TM0803_Market Focus, Pet Owners
By Alicia Orr Suman
Ask a dog lover to name his family members and he'll likely include Fido along with his wife and kids. "That's the nature of the pet owner," says Geoff Walker, CEO of PetFoodDirect.com, an Internet seller of pet food and other pet products.
Particularly when it comes to dogs and cats, pets are seen as part of the family, and as such, people want the best for their pets—from toys and treats to food and healthcare.
Last year, the Pet Food Institute reported there were more than 75 million pet cats and 60 million pet dogs in the United States, and that more than 50 percent of American households own at least one pet dog or cat.
Dog and Cat Lovers
With such a large universe, it's hard to generalize pet owners. For example, ages can range considerably. Almost anyone can have a dog or cat: families with kids, dual-income couples, young singles and elderly people.
In addition, socio-economic class has nothing to do with people's affinity for pets. The median household income for pet owners stands at about $31,000, according to Kevin Filippelli, senior account manager at Focus USA, list and data specialists. So it doesn't matter whether you work for minimum wage or are a high-powered executive, you're just as likely to come home and play with your dog.
If you look at pet owners who buy direct, you'll find more of what Geoff Walker calls, "petaholics." He explains that these pet owners are more likely to spend money on premium food, buy a luxury pet bed from a catalog or search the Internet for a pet pharmacy.
Petaholics also buy gifts for their furry and feathered friends: The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association cites luxury, natural and hygiene products as the top three among its top ten trends in pet gifts.
Even if you don't sell dog bones or cat caviar, you may want to consider this market for your offer. Publishers, for instance, have had a good deal of success mailing to pet owners. "Publishing offers that are pet related" are a major market for pet lists, says Janine Vosseler, executive vice president of 21st Century Marketing, a list broker and manager. Vosseler cites Belvoir Publications, publishers of Catnip and Dogwatch newsletters, and Fancy Publications, publishers of Cat Fancy and Dog Fancy magazines, as two of the big players.
Of course, pet owners have other reading interests. In fact, pet owners is a select on the Forbes magazine Leisure Activity Lovers database. Managed by American List Counsel, this file has 90,000 mostly male pet owners with incomes averaging $275,000.
Pet lists also work well for fund-raising mailers, Filippelli and Vosseler say. This is especially true where there is an affiliation with animals. One such example is Pet Charms, a list of pet owners who have bought identification charms for their dogs and cats. This file, managed by MKTG Services, has been rented by the American Humane Association, North Shore Animal League and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among others.
Opportunities really are limitless, with the right targeting and list selections. Filippelli cites a whole range of direct marketers who may want to test the pet owner market: home furnishings, children's products, electronics, continuity clubs, credit card issuers, insurance sellers and catalogers.
As an example of how good targeting can make pet lists work, Vosseler says, "On the brokerage side, we have an apparel mailer that targets women over 45 years old and we rent higher-end pet catalog [lists]."
Shopping—for Products and Information
Pet owners, especially of the "petaholic" nature, love information about their pets. Approximately 62 percent go online for breed research, says Filippelli. And they use the Internet to learn about pet health and pet products.
There are approximately 120 to 140 online pet sites today, Walker says, and pet owners are busy buying for their pets online. "Approximately 49 percent of pet owners use the Internet to find pet products and services," Filippelli notes.
While pet owners cross all demographic groups and geographic boundaries, those who shop online for their pet products tend to be younger and more affluent, says Walker.
PetFoodDirect's customers' incomes average $75,000, and most own their homes. When the company was getting its business off the ground in the late 1990s, Walker recalls how Internet demographics played a role. "We had rented lists of upscale homeowners—largely families with kids. We realized that where mom and dad both worked and had a house full of kids, it was easier to order the dog food online than to pile the family into the minivan and lug a 40-lb. bag home."
Here's a small sampling of lists available to reach pet owners.
Cat Claws: 36,556 12-month buyers of a honeycombed scratching pad filled with catnip. Price: $80/M plus $5/M for last-12 month select. Call: 21st Century, (631) 293-8550.
Catnip Newsletter: 47,910 active subscribers. Price: $100/M. Call: RMI Direct Marketing, (203) 825-4634.
Doctors Foster & Smith: 890,000 12-month catalog buyers. Price: $95/M. Call: Rubin Response, (847) 619-9800.
In the Company of Dogs: 64,747 buyers of dog gifts and gear. Price: $90/M. Call: Mokrynski & Associates, (201) 481-8181.
Lifestyle Selector: 7.85 million pet-owning households. Price: $70/M base, plus one free select. Call: Equifax Marketing Services, (800) 466-5897.
Pet Lovers: Over 5.9 million pet owners; 3.89 million are 12-month mail-order buyers. Base list price: $75/M. For mail-order buyers, add $5/M. More than 1 million Animal Welfare Contributors are offered for an additional $7.50/M. Call: Focus USA, (201) 489-2525.
Planet Dog: 4,784 12-month buyers of dog gifts and dog-themed items. Price: $100/M. Call: Catalyst Direct Marketing, (201) 405-1414.
Reader's Digest: 795,270 cat owners and over 1 million dog owners. Price: $85/M plus $12/M each. Call: American List Counsel, (609) 580-2800.
Pet Project: Up to 20 percent of the Doctors Foster & Smith catalog is dedicated to pet owner education.