From Bother to Boon: Interactive Treat Cams Turn Remote Monitoring on Its Head
By Lisa Lavin
Webcams have long been a standard tool for pet boarding facilities. By giving customers a visual check–in on their pets from afar, pet hotels have offered customers peace of mind that comes with being able to view their pet. However, webcams also have been known to create angst for pet owners who think Brutus looks lonely or sad during webcam visits. These anxious pet parents will often call the pet hotel to complain about their lonely, sad pet.
Now, a new generation of interactive “treat cams” is turning webcams on their head. With two–way connections that allow owners to chat with their, pets, dispense treats and even release soothing aromatherapy, these interactive systems complement a boarding facility’s services by offering a real–time, remote interaction that boosts peace of mind for pet owners and could mean big business for boarding facilities.
Pet Tech for a Changing Consumer Mindset
We live in an increasingly interactive world, and consumers are beginning to demand that same level of interactivity when it comes to their pets. According to research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), 44% of pet owners are interested in technology that allows them to feel more connected to their pet, 37% want tools to help their pet feel less lonely and 27% want technology that eases their pet’s separation anxiety.
The reasons are simple. Pet owners increasingly view their furry friends as part of the family. They worry about their pet’s emotional and physical wellbeing the same way they would worry about a child. Among millennials, who represent the largest segment of the pet–owning market, 51% say they buy their pets a gift at least once a month and 71% say they would take a pay cut for the opportunity to bring their pet to work every day1.
For that audience, interactive treat cams offer reassurances that one-way webcams can’t match. With smartphone integration becoming the standard in everything from GPS–connected collars to health tracking apps, people are less willing to settle for simply seeing their pets, and it shows. Consider that half of pet owners who are aware of interactive pet toys own and use at least one such product, while only 19% of owners who are aware of pet cameras use one.
That market is growing, too. The CTA expects the pet tech market to grow to 6.9 million units and $360 million in revenue by 2021.
Less hassle. More revenue.
How does this benefit pet boarding facilities? While webcams are increasingly an expected amenity, treat cams can be an important differentiator and a powerful tool for driving revenue. Pet Station Country Club in Louisville, KY, for example, has 116 boarding rooms, including eight suites that feature two–way interactive videophones that dispense treats and aromatherapy. The “greet & treat” videophones are flush-mounted on a wall and encased within a plastic guard for added pet safety. Since installing the videophones, they have seen a 25% increase in per–suite, per–night revenue and a 30% increase in both positive reviews and referrals. Suites with videophones account for 15% of the facility’s annual revenue despite accounting for just 6.9% of total rooms.
“For some people, going on vacation and leaving a beloved pet behind can be as stressful as leaving behind a child. Pet parents want to know their pet is in good hands, and they want to feel like they’re still connected, whether they’re at work or on vacation thousands of miles away,” said Scott Burnley, Pet Station Country Club.
“By offering this kind of greet and treat system, we’re allowing owners to check in from the beach, the bus, or anywhere else they are when they start to miss their pet. Having the opportunity to see their pet react to their voice, or to dispense a treat, makes it easier for them to enjoy their vacation,” concludes Burnley.
In addition, treat cams have the potential to decrease calls from pet parents who might feel their pet looks sad or lonely on a traditional webcam video stream, thus triggering a call to the boarding staff. Treat cams, on the other hand, allow pet owners to see and interact with their pets in a controlled way, using only the interactive features that boarders choose to activate for their facility. And that makes this evolution in virtual pet technology a win–win for everyone!