How to Outshine Online Competitors
By Laura Laaman
Technology continues to affect the way business is done, and the pet care industry is no exception. We’re now faced with a powerful new class of competitors: those who’ve tapped into the thriving frontier of digital apps.
These fast–growing companies have quickly amassed huge resources, client bases and competitive presences across the United States (and soon, internationally). However, brick–and–mortar pet care facilities have solid advantages over these new competitive giants—if leveraged correctly.
You’re Competing with the Big Dogs Now
Rover.com is a Seattle–based company founded in 2011. Within one year, pet parents across all 50 states were using the Rover.com app. This location–based program offers dog boarding, in-house sitting, dog daycare, dog walking and drop–in visits by alleged certified employees. As of 2017, Rover.com had more than 200,000 sitters, with more than 100% year–over–year growth since its inception.
Rover.com acquired early competitor, DogVacay.com in 2017, with combined bookings earning over $300 million last year. And Rover.com seems to be on a path of continued growth. In May 2018, a round of funding brought in $155 million, money Rover.com plans to use for international expansion.
Wag! is a similar location–based app, created in 2015 in Los Angeles. Tech–focused venture capitalists have poured millions of dollars in funding into both Wag! and Rover.com, with more than $200 million funneled into the two companies last year.
These companies are aggressive rivals, with ads attacking brick–and–mortar pet care. Upon a Google search you might see such pointed ads as “Rover- No More Kennels,” and descriptions of Rover users as “Dog Lovers” who choose “Home–Based Care Instead of in a Cage.”
What Attracts Pet Parents to These Apps?
Smartphones and digital apps provide undeniable convenience to pet parents. By searching their location, pet parents can see listings of all nearby sitters, complete with rates, reviews from other pet parents and photos. All it takes is a few taps to schedule services with a local sitter, whose hyper–local, personalized profile lends feelings of warmth and realness.
How to Compete & Thrive
Standing out against your app-based rivals means emulating their strengths while promoting your superior services. Here are some of the best ways to enter the ring:
Strong Website. Your website is your interface with the digital world where your app–based competitors live. To carve out your position in the online space, a high–performing website is a critical tool. However, a strong website isn’t enough. You’ll need compelling and competitively superior text as well as imagery and proven, powerful “ Calls to Action.”
Excellent Phone–Based Sales. Even in this digital world, the telephone is your primary channel of business and your greatest advantage over apps. Why? Pet parents have such a strong emotional connection to their pet, they are looking for emotional and intellectual reasons to trust a new provider. Would you book a child daycare service without talking to someone or seeing the daycare facility? Therefore, pet parents generally call to check you out or stop in for a tour. The people who answer your phones need to be well–trained and measured to ensure a quality experience for each new client and a high conversion rate (inquiry to phone call), capitalizing on your marketing budget.
Once you have a strong phone sales team, your marketing efforts—from your website to brochures—should be generating new leads and driving them to your phone lines. A highly–trained and monitored phone sales team, aware of the competitive nature of app–based companies, is a secret weapon.
Adequate Marketing Spend. Due to incredibly fast and widespread growth, Rover.com and Wag! have immense marketing resources. Aggressive marketing campaigns put apps ahead in many competitive markets, and you might have to amp up your marketing spend to stay in the game. However, it’s often unwise to try and outspend your app–based competitors and their deep pockets. By monitoring your marketing and investing appropriately, you can stay at the forefront of pet parents’ minds.
Dogs are Social. Pet care facilities have an inherent advantage over app-based companies: the social environment of play with other dogs. With facilities and staffing designed for social play, pet care facilities offer a safer and more exciting social experience than at–home sitters. By highlighting this advantage, you can remind pet parents why your facility is the most fulfilling & fun place for their pets.
Promote Your Quality Care. Your facility was built for happy and healthy dogs—remind your customers everything you do to make yours the best pet care facility possible. Exciting activities and play structures are more fun than at-home boarding. Your carefully trained staff use only the best practices and protocols.
Utilize Your Client Base. Your loyal, trusting client base knows you and your staff by face and name. Using relationship-based marketing tactics can leverage your existing client base; a population of pet parents whose hearts you’ve already won. Referral programs, especially by email, can be a powerful tool in generating new business. This proven concept has worked for such prominent companies as Uber and Plated.
Stay Connected. Another important step in keeping customers connected to you is for them to use multiple services for their pet. When a customer first calls, they’re usually focused on only one service. After they’ve checked out for that first service, you may consider cross-marketing efforts including outbound phone calls. Making outbound calls promoting additional services can bring customers back sooner.
More than anything else, don’t be afraid of change! In an ever–changing environment, the strongest competitors are the ones who adapt.
Laura Laaman is president of Outstanding Pet Care. Outstanding Pet Care guarantees to substantially increase the revenues of its clients with its proven services. If you’re interested in growing your revenues, schedule an individual consultation with Laura Laaman or one of her team members. Call Outstanding Pet Care at 1-888-735-5667 or go to www.OutstandingPetCare.com.