A new, national study of pet owners from Bigeye signals shifts in preferences and behaviors that are poised to reshape the $75 billion pet industry.
In July and August 2019, Bigeye conducted a survey of 784 pet owners aged 25 to 55 across the United States.
The study quantifies how pets influence purchases, devices, and brand appeal. Bigeye aimed to provided a valuable, free resource for organizations that provide or develop pet products and services with findings that are especially relevant to marketing professionals.
Bigeye President Justin Ramb, Senior Strategist Dana Cassell, and VP of Insights Adrian Tennant presented a webinar highlighting key findings and actionable insights from the study. You can watch the webinar recording below; a transcript of the webinar is provided.
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Justin Ramb: Hello everybody. This is Justin Ramb, president of Bigeye. I’d like to welcome you today to today’s webinar featuring highlights from the Bigeye 2019 US Pet Industry Study. We are excited to show you some great data this afternoon. And just so you know, there’s no need to take notes as a recording of this webinar will be available for on-demand access. We’ll send out a link to everyone who registered for today’s event within two to three business days. And we’d love to hear from you. We encourage participation and we’ll answer any questions you may have immediately following this presentation. Your lines are muted, so please feel free to send any questions or comments using the question box in the GoTo webinar panel or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love any feedback you have, comments, tips, insights that you have that you’d like to share, anything that you would like to give to the rest of the audience. So before we dive in, just a little bit of background about each of our presenters today. This is Justin Ramb, founder and president of Bigeye. We opened our doors in 2002 and are an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service marketing and advertising agency. We are based in sunny Orlando, Florida, but we serve clients across the US and beyond. Insights and research have become central to every engagement the agency undertakes for its clients often during the discovery phase, as well as supporting creative development. Insights really is our heartbeat; it is in the DNA of our agency, understanding the audience and how they’re best going to consume your products or services. I am a pet parent, my wonderful King Charles cavalier, Rosie. And now I’ll turn it over to Dana.
Dana Cassell: Hi, I’m Dana Cassell, senior strategist at Bigeye. I’ve been with the agency for about a decade, and in my role, I focus on consumer behavior, interpreting the results and findings from primary and secondary research. I’m also responsible for synthesizing data into insights that help our clients build strategically differentiated brands. I’m also a pet parent. We have Kona who is a black lab that turned one this week and an 11-year-old orange Tabby cat named Baxter.
Adrian Tennant: Hello, I’m Adrian Tennant, VP of insights, at Bigeye. I’ve spent more than two decades working in advertising and marketing in digital planning and strategy roles, but today I lead Bigeye’s quantitative, qualitative, and neuromarketing studies to inform media planning and creative strategies. I too am a pet parent. I have two four-year-old Maine Coon cats, Polly and Mango, plus a 29-gallon aquarium with various fish, including tetras, cories, and a pleco named Bob. To those of you just joining us, welcome.
Justin Ramb: So why this research study and why now? In 1988, 56% of US households had one or more pets. Thirty-one years later, the percentage stands at 67% – that’s an 11% increase, which means today 85 million households in the US have pets and this year $75 billion will be spent on pet-related products and services. Bigeye works with clients in the pet care space, so we are committed to tracking trends in this market to help our clients develop breakthrough marketing and communication strategies. We decided to undertake this primary research study and the results we’re sharing with you today. Over to Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: The objective of Bigeye’s 2019 US Pet Industry Study is to yield insights into the buying habits and attitudes of owners of domestic pets. We collected the data for this primary research in July and August of this year from a sample of 784 adults aged 25 to 55 located across the United States. For reporting purposes, we’ve grouped respondents into the four geographic regions shown here: the South; the West; the Midwest; and the Northeast. Unless noted otherwise, the results we’re sharing with you today have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5% at the 95% confidence level. Dana, over to you.
