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Traditional retailers may struggle to compete with digital pet suppliers

Despite strong CPG numbers, pet sector is a different animal, Acosta report finds

Pets can be a source of comfort in tough times.

But as traditional grocers rally against e-commerce threats, Fido and Fluffy might not be whom brick-and-mortar retailers should turn to.

A recent Hot Topic Report by Acosta found that pet products are among the most difficult items for physical stores to protect in the digital age.

The center is holding strong, with 97 percent of all CPG revenue still generated via in-store transactions. But pet products “defy traditional trends,” the report said.

“Online pet food retailers can offer a more diverse assortment of brands, natural/organic options and even fill pet prescriptions,” according to the report.

Acosta said 30 percent of consumers opt to regularly conduct their entire grocery shopping through digital platforms, and are drawn to the practice by the “convenience of having products shipped directly to their homes.” 

Alongside that loss for brick and mortar, 6 percent of shoppers are making most of their pet product purchases online. Baby Boomers are the most likely to do so, with 9 percent shopping for pets digitally.   

The attack is coming from multiple fronts. 

Smaller, specialty competitors are using digital as a doorway into consumer shopping habits. And heavy-hitting sellers, such as Amazon’s new toy, Whole Foods, are available. Digital also offers consumers the ability to compare prices and learn about products swiftly. 

The result is a more educated consumer who can be quickly exposed to a wide variety of brands and retailers that may not have previously been in on the race for his or her business.

The report projected that 59 percent of surveyed shoppers who identified as “infrequent” digital shoppers were “somewhat to extremely likely” to try shopping at sites such as Amazon within the next year.

The traditional grocery retailer has not relinquished its hold on the pet aisle, but unlike perimeter items, squeak toys and cat food are not drawing customers inside. 

Acosta found that “even the most savvy digital shoppers” may be reluctant to shop for items such as produce and fresh meat digitally, but the same caution did not appear to apply to prepackaged selections and dry goods.

Alongside other items, such as baby products and nutritional supplements, pet items “will continue to grow their online market share as more shoppers embrace e-commerce,” the report said. 

Contact Dan Orlando at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @danamx 

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