Online pet product sales growing globally

Pet owners in the US alone will buy over US$1 billion in petfood and treats online this year.

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More and more internet-using pet owners around the world are buying pet products online, according to a new report from Nielsen, “E-Commerce: Evolution or Revolution in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods World?” Or at least they’re considering doing so: Online purchase intention, which Nielsen considers an important metric, grew from only 9% for pet products in 2012 to 21% this year. And browsing online for pet products – often a precursor to buying, whether online or at a “bricks and mortar” store – ranges from 17% to 36% depending on the region.

Even better, the global average of browsing for versus buying of pet products online is nearly a 1:1 ratio, at 24% browsing and 21% buying. “Strong online browse-to-buy correlation rates for fast-moving consumer goods translates to loyal repeat customers for these categories,” said John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives for Nielsen. “While these categories are still in the early stages of online adoption, these correlations signal great news for retailers.” (And, I would add, for manufacturers of products in those categories.)

Burbank considers pet supplies a fast-growing category for online shopping based on the 12% rise in online purchase intention. In regions such as Latin America, browsing online for pet products reaches as high as 36%, though online purchases there fall to only 11%. This is common among internet users in that region for all product categories that the survey measured.

Asia-Pacific stands out for opposite reasons; in that region, more people buy pet products online (26%) than browse for them (25%). And again, that’s true for all product categories in the region. In the other regions covered in the report, browsing beats out buying of pet products online but not by as much as in Latin America:

  • North America, 23% browsing, 19% buying;
  • Europe, 17% browsing, 15% buying;
  • Middle East-Africa, 20% browsing, 14% buying.

Nielsen obtained its data by surveying more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries who have online access; the survey was conducted in February and March 2014. Because online access varies by country and region, with internet penetration typically not as high in developing markets, survey respondents from such markets likely tend to be younger and more affluent, the report noted. Another caveat: “Survey responses are based on claimed behavior rather than actual metered data.”

So, for actual data, we have sources such as IBISWorld, which issued a report in January specific to petfood and pet products, “Online Pet Food & Pet Supply Sales in the US,” projecting this market to reach US$3.2 billion this year. That figure represents 7.8% annual growth from 2009 to 2014, according to IBISWorld.

Back in 2011, when US online pet-related sales were at US$2 billion, petfood and treats comprised about 33% of the online market, or US$666 million. If that percentage still holds true, that would put US online sales of petfood and treats at slightly over US$1 billion this year.

Data for online sales of petfood and other pet products in the rest of the world is much more difficult to obtain; however, we do have some information on the online market in China, a quickly developing pet market that also lies in the region where people are most likely to buy online, according to Nielsen.

At the 2013 International Pet Industry Summit, part of Pet Fair Asia in Shanghai, a representative from and, two Chinese online shopping portals (both part of the huge Alibaba empire that announced an IPO earlier this year), reported that the number of Chinese consumers engaged in ecommerce increased 16% in 2012 over the previous year, according to iResearch. Only 0.1% of sales on are for pet products, with dog product spending reaching 270 RMB (US$44) monthly and cat product spending at 190 RMB (US$31) monthly.

Another speaker at the summit, Eileen Huang of Amazon China, said at that time there were 270 million people in China shopping online. Her company, one of 11 country-specific Amazon portals, was a relatively new brand, just launched in 2011 (though the parent company entered China in 2004). Hence, pet product sales on the site were only one year old then, with 80% coming from petfood; many products are made in China. 

No doubt these data have only increased in the past year, just as online sales of pet products continue to grow around the world.





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