Dana Cassell: Thanks, Adrian. So let’s get started by taking a look at pet ownership, which animals are most popular, and how ownership may be influenced by the environment. Most owners of pets have dogs and or cats. 75% of respondents in our study owned dogs, and 46% owned cats. Ownership of other animals are more modest with fish at 10 percent, birds at 6%, and small mammals at 4%. Because most families that own fish have more than one fish in that home, fish outnumber other domestic pets: estimated at 139 million in the United States as of 2018. Sixty-six percent of respondents in our study own one pet, while 25% have two pets, and 9% have more than two. Single pet ownership is most prevalent among respondents living in apartments, townhouses, and condos. Multiple pets are more likely among cat, bird, and fish owners living in single-family homes. Ninety-five percent of owners consider pets a member of their family; 12% of owners consider their pets probably a member of the family, while 83% consider their pets definitely a member of the family. Responses were consistent on this question from owners across regions, within different household income bands, and all age ranges. This really is illuminating about how we view our pets and how humanization influences pet products, services, and brand premiumization. So when is the best time to introduce a pet into a family? In a separate study undertaken within the research platform Suzy, Bigeye asked 503 mothers across the US how old a child should be when a pet is introduced into the home. In open-ended responses, which you can see here, 42% indicated ages two through seven, and 27% said ages seven through 11 years old. Where do we find our pets? Thirty-nine percent of pets are purchased: 21% from a breeder, 13% from stores, and 5% online. Thirty-six percent of pets are adopted, typically from a shelter. For 14% of respondents, family and friends were a source, and 7% reported taking in a stray. We noted that adoption is far more likely with respondents in the West, in the suburbs, and in two-person households. Seventy percent of pets were acquired with some pre consideration: higher percentages of women, people earning between $35,000 and $50,000 annually, people living in rural areas, and those who got their pet from a friend or relative tended to be more spontaneous than other segments.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks, Dana. Let’s turn now to what we’re buying for our pets and where from. Pet owners purchase a variety of items on a regular basis. Treats and toys top the list: 73% of pet owners report buying treats, while 62% purchase toys. Fifty-four percent of owners purchased specialty food and 41% buy store brands. Further down the list are medicine and pet sundries, such as grooming supplies, bedding, accessories, apparel and training aids, close out the list of pet owners’ regular purchases. Spend is comparable across most segments. Overall, 76% of owners spend less than $100 per month on pet items; for 45% of owners, this adds up to between $600 and $1,200 per year, but 19% spend double that rate – up to $2,400 annually. Omnichannel retailers’ in-store purchases for pet-related products still outpace online. Individually, Walmart tops the list: 66% shopped for pet products there in the past year. PetSmart at 62%, Petco at 56%, and Chewy.com at 44%, top the list of pet-specific retailers. Owners in the West were more likely than those in other regions to purchase in-store at Petco, and much more likely to purchase from Costco or Sam’s Club. Owners located in the Northeast were much more likely than others to purchase from drug stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Duane Reade. In addition to products, pet owners purchase services. At 36%, veterinary care tops the categories of pet services. Grooming is second-most popular at 24%. Pet sitter/feeder combined with walkers is at 14%, level with the combined categories of boarding and daycare. Close to half of all pet owners – 45 percent – give their pet vitamins or supplements. Twenty-five percent have insurance for their pet – 40 percent of owners with insurance said that a vet recommendation most influenced their decision to purchase. Twenty-three percent participate in medicine, vitamin, or supplement subscriptions. It’s worth noting that 86% of owners spend under $1,000 per year on medical care for their pets. Just over one-third of owners – 34% – participate in one or more pet-related subscription services. Among those owners that subscribe, 63 percent do so for food, while just over half – 52% – subscribe for toys and accessories. Forty-eight percent subscribe for health products or supplements and 35% for pet treats. For these services, a particular demographic pattern plays out: owners aged 25-34, living in a townhome or a condo, and in an urban area are more likely to subscribe than other groups. These findings held true across all four regions of the US. So with Halloween just around the corner, more than one-third of all pet owners (36%) at least sometimes purchase costumes for their pets. The practice is most widespread among owners aged 25-34, of 2 or more pets, dog owners, those living in apartments, townhomes, and condos, in urban areas. Female and male owners are equally likely to purchase costumes. Back to you, Dana.
