Consumer education: Lessons from the CBD pet segment

In the CBD pet products segment, education is a requirement for success, and several of their strategies may be applicable to the education of the larger pet products customer base.

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Customer education is a significant challenge in the pet food industry. When real information competes with easily gotten misinformation on the internet, it can be difficult to reach your target audience in a consistent, productive manner — something the CBD (cannabidiol) industry is more familiar with than most. And when it comes to CBD pet products, dealing with pet owners who have real concerns for their pets’ health and well-being, the difficulty can become magnified.

From the ground up: The unique challenges of educating pet owners about CBD

Although there is growing acceptance of hemp and cannabis, there are many misconceptions that remain.

“Many pet guardians are confused about the difference between hemp and medical cannabis, if CBD will get their pet high, how one compound can be effective for so many issues pets face, etc.,” said Julianna Carella, founder and CEO of Treatibles. “We also find that customers need to understand the regulatory restrictions around hemp products and why the Treatibles product line is labelled with these regulations in mind. These questions take time and care to answer.”

The stigma associated with marijuana and THC’s (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high) psychoactive effects can be difficult to overcome, and the only way to negate the stigma is to educate people from the ground up.

“First you must educate customers on the differences of CBD vs. THC before moving on to the potential benefits of CBD,” said Heidi Navala, president and founder of Petabis Organics. “More people are hearing from friends and family members about their experiences and results in using CBD, so that instills confidence, moves the possible benefits past anecdotal and creates a comfort level in using CBD for their pets.”

Because the segment is relatively new, there’s not a lot of regulated oversight in place, so quality becomes the next level of consumer education.

Once customers are open to the benefits, which is primarily what the pet industry is focusing on, the next hurdle is getting them to understand the quality issues of CBD,” said Navala. “Not all CBD oils are the same, especially when it comes to quality, purity and efficacy. Quality, purity and efficacy are where CBD becomes the Wild West and a ‘buyer beware’ environment. In the pet CBD marketplace, there is so much marketing spin and often a lack of expertise and quality oversight.”

Learning at all levels: CBD product companies reveal their consumer education strategies

Education can happen at several different points of contact, but one of the more obvious avenues is through the pet store selling the products.

“Education is truly a hands-on experience that requires engagement between customers and employees,” said Heidi Hill, founder of Holistic Hound. “Holistic Hound provides both online and in-person training to ensure that our retailers have all the information they need about these products and how they work, and empowers them to feel confident about passing that education on to their customers.”

Anticipating questions and having the relevant information directly available to potential customers, whether it’s online or in a store, is another key avenue of successful communication.

Since many consumers opt to do research prior to making a purchase, it’s important that they have up-to-date product information,” said Lynn Honderd, CEO and co-founder of Mary’s Whole Pet. “We firmly believe that a key component to educating customers is having accurate, science-backed information readily available. Also, providing the certificates of analysis for our products to show that they’ve been rigorously tested — both in-house and by a third-party laboratory — for pesticides, microbials, mold, etc. is imperative to maintain our role as a provider of potent, reliable and consistent products for the world’s furry friends.”  

Overall, training seems to be in constant focus for those producing CBD pet products.

“Not only do we offer a weekly training webinar for our wholesale customers, distributors and veterinarians, we also travel to distributor shows to train whole teams in person,” said Carella. “When wholesalers and their staff are well-trained in how to educate their customers about our products, it is a win-win.”

And as a final touchpoint, giving customers something physical to connect with helps invest them in the choices they’re making for their pets.

“On the tactical front, we’ve found that a great way to engage consumers about our products is to offer samples at the front counter or register, along with brochures and signage about the benefits of phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR) hemp/CBD and, in Holistic Hound's case, medicinal mushrooms,” said Hill.

Be proactive, be receptive: Final advice to pet food manufacturers

Education is a truly vital component of the CBD pet product segment, and while it has become a hallmark of those who sell said products, there’s no reason they should be the only ones who are experts and educating pet owners.

“Make it your personal mission to enlighten pet retailers and owners about the benefits of the category in which you compete,” said Honderd. “Product placement within a store can also play a big role in educating customers.” 

A proactive appeal to pet owners’ desires to do what’s best for their pets can make them take notice — wanting to educate customers shows that you care about them and their furry family members.

“Pet guardians are thirsty for knowledge about the foods, supplements and products they provide their pets,” said Carella. “They want to be educated about everything from ingredient sourcing to where products are manufactured to what kind of soil we use. Proactively sharing educational information through various channels, providing clear information and employing a knowledgeable customer service team are important tools.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your own questions so that you can determine what answers are needed.

“Ask questions about everything,” said Navala. “Retailers and pet parents are more knowledgeable and vigilant about protecting their pets’ health. As a manufacturer or retailer, welcome transparency with your customers. Listen to what they want to know, what they value and what is most important to them. The pet world should be inclusive, warm and welcoming. When you provide people with the information they are looking for they feel more comfortable not only with your product but with your company.”


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