Americans have long had a passion for pets, but millennials are taking that interest to new heights.
Since 2017, when millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest single group of pet owners (35% vs. 32% respectively), they’ve been spending lavishly on “luxury, high-design and high-quality products and services,” JWT Intelligence reports.
Seven in 10 millennials own a pet; they spend $67 billion annually on pet dogs and $33.5 billion annually on pet cats.
What’s different about millennial pet owners, and how can you capture your share of this booming market? Read on.
Why Millennial Pet Owners Are Such a Hot Market
According to a Wakefield Research survey, there are three characteristics making millennial pet owners an especially promising target market:
- Exhibitionists: Nine in 10 millennials are on social networks; many have a social media account just for their pets.
- Conscientious: Millennials strive to keep their pets healthy with organic pet food, wellness supplements and dog day-cares for exercise. Not surprisingly then, 60% of millennials say their pets eat better than they do.
- Impulsive: Millennials are more likely to splurge on pet products and services, such as fancy pet beds or expensive treats, than other age groups. In fact, many millennials say they splurge more often on their pets than on themselves.
What Pet Products and Services Are Popular?
Food is the biggest pet-related expense for millennials, who prefer foods that are grain free, have “superfood” additions or limited ingredients for special diets. Millennials seek authenticity and demand transparency regarding pet food ingredients and where the ingredients are sourced.
Millennials use tech to stay connected to their pets. More than half of millennial pet owners use pet-related technology, including health and nutrition apps (24%), pet monitoring cameras (22%), smart toys (20%) and tracking devices (20%). Rover connects pet owners with pet services; PetSafe sells high-tech pet gadgets like training collars.
One-third of millennials who bought their first homein 2017 said needing more space for their dog was a factor. Among non-homeowning millennials, 42% say their dog (or their desire to get one) would be a factor in buying a home. Millennials seek home goods that not only serve a pet purpose (like hiding a litter box) but look good doing so. They also want products that help their pets get exercise, be comfortable and be safe at home.
Veterinary care is the second-biggest pet-related expense for millennials; many are turning to non-mainstream alternatives to help keep their pets healthy. Nearly a quarter pamper their pets with aromatherapy, reflexology or naturopathy; 26% have given pets massage, chiropractic, acupuncture or physical therapy. Anti-anxiety products to reduce pets’ stress, natural wellness and healthcare products, and CBD products are all popular.
Dog day care, pet hotels (that is, boarding), pet-sitting and pet walking are all reliable business opportunities, but you need to add a touch of luxury. Millennials expect a high-end, personalized experience, such as cameras to watch their pets remotely and detailed reports on the pet’s day.
Whether they consider pets an accessory or think of them as part of the family, 61% of millennials say pets must be portable. (For example, 53% believe eating with their pets at restaurants is “essential.”) Pet strollers, tote-style carriers, and backpack or front carriers are popular, and retail site Zulily regularly sells out of “pet-pouch hoodies”—sweatshirts with a front pouch to carry a pet.
Pet Clothing and Accessories
Some 92% of millennial pet owners buy their pets gifts such as toys, clothing and treats; 51% do so at least monthly. Millennials are twice as likely as boomers to buy their pets clothing (60% do so). Essentially, any pet accessory that can create an Insta-worthy pet photo is likely to sell well.
Pet Parent Accessories
More than eight in 10 millennial pet owners have bought merchandise to advertise their proud pet parenthood. The most popular are calendars (43%), clothing (42%), cups/mugs (37%), door signs or welcome mats (33%), and wall art (32%).
Zulily reports millennials generally prefer to buy pet food, accessories and toys online, but would rather buy treats, bedding and clothing in person. If you’re planning to start a brick-and-mortar pet store, keep it “boutique” with unique, authentic and upscale products. Make sure you and your employees are knowledgeable about pets and product lines—almost two-thirds of millennials think they know more about pets than pet-store employees do.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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