E-Commerce for the Dogs

Three-quarters of pet owners who access the Internet are aware of online pet stores, according to a report by NPD Group and Media Metrix, and it may have everything to do with a crooning sock puppet.

In September of 1999, only 55 percent of online pet owners were aware of online pet stores. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of online pet owners have shopped at online pet stores, while 14 percent have actually made a purchase, according to the report.

The study also confirmed that almost three times as many pet owners have become aware of online pet stores from television advertising compared to last year, while fewer are learning about the sites from surfing the Web. Though television advertising in the category is growing, consumers are still more likely to find out about pet e-tailers from some online source, such as clicking on a banner ad or direct link from another site.

“Our study confirms that big advertising budgets, such as the one featuring the Pets.com Sock Puppet, have had an impact on the industry,” said NPD New Media Vice President Carol Neithercut. “Now that consumers are aware of their sites, marketers next big challenge will be to draw them in to shop, convert them into buyers, and make it a profitable transaction.”

While category penetration remains low, customer satisfaction is high, the report found. Among the 14 percent who have purchased, a whopping 97 percent of them are satisfied with their buying experience. More than two-thirds (68 percent) reported being very satisfied, up from just over one-half in September of 1999 (53 percent).

Top Pet Sites
March 2000
Site Unique Visitors
Reach %
Petsmart.com 1,576 2.1
Pets.com 1,288 1.7
Petopia.com 1,112 1.4
Petstore.com 623 0.8
Source: Media Metrix

The report also found that the majority of consumers who have shopped at pet store sites said they are likely to shop again in the next three months (59 percent), and close to half (49 percent) would make a purchase sometime in the future. Not surprisingly, those consumers who are very satisfied with their buying experiences at online pet stores in general are much more likely to make a purchase in the future than those who have not.

According to Media Metrix, Petsmart.com had the highest number of unique visitors among pet store sites in March of 2000. Petsmart.com is the online extension of the leading offline specialty pet store chain in the nation. Petsmart.com’s advantage comes from tapping into the tremendous buying power of its parent company. Like Petsmart.com, other top pet stores have the support of strong alliances. Petopia.com is backed by the offline retailer Petco, while Pets.com is supported by Amazon.com.

More E-Commerce Market Reports from NPD and Media Metrix:

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