Dana Cassell: Thanks, Adrian. Cannabidiol – or CBD – is derived from hemp or cannabis, but is non-psychoactive, making it accessible to almost anyone, including pets. CBD has gone mainstream in record time and is considered a treatment for everything from anxiety to arthritis pain. But how willing are pet parents to ditch chew toys in favor of CBD-infused treats? The Bigeye study finds that CBD is currently administered by 17% of pet owners; 42% don’t currently use CBD-infused products but would consider doing so for their pet in the future; about a quarter – 24% – are holdouts, and 17 percent are unsure. Pet owners currently using CBD products are much more likely than non-users to have health insurance for their pets: 56% of those currently using CBD have insurance, compared with 25% of all owners. Pet owners see many potential uses for CBD. The dominant CBD indication is as an anxiety and stress reducer: 43 percent of users are currently administering CBD for that purpose and 37% of owners open to its use would use it for that. Sixteen percent of owners – users and non-users – use or would consider CBD to treat nausea, 15% for seizures, 13% for cancer symptoms, and 9% to treat gastrointestinal issues. Non-users are more likely than current users to consider CBD for alleviating cancer symptoms and gastrointestinal issues by 4 to 7 percentage points, respectively. The full report, which will be sent to everyone who registered for today’s webinar, includes a lot more about owners’ attitudes towards the use of CBD for their pets. A fascinating consumer trend. Back to you, Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks, Dana. So how do owners decide what to feed their pets, and what influences the trial of new products and services? When it comes to deciding what to feed their pets, 49 percent – almost half of all owners – said they look to recommendations from their veterinarian; 37 percent said advice from friends and family; one-third of respondents identified product reviews as strongly influencing their selection. When we asked what drives pet owners to try new products, 21% of owners selected coupon, sale, or discount. Coupons seem a bit anachronistic, but in the digital age they double as discount codes and consumers’ online research often includes checking for the availability of such codes. At 20% is the more attribute-based nutritional benefit. Next were reviews at 13% and friend recommendations at 12%. At 11%, samples work on the same premise as coupons. This chart shows the most influential factors in pet product decision factors, measured individually on a scale from zero to ten, to gauge their influence. The higher the average score, the greater the influence. In the upper-tier are direct health benefits offered as well as product quality in the form of longevity or durability. Value is a critical factor, meaning that the decision is about more than just price. And again, vet recommendations play an influential role Pet owners who subscribe learned about their subscription service through a variety of sources. One-third of subscribers learned about their service from a website, while 18% said an advertisement, and 14% said word of mouth. Which segues nicely with the final section of our study – back to you, Dana.
Dana Cassell: Thanks, Adrian. As a marketing communications agency, we especially want to know pet owners interact with various ad formats and on what devices. Smartphones really are omnipresent: use of the device pervades every corner of our lives. For many, smartphones are the most available, convenient, and immediate point of access to information. So it is perhaps not surprising that in the Bigeye study, 38% of pet owners indicate the smartphone is their preferred device for engaging with advertisements. For 28% of pet owners, it’s the television, and for almost one-quarter, it’s a laptop or desktop computer. We do see some significant generational differences in device usage. The most notable variations are based on age: owners younger than 35 (47%) are most willing to engage with advertisements using their smartphones. Those 45 and older lean more toward TV (38%) than smartphones (26%). We also observe some variations based on the area. Although the smartphone dominates overall, pet owners in suburban areas were 12 percentage points (34%) less likely than owners in rural areas (46%) to engage with advertisements on their phones. TV is least likely to be engaged with by urban pet owners (23%) compared to those in suburban (31%) and rural areas (30%). Forty-one percent of pet owners selected TV commercials as their preferred format for advertisements. Combining Facebook (19%) and Instagram (11%) with influencers (4%), social media represents 34%. Video, the category considered emergent, hits 21% and consistency across different age groups confirms this trend. Pet owners aged 45-55 lean more toward TV ads while those younger than 35 favor social media and video-based ads. One thing is clear – video ads produced for display on smartphones are most likely to resonate with Millennial pet owners. We’ve not had time to cover everything in the report, but let’s take a minute to highlight some of the trendlines. Millennial pet owners are about half as likely to be married or living with a partner than previous generations and are also delaying parenthood. This generational difference has resulted in higher rates of pet ownership among this cohort and for some owners, pets have become a replacement for children. With a high percentage of younger pet owners living in apartments in urban and suburban areas, multi-family property developers should emphasize pet-friendly amenities and highlight nearby city parks or trails for dog walking in their marketing communications. Those aged 25-34 were most likely to state their pets had influenced where they live. Many pets are left alone for a large portion of the day and owner awareness of the stress this can cause is growing. In fact, for the owners in our study already using CBD products for their pets, as well as those that would be interested in doing so, the alleviation of anxiety is their primary reason for using CBD. While Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y) are as likely as each other to access information via a smartphone the older generation is more likely to favor TV commercials to learn about pet products. But to reach younger owners, social media and online videos are key. Over to you, Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks. In our study, 45% of owners reported spending between $600 and $1,200 annually on pet food, treats, medical care, and entertainment. And with almost 20% of owners spending up to $2,400 per year, it’s clear to see why the US market is worth $75 billion in 2019. We don’t want to jinx it, but the market looks pretty recession-proof based on these data points. With the increased humanization of pets comes the opportunity for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to provide pet-friendly versions of the products that their owners already use and enjoy themselves — everything from vitamins and nutritional supplements to Instagram-friendly costumes. Opportunities also exist for healthcare and medical device manufacturers, as activity trackers and wearables are becoming part of the day-to-day lives of a growing number of pets, making them as connected as their human owners. Smartphones support the monitoring of such devices within a tech ecosystem. Our study indicates pet owners are open to the convenience of subscription services, especially those in the 25-34 age group. Owners seek out pet food products that they perceive as having nutritional benefits — often at a price premium. Obesity is increasingly an issue for pets, and pet food formulations designed to maintain a healthy weight, as well as “all-natural” diets, hairball control, etc. reflect the breadth of consumer choice in the category. Now I’m going to hand back to you, Justin.
