Insights from pet parent panel

Pet panel survey series: supplement purchases

Who influences who: where to buy and why

Welcome back to our pet panel posts, reflections based on proprietary research conducted by Rhea + Kaiser, with the intent to assess and validate a variety of pet care trends and hypotheses, and to formulate marketing strategies within the category. Our previous post explored Fear Free Training and the influence it has on choosing a pet practitioner. The goal of this post is to look more strategically at pet care supplement purchases and how they are influenced by marketing decisions.

Supplements aren’t just the latest trend in pet care; they are a growing part of pet health and wellness. Though we think of giving supplements to dogs and cats as mirroring ourselves, the reality of administering joint supplements and fish oil to pets is to help them also live long, healthy lives with stronger bones and healthier hearts. Many of our pets get the same chronic illnesses that we suffer from as humans, such as arthritis, glaucoma and diabetes. Though supplements can’t cure these or any other illnesses, they are believed to delay and manage disease and pain onset.

What Influences the Supplement Purchase?

Supplements continue to be a significant share of the pet care market, with 50 percent of our panel responding that they purchase supplements for their dog and/or cat. Approximately 45 percent indicated that the veterinarian has the greatest influence on which brand they choose. Another 21 percent identified that they are influenced by online ratings and reviews when choosing brands of supplements.

The fact that our panel indicated that veterinarians, online ratings and reviews had such a high impact on brand selection suggests several implications on pet care marketing:

  • The advice may impact the supplement brand chosen. The brand that pet parents choose is likely influenced by whether they are learning about supplement brands from a veterinary office, online or a brick-and-mortar store.

  • Marketers need to prioritize – we need to target our efforts on those who have the highest impact on brand selection. In this case, veterinarians have the greatest impact on brand selection. That said, it’s the pet parent that ultimately purchases the supplement, so we cannot neglect the pet parent completely. We just need to prioritize the veterinarian first, with a secondary marketing plan to capture the pet parent who is paying attention and will seek out the supplement market through other channels.

  • If online ratings and reviews are where pet parents go to seek out information about supplements, they likely are there for other information as well. As marketers, we need to be paying expert attention to how pet parents are influenced by the online information flow.

  • Online reviews are posted in a variety of settings:

This is key for marketers, because it means that there is no one avenue for online reviews. Reviews are posted across the board, which provides not only a myriad of marketing opportunities to reach veterinarians and their staff as well as pet parents, but also for the brand.

Also consider that in the age of influencer marketing, we must question where we draw the lines between online review, promotion and endorsement. These terms must be carefully determined, to avoid assumptions and the ideology that use of a product assumes endorsement and promotion of a product, particularly something that is considered biomedical.

The bottom line is that different channels require different strategies, and marketers need to be adept at these strategies, as well as malleable to the surrounding market and the ways in which purchasing habits are continually changing. As supplements are more integrated into daily pet care as part of the pet care diet and as a larger share of the pet care space, it’s critical for marketers to take note and recognize how supplements are part of the total pet care strategy.


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If you have topics you would like to explore with our Pet Parent panel or would like to discuss marketing in the companion pet space, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials.