Cash in on the opportunity
Clients want veterinarians to provide advice and recommendations about nutraceuticals. If you’re not part of the discussion and not stocking supplements, pet owners will look somewhere else.
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the past several years, you’ve undoubtedly heard that clients have an ever-increasing number of sources of pet health products, services and information. And you’ve probably seen a steady decrease in your bottom line as your clients turn to those external sources, leading to the sense that someday you’ll be relevant only when a pet needs a serious medical procedure. The good news is that our research provides a ray of hope highlighting your importance as a trusted source of pet products and information, specifically around nutraceuticals. And our research consistently shows that fostering trust from pet owners inspires clinic loyalty and advocacy, ultimately helping your bottom line.
A Popular Topic
Diggo research conducted in early 2020 found that 4 in 10 pet owners believe that learning from you the pros and cons of various pet health supplements and receiving product recommendations is highly important. Millennials are even more interested in this than other age groups.
Furthermore, we found that 55% of pet owners look up supplement information online at least sometimes and 2 in 10 do it often. Again, millennials do it most often.
Two-thirds of pet owners who want to learn about supplements prefer that their veterinarian lead the discussion. Two out of 10 also are open to learning from clinic printouts, from discussions with hospital staff, and from practice websites and social media sites. Because of fewer face-to-face opportunities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we advise that practices offer remote consultations about supplements.
Our research found that 80% of pet owners believe their veterinarian should have strong nutritional expertise. But that doesn’t mean you need to earn 1,000 continuing
education credit hours in pet nutrition. Most pet owners believe that their veterinarian is already an expert, so don’t doubt yourself.
The Loyalty Payoff
Our research — see the table at left — showed that pet owners are most likely to buy nutraceuticals formulated to support oral health, joint health, skin and coat health, and hairball relief. A full one-fourth buy oral health products. Millennials are more likely than other age groups to purchase skin and coat supplements and multivitamins.
Among pet owners who purchase nutraceuticals in the most popular product categories, a gap exists between the percentage of clients who desire a veterinarian’s recommendation and those who actually receive advice. For example, 63% of pet owners who bought skin and coat supplements want their veterinarian to recommend products, but only 39% of veterinarians did so. This is a missed opportunity for clinics to garner client loyalty by providing guidance. Pet owners also expect and want you to share opinions about products you don’t carry.
Our research found that pet owners provided with pet health information and recommendations feel more empowered, knowledgeable, trusting, confident and loyal to the clinic. The exact opposite occurs when the clinic fails to address pet owners’ questions. The evidence is clear: Your opinions matter.
Of course, talking about supplements won’t create or maintain client loyalty, but it is another tool for demonstrating proactive care, which our research shows is a proven driver of loyalty and, ultimately, business.
Don’t wait for a dog you know is predisposed to joint issues to present with lameness. Get ahead of it all and recommend supplements before the owner asks. The client will appreciate the advice more than you know.
What You Should Stock
Now, let’s talk about enhancing your bottom line by selling the most popular nutraceuticals, even if you offer them only in your online store. If you aren’t carrying them, then your competitors are cashing in.
Our research revealed that one-third of pet owners purchased supplements that support skin and coat health or joint health from their veterinary clinic over the past three years. (See the table at left.) Two in 10 bought hairball relief or oral health products from their clinic. The numbers undoubtedly would be higher if more veterinary clinics offered and proactively recommended such products.
Keep in mind that pet owners consider other factors, too, when shopping for nutraceuticals. We asked pet owners why they would most prefer to buy functional treats and supplements at a selected location. They cited everyday competitive pricing (42%), one-stop shopping (40%), convenient location (38%), trust in the business (38%) and the seller’s reputation (38%). Your advantage over other sources, such as mass merchandisers and pet specialty retailers, is your ability to leverage the trust pet owners have in you and your reputation.
Finally, you don’t have to offer a ton of products. Start by choosing a few favorites, endorsing them to your clients and carrying them in your online store. Then, as you feel more confident in the demand, you can begin to stock them inside your clinic. And don’t forget to make sure your clients are aware that you carry supplements. Our research found that pet owner awareness of online veterinary clinic pharmacies is astonishingly low (16%).
Diggo is a quarterly research brief powered by Trone Research and Consulting that provides actionable market insights for veterinarians seeking to better serve today’s pet owners. For more information, visit www.dig-go.com. Kimberly Ness is senior vice president of insights and marketing for Trone Research and Consulting. Dr. Kim Cameron is director of research.