Justin Ramb: Thanks, Adrian and Dana, we have just a few minutes left, so if you have any questions, please use the question box in the GoToWebinar on the side, or if you would like to email us at email@example.com. That would be great. We have received some questions during the webinar, so we’d like to take those right now. Beth asks, did you see any differences in the ways men and women respond to the survey? Dana, would you like to take this one?
Dana Cassell: Sure. The short answer is that no we didn’t, we did not see a statistically significant difference in responses from men and women. While we did have a great cross-section in gender, but I want to tell you, I’m really interested in the overlap of our research in mom marketing and in pet industry marketing because we saw 95% of pet owners view their pets as a member of the family. So we are really interested in our findings about communicating with parents the way that they make purchasing decisions for their children and the parallels that might have in this industry.
Justin Ramb: Great. Thanks, Dana. Our next question, Erik asks, could you expand on what differences you saw between generations and media channels? Adrian one for you to take.
Adrian Tennant: Yes, thank you. So this is something we didn’t really highlight today, but generational preferences, definitely reflect differences in what drives owners to try new products. You know, the youngest cohort in our study, those between 25 and 34, surprisingly over-index for email. That was a surprise for us – as well as commercials. and social media. The next cohort, ages 35 to 44, over-index for recommendations from friends and family. That’s still the most influential group. While the oldest cohort in this study, those aged 45 to 55, significantly over-index for coupons or discounts and were the most likely to be interested in nutritional benefits.
Justin Ramb: Great. Thank you. Adrian. Next question from Peter, is there a difference between the money amount spent on pets based on geography?
Dana Cassell: Well, we did see that owners the South are the most generous pet owners and their average I think is about $200 a month, which you might remember is about double what the majority of the respondents in our study say. So yeah, in the South we saw a bit more generosity among owners toward their pets.
Justin Ramb: Thanks, Dana. Ryan asks for pet owners with pet insurance, was there a variance by age of pet parents?
Adrian Tennant: Yes, there was, and guess what everybody? It was the younger owners that were most likely to have pet insurance, which again surprised us. We thought it would be the older parents, but no. Those young ones really are most committed as pet parents in every respect. They were definitely the ones most likely to buy health insurance.
Justin Ramb: Linda, thank you. Your question, your question is does your study address the frequency of purchases by category specifically related to the slide that included the pet products purchased frequently?
Adrian Tennant: Yes, so I can take that one. So when we looked at the purchase of food, we did see some differences in frequency. Folks with large mammals – we’re thinking typically for this study that was horses – were the least likely to buy food on a regular basis, whereas the owners of reptiles and amphibians, were more likely to be purchasing food on a weekly basis. And we assumed that that was because that’s live food in many cases. For the vast majority of folks, it was definitely every few weeks to monthly. I hope that answers the question.
Justin Ramb: Great. Let’s see here. Jason asked, “you reported pet insurance adoption at around 25%. That sounds very high. I’ve typically seen estimates for US pet health insurance penetration closer to 2%. What am I missing?”
Adrian Tennant: I think that is a great question. We can only report how 784 respondents responded to the survey. I agree that seems like quite a big variance. Obviously, all of our folks were pet parents and I guess prepared to answer a survey about being pet parents and their purchase behaviors. I don’t know how to attribute that difference.
Justin Ramb: Great. Any other questions? I will touch on this. Catherine, you asked, “will we be able to get a copy of the report after this webinar?” Absolutely. Right after this call, everybody that registered for the webinar will receive a link to download the report. It is a wonderful report – it unpacks a lot of what has been covered with a lot of insights from our team on what we discovered through the data. So, absolutely you’ll get a copy of that report. I really do hope everybody enjoyed the information we shared today. We are excited to release the report. This afternoon we’ll also be doing a podcast with the team to discuss the results in more detail. We will be sending out an email with a link to the podcast once that goes up. And if you have any questions that we didn’t get to or you think about after, or after you receive the report and would like some more information, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure we address them in a podcast or follow up with you individually. We’ll also include details of the podcast and the webinar recording – all of that will be sent to you as well. So finally, on behalf of Dana, Adrian, and myself and the entire Bigeye team, we thank you for attending today’s webinar. Have a great afternoon.