Embracing platform efficiencies, Petco is serving deeper needs among growing ranks of pet parents.
Pets have moved from the outside doghouse to inside the human house to hopping up on the bed, and the old-school pet owner model is being rapidly replaced with a “pets are people too” mentality that’s showing up in retail and veterinary omnichannel innovations.
“As the relationship between people and their pets continues to evolve, we are constantly focused on customer feedback, understanding trends, understanding what consumers are looking for, and really staying forward in terms of innovation and design and features,” Petco Senior Vice President, Omnichannel Experience Jenny Wolski told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster.
Petco CEO Ron Coughlin recently told investors and analysts that Petco is now a “pet platform company” with 1,500 stores and a total active customer base above 25 million pet parents.
Wolski expanded on that, saying “We have such rich customer data, we have a world-class enterprise data and analytics team, and we have a truly one-of-a-kind ecosystem. When we think about continuously building onto the ecosystem and the platform, we’re looking for partners who help fill a need in the pet space” that are also top dogs in their respective fields.
The pact with Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy is an ideal example. Not only did the two companies find they have compatible brand values, but Wolski said, “We both saw a white space. There’s a huge opportunity because there are people doing things here and there, but nobody is looking at a truly end-to-end experience for pet parents who travel.”
Then there’s the partnership with online pet care marketplace Rover.com announced in early 2022, also well aligned with Petco’s strategy to provide an end-to-end solution for legions of pet parents that grew from roughly 5% of the population pre-pandemic to roughly 14% today.
Everyday Pet Care Goes Mobile
A key offering around which Petco is building engagement and loyalty is its Vital Care membership, with a $19.99 per month price point for dogs and cats and $9.99 per month for birds, reptiles, fish, and small pets, offering everything from vet services to grooming and more.
Calling Vital Care “a whole health offering,” Wolski told Webster — a well-known dog lover — that the membership “is the manifestation of everything that Petco has to offer. It’s not just a vet plan, it is an everyday health and wellness care plan for your pet.”
She said the Vital Care membership “pays for itself” for the avid user and pet parent, saying “depending on what type of pet you have, you save hundreds of dollars every year by having the plan, even though you’re paying a monthly fee.”
Future enhancements include adding VIP appointments for grooming, unlimited vet exams, and a wealth of content and guidance to help pet parents treat animals as valued family members.
Not surprisingly that crosses into mobile — of different varieties — from an increasingly feature-laden mobile app to services like mobile grooming.
Wolski said “The vision is how does the app start to become your trusted partner in taking care of your pet,” which touches on veterinary records, reminders to buy items at certain times, appointments unite in a pet care super app “and truly is how you manage your pet’s life in the palm of your hand.”
Payments, Pets and Personalization
As it moves to link 1,500 brick-and-mortar locations with its website and mobile app to be the end-to-end pet parent community Petco envisions, payments and omnichannel play a big role.
“It went from buy online pick up in store to same-day delivery to curbside pickup, and things might change after that,” she said. “We’re ready, making sure that we are paying close attention to trends and opportunities on how we can stay forward.”
On the payments, Petco is leaning into optionality. Wolski said, “We have a credit card, which is Petco Pay. We also have Klarna that we’ve been amplifying in our locations and online to make sure that no matter how people want to pay for things, we’re giving them options to be able to do that. As the innovation of those options continues to grow, we’re right there.”
Perhaps one of the most innovative approaches being taken by Petco is viewing its various offerings through a human lens, which is informing its entire roadmap, from the services previously mentioned to human-grade food prepared in kitchens.
It’s far cry from the “yards of kibble” Wolski first encountered when joining Petco 12 years and several economic disasters ago. But despite current macroeconomic headwinds and belt-tightening, consumers show no signs of cutting back when it comes to pet care.
Asked what’s occupying her mind most going into another rough year for the larger retail economy, Wolski said personalization is one key focus, “and it’s not just personalizing the experience for you through marketing channels. It’s making sure that when you walk into one of our pet care centers, there are partners there that know you, they know your pets, and they know how to best serve you if you call customer service.”
The other is “continued humanization” taking cues from what people like and coming up with suitable pet variations that bring joy and health to these loving familial relationships.
Visit our sponsors
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is the cheaper, easier way to send money abroad. It helps people move money quickly and easily between bank accounts in different countries. Convert 60+ currencies with ridiculously low fees - on average 7x cheaper than a bank. No hidden fees, no markup on the exchange rate, ever.