December is coming. Adorable viral videos have melted hearts everywhere, and new puppies will be leaping from brightly wrapped boxes across the country. Holiday season is puppy season.
This is a critical time, and not just for breeders, puppy vendors, and shelters. Pet specialty stores like yours will be supplying these growing pet families. Take advantage of this key opportunity to build lifelong, loyal customers. In this article, we cover how you can understand your new customers’ needs and keep them returning for products and advice throughout their dog’s lifetime.
Start of the relationship
Customers choose independent and specialty pet stores over big box stores because of the personal, tailored services and knowledge they can find there. They depend on you to be their expert and guide, and particularly so for those who have just adopted a new puppy. Be sure to ask:
Size, hair type, and temperament are important drivers for products the pet will need. For example, sport dogs have more intense play and nutrition needs, while long-haired dogs have more intense grooming needs.
- Other pets in the house? Experience with dogs?
Familiarize yourself with the customer’s base knowledge, assumptions, and preferences, and provide them with alternatives that they may have not yet considered.
- Particular health or behavioral issues with the new dog?
These problems can be addressed with particular products. Skin issues could be brought on by allergies, and you can encourage addressing them through proper nutrition and grooming. Behavior problems can be worked through with toys, treats, and the right leashes or harnesses.
Asking questions will allow you to form a personal connection with the customer, and customize your recommendations to the dog owner’s specific wants and needs. Some customers may have a precise vision of what they want for their new dog, and some - particularly first-time owners - may be unsure as to what to expect. Either way, this is an opportunity for you to present yourself as a specialist, gaining valuable brand loyalty early on in the customer’s lifecycle.
Basic home goods
Beyond the standard puppy supplies (like bowls, leashes, and crates), this is a good opportunity for you to acclimate your customer to some home goods. How about scents? Whether this is your customer’s only dog or their fifth, the addition of a puppy will definitely make the house smellier. Introduce them to your odor control products early on and emphasize the importance of pet-safe candles and odor neutralizers.
Now is the time to get puppy owners started on an appropriate nutrition program, particularly higher quality food they can’t find in a big box store. If you’ve asked the right questions, you’ll have an understanding of whether your customer prefers traditional kibble or more premium foods such as raw or limited-ingredient diets. They may not know what program to start on, but be knowledgeable about each of your store’s offerings and how it would work over a dog’s entire lifespan, and willing to adapt to each customer’s preferences. Be sure not to criticize the consumer’s existing choices, just educate them on their options!
And remember, nutrition programs are more than just feed. If you haven’t incorporated supplements into your feed sales, learn how with our blog “Boosting Supplement: Increase Your Nutrition Sales.” Coconut oil is a great starter supplement - it’s nutrient dense and can help meet puppies’ higher caloric needs while supporting healthy skin, coat, and digestion. Acclimate your customers to buying supplements early on, and they will be more likely to keep doing so over the years.
Whether customers groom entirely at home or use a professional, emphasize the importance of starting grooming routines as early as possible. Unless they’ve been acclimated as puppies, dogs will not enjoy baths or having their teeth, paws, and ears touched for trimming, cleaning, and care. Start early and they will enjoy these treatments as they get older.
You can get dogs started early on a grooming program by using your in-house groomers and promoting products for customers to groom at home. As with nutrition, this is a good opportunity to educate customers about the differences in grooming products. Items they need to consider include:
- Shampoos and conditioners
Different shampoos serve different purposes. Early on, your customers may be interested in a puppy shampoo, but also let them know how shampoos and conditioners can address different problems that can arise in the future, like itchy or dry skin, bad odors, or a dirty coat.
- Ear cleaners
- Paw care
- Brushes and combs
- Nail trimmers
Toys are necessary for both play and training. They can help address behavioral problems such as excessive chewing or separation anxiety. Draw your customers’ interests to particular types of toys, such as ones that are environmentally friendly, particularly durable, or designed to help dogs with critical thinking.
kin+kind can help!We want to ensure that puppy season goes as smoothly as possible for our pet specialty stores. Here at kin+kind, we care about dogs and cats getting clean, natural grooming and nutrition for their whole lives - good for your pets, good for the planet! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to schedule a call and start building your puppy program today.