Premium pet foods bearing descriptions such as “natural” and “grain free” are outpacing
traditional consumer packaged goods (CPG) pet brands in digital visibility, but as pet
owners continue to shift toward online retail channels, Amazon still proves a winner in
organic searches for specific product attributes, according to a recently released report
from digital benchmarking firm Gartner L2.
The report, Digital IQ Index: Pet Care U.S. 2018, examined the digital performance of
58 pet care brands operating in the U.S. across four dimensions: website and e-commerce, digital marketing, social media and mobile. The report also features case studies on brands including Amazon, Chewy, Petco, Purina, Wag and more.
“With consumer spend on pets across
digital channels increasing dramatically,
CPG firms are looking at fast-growing
pet care brands with e-commerce prowess as acquisition targets to drive growth
among slowing legacy businesses,” said
Jake Matthews, director of CPG research
at Gartner L2.
The report found that while legacy brands respond to consumer demand with new
product innovation and messaging, newer premium pet food brands
dominate e-commerce platforms. It cited Taste of the Wild’s distribution in Petco as well as Nutrish and Halo’s distribution in PetSmart
as examples of premium brands that are rivaling established brands
in online visibility. The report recognized that some premium pet
food brands, such as Fromm Family Pet Food and Champion Petfoods, stayed true to their roots by cutting ties with Chewy following
PetSmart’s acquisition of the company.
Pet food products with natural, grain-free and whole-ingredi-ent product claims are growing faster than legacy household brand
names, according to the report. Year-over-year, Google queries for
unbranded terms across raw (e.g., “raw food diet for dogs”) and dietary (e.g., “high-protein dog food”) categories grew by 32 percent
and 5 percent, respectively, while searches for loyalty programs and
promotions, including branded coupons, have declined.
Product ingredient claims have also changed consumer behavior
when it comes to brand email campaigns, the report found. When
subject lines refered to product ingredients such as “chicken,” “meat”
or “vegetable,” email campaigns received higher open rates. Of the
13 largest and most active email programs among the brands examined in the report, open rates for campaigns with subject lines
including ingredient terms experienced an average lift of 2. 2 percent,
compared to a 1. 3 percent lift for promotions and a 0.8 percent decline
when subject lines made generic references to health benefits.
The report cited Canidae as the brand that drove one of the highest scores in the email marketing dimension, largely driven by its
campaigns oriented around product ingredients.
“The brand’s emails that included references to individual ingredients in the subject line, including a campaign introducing its new
grain-free puppy formulas, helped Canidae achieve above average
open rates in comparison to the index,” wrote the report’s authors.
As online shoppers in the pet care category increasingly demand
high-quality ingredients, brands are providing transparent product
information across their websites, the report found. Sixty-nine percent of brand sites examined for the report now offer video content
and informational articles, and over half include a first-time-owner
section to win over new pet owners. In addition, almost half of the
brands enable customers to filter through product assortments by
main ingredient, and 40 percent provide filters for dietary needs.
The visibility of brand sites against unbranded terms in Google
pales in comparison to retailers, the report found. The average brand
examined for the report drives less than 3 percent organic visibility
against unbranded terms, while the retailers measured in this year’s
study (Amazon, Walmart, Chewy, Petco and PetSmart) maintain 27
percent visibility, on average. Despite losing to Chewy in rank within
text ad results for branded terms, Amazon beats out all other retailers
in organic search visibility. On average, the retail giant appears on the
first page of search results for 38 percent of unbranded terms across
the dog food, cat food, dog treat and cat treat categories.
The report also found that Amazon’s private label pet food brand,
Wag, which was launched in early May, has yet to generate significant traction through organic search results. However, Wag drives
viability through “sponsored products” on its parent platform, despite only appearing on the first page of organic searches for 4 percent of unbranded dog food terms, according to the report.
On the other hand, Chewy’s private label product, American Journey, “rivals leading brands like Wellness and Hill’s Pet Nutrition in
search visibility on the platform,” wrote the report’s authors. American Journey products are returned on the first page of search results
for 31 percent of unbranded dog food terms, tying Hill’s Pet Nutrition
and falling slightly behind Wellness, which achieves 34 percent.
Premium Food Brands Use E-Commerce to
Surpass Legacy Competitors
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APPA AND YOU… ADVANCING THE PET INDUSTRY
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Steve Nicolosi, Glo-Marr Products, Inc.
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