to their website from yours.
Email marketing has one of the best ROIs of any marketing channel. Building a steadfast email list of customers and potential customers takes time, but can pay off when it comes time to have a sale or let people know about a seasonal promotion.
Capitalize on Seasonal Trends
Capitalize on seasonal trends like Christmas with special pet gifts. Share your favorite pet Halloween costumes on social media. Offer discounts or treats on National Dog Day. Or offer a “Free Toy on Your Birthday” promotion to get pet owners to bring in their pet on their birthdays (the pet’s birthday, not yours Sharen).
Generating PR Buzz
Drive foot traffic through PR opportunities and events. Establish a relationship with local journalists and newspapers to spread the word on events you host. Not only will this spread awareness about an event or campaign, but it’ll also generate buzz (and links!) to your site.
People with pets tend to care about animals. If a potential customer knows that every time they buy pet food from your business, you donate one to a pet shelter, they might be more inclined to purchase from you. Initiatives to support local shelters or animals in need can also work as marketing campaigns.
5 Final Takeaways for Selling Pet Products Online
Whether you decide social media is the way to go, a concerted blog strategy, paid Google ads, or a combination of all three — the important thing is knowing what will work for your marketing plan.
Here are a few takeaways to keep in mind:
- UX: The foundation of a great pet business starts with providing an exceptional experience both online and in-store.
- SEO: Your pet store needs to be findable online with business listings claimed and a website optimized for local SEO.
- Ecommerce: Set up an ecommerce store and drive traffic through a targeted blogging and content marketing strategy.
- Social Media: Increase engagement and brand awareness with an active paid & organic social media presence.
- Paid Ads: Reach more customers and maximize sales by jumping to the top of Google with paid ads.
Partnering with a Marketing Agency Experienced in the Pet Industry
Developing full-suite digital marketing strategies is what we do best. Need help building your ecommerce website? Want to grow your local presence through SEO? Need paid Google or social media ads set up? We’re here to help!
Take a look at our case studies or dive deeper into some of our other pet blogs. When you’re ready, drop us a line to chat. We’ll get you set up with a custom digital marketing strategy for your pet business.
King Duke’s Case Study
King Duke’s is a boutique pet supply store located in Beaverton, Oregon selling a range of accessories, supplies, and brands for cats and dogs locally and nationally through their e-commerce website.