Online demand for pet food has continued at high levels through July 2021, according to new data from Amazon Marketplace shared and analyzed by Pattern Data Science. The data provides confirmation that the pandemic-driven consumer behavior change of increased online shopping for pet food is continuing, as predicted by many experts.
Since dropping, then leveling out after the initial March 2020 spike when pandemic lockdowns first took effect, demand for pet food on Amazon has continued at roughly the same pace, except for a dip toward the end of 2020. Pattern, an agency providing e-commerce intelligence, sales and marketing services, measures demand as the “number of shoppers on Amazon shopping for a given type of item during a certain period.”
By that measure, the data showed more than 110,000 people shopping for pet food on July 25, 2021, a small increase over the 106,000+ shopping for pet food on January 5, 2020, and a significant rise over the 87,000+ shopping for it on May 10, 2020, after the drop from COVID-19 stocking up that March and April. That stocking up led to a peak of more than 240,000 people shopping for pet food on Amazon on March 15, 2020.
Cat food, bird food demand growth outpacing dog food
Interestingly, the data from Pattern indicated that during the March 2020 spike, demand for cat food rose even higher than that for dog food: Comparing Amazon shopping behavior from the first week of March 2020 to the week of March 15, 2020, cat food shopping increased by 111% vs. 103% for dog food.
Bird food was up 98% then; looking at the three-month period of May-July 2021 vs. the same period in 2020, growth in bird food demand has surpassed the other categories at 31%. Increase in cat food demand has continued to outpace that for dog food, 17% to 12%.
Still, there are more dogs owned, so actual demand for dog food is greater than for other categories. Pattern’s analysis included the breakout of demand for dog food only (no other species); from 67,000+ people shopping for dog food on Amazon on January 5, 2020, the number soared to 148,000+ on March 15, 2020, then dropped to about 51,000 on May 10, 2020. As of July 25, 2021, dog food shopping stood at more than 63,000 people—not quite at January 2020 levels, showing the greater growth in demand for cat food and bird food.
The analysts attributed the ongoing increased pet food demand at least partially to higher pet adoptions and ownership, which we know benefited many species of pets. “This growth in online demand for pet food comes despite things opening back up and a broader return to in-person shopping, further strengthening the case that we may have seen a sizeable increase in new pet owners over the past year,” they wrote.
Keys to a better online shopping experience
Of course, Amazon is just one e-commerce platform, though the giant of them all. No matter what online retailers you might do business with to sell your pet food, consumers today expect a certain experience, according to NielsenIQ. That starts with availability of product.
During the initial phases of the pandemic, consumers were likely to forgive out-of-stock notices for their pets’ favorite foods because they understood thousands or even millions of other people were trying to order the same products. That is probably no longer the case—despite ongoing, intermittent shortages of specific pet food ingredients and other raw materials, as well as transportation and labor issues, that may be affecting pet food production and distribution. Consumers expect to find the products they want when they need to order them.
So availability is now the foundation of the online shopping experience, NielsenIQ analysts wrote, but product curation is important, too. “When shoppers look for products and services, it is curation, or the search and discovery experience, that triggers the opportunity to grow share of voice and, in many cases, share of wallet,” the analysts said. “The way companies curate relatable content, recommendations and store layouts forms the foundation of deep shopper engagement. When shoppers are engaged, they’re more likely to explore new information, consider new products and respond to purchase cues.”
Also key are immediacy, in terms of communications and follow-up actions from the companies consumers are ordering from, as well as some level of excitement to engage consumers so they keep coming back. “With ample retail or e-tail offerings at their fingertips, shoppers require an element of joy in the shopping experience, which can ultimately foster connection to a brand or service,” NielsenIQ said.
(Note: A panel discussion at Petfood Forum 2021 on September 24 will provide updates and tips on pet food e-commerce. Registration for Petfood Forum, including for an on-demand option, is still available.)