Woman taking selfie with dog

Millennials and Pet Care: The Value of Communication

The biannual APPA National Pet Owners Survey always reveals interesting insights into the habits of pet owners. This year’s study, released at the Global Pet Show, uncovered a noteworthy statistic: While millennials represent 27 percent of the U.S. population, they now make up 35 percent of pet owners — officially surpassing baby boomers for the first time, by three percentage points.

The importance of this trend is already evident in the way the industry is shifting how it markets to millennials, or those born between 1980 and 1996. For veterinarians and pet industry suppliers, the impact that the growing number of millennials have is changing communications, product messaging and the way generations communicate with each other.

In a Woodruff blog post earlier this year, we described the persona of millennial pet owners. This generation not only owns their first pet as an adult at a younger age, but they also have different expectations for pet products and services, from demanding more “natural” ingredients in their pet’s food to looking to their veterinarian for much more than just Fido’s health report. This shift has implications throughout the pet care industry.

Changing expectations

Market surveys reveal that millennials are more connected with the care of their dog or cat. As a result, they’re looking for as much information as possible to make pet care decisions and will place greater value on veterinarians and other companies that provide that level of service. To more effectively connect with this growing segment, animal health providers must also offer educational resources and services that allow them to more easily communicate with their customers.

For the veterinarian, it could be as simple as bringing a smartphone or electronic tablet and showing a video to help explain a diagnosis or preventative treatment plan. Online portals are an important educational tool and demonstrate the expertise of the provider, too. The millennial pet owner will also want to be able to make appointments online and even access their pet’s medical records there. Got an app for that? Even better, as we wrote in a recent post.

Text messaging for appointment reminders and other communications is also important. For example, if Fluffy is in for a surgery, the younger pet owner may want more than just a call when the procedure is completed; they may expect simple text updates along the way to put them at ease. FaceTime is another tool that some providers are adding.

Social platforms are important marketing tools, too. A veterinarian practice’s presence on social media is important for customers, whether it’s for education or to connect with a business’s passions such as charities and causes. And don’t underestimate the importance of online reviews. After all, a two-star rating on Yelp is not going to attract new customers. See our earlier post on the power of online reviews and how pet parents can drive new business.

Shifting messaging

It’s important to remember that millennials respond to how things will affect their lives and how a product or service will impact their future. While baby boomers generally respond to how an organization built its name recognition and credibility in the marketplace, millennials react more favorably to how a product or service will impact their lives and future, how they will make them more distinct.

For boomers, emotional messaging motivates: “Your pet is like a member of your family, and you want only the best food for him/her.” For millennials, the message has to be more function-driven: “For your pet to maintain a healthy lifestyle, your pet food should be scientifically formulated with the best all-natural ingredients.”

This is an essential distinction for animal health companies, too. Messages about preventative care may not have the impact on millennials that they had with boomers. When it comes to communications, exploring more about lifestyle and the emotional well-being of the pet will go a long way in connecting with your target audience. Remember, millennials respond to how things will affect their health, well-being and future. So it’s only natural that will have a stronger connection with providers and products that meet those emotional needs.

One study takes this a step further by emphasizing the need for educating millennial clients on the human-animal bond as a way to not only motivate pet owners to take better care of their pets but also to help solidify the provider-pet parent relationship. According to a Human Animal Bond Initiative (HABRI) study, millennials are going to be more likely to visit their veterinarian if they’re aware of the health benefits of the human-animal bond. In fact, three out of four millennials would have a more favorable view of the vet and would be more likely to visit their vet professional if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them. And 25 percent of millennials always talk to their veterinarians about the health benefits of pet ownership — more than other generations.

Exploring generational differences brings new clarity to how to successfully market to and employ younger generations. Digital technology and social media have changed marketing like never before, and millennials grew up being connected to the internet and with each other. Are you looking at your product or service through the lens of your customers? Woodruff can help bring clarity so that multiple generations of customers and clients are seeing you in clear focus.