Spring is Time for Pets and Petco

“My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.” ~Author Unknown

I’ll never forget the day I fell in love. I was driving north on the 5 in San Diego from the airport home to Del Mar. Cargo was flown in from Oklahoma City to San Diego and this cargo changed my life. I had been against getting a dog for years, but after a while my emphatic "no" turned into a hollow "yes." That hollowness was quickly filled by a 5 pound brindled French bulldog puppy. There is nothing cuter than a puppy.

Spring time not only means Mother’s Day and graduations, for dog owners it also means check-ups, fleas, ticks, and the struggle known as "bath time."
As virtually everything has become more web-friendly, I was curious just how much consumers relied on the web to get the essentials needed for their pets. Are these sites becoming more popular? And what are people searching for on these sites?

Petco isn’t just where the pets go, it’s also where we seem to go. Petco has seen a tremendous increase in traffic year over year (44%), while both 1800Petmeds (-7%) and Petsmart (-15%) have experienced a decline.

So where are these people coming from, and what are they looking for? Share of pet-related searches has increased significantly from 2008, and all three stores have benefited from an increase in search related traffic to their site.

Once on these sites, it is interesting how the consumer seems to use each of these sites in a distinctly different way. Below is a list of the top search terms for April on each site:

A couple of things immediately become apparent:

  • Frontline is one of the top 3 items searched for all on all 3 sites. (Flea medication)
  • While Advantage (Pepsi, to Frontline’s Coke) appears as the 5th most popular search term on 1800Petmeds, it doesn’t crack the Top 20 search terms on either Petco or Petsmart
  • Branded terms dominate when on 1800Petmeds
  • Generic keyword searches dominate when on Petsmart – with only a handful of branded terms surfacing to the top of their list

It is no surprise that 1800Petmeds shoppers are looking for specific medications and prescription diets on their site, but what is surprising is the difference in interests between Petco and Petsmart. The Petco shopper seems to already know what they are looking for when arriving at the site, whereas the Petsmart shopper seems to be a bit more casual with their needs, searching for more generic terms such as "turtle" and "rabbit."

There is no doubt consumers are turning to the web more and more not just for their own needs, but also for their pets. Petco clearly has the edge at this point but with 1800Petmeds and Petsmart, there are clearly options for the consumer. The question is: as more consumers are turning to the web for their pets, which retailer will be able to capture the most of these "net new" shoppers?

Spring: A time for celebrations, baseball, and flea medication.

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