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Is your hospital missing online sales opportunities?

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A new study from Brakke consulting indicates that veterinarians are missing out on a big piece of the online sales pie.

Based on two national surveys, one of pet owners, the other of veterinarians, the Brakke study shows that veterinarians are missing out on a significant piece of a market that’s readily available to them. In addition, the study documents documenting the rapid migration of pet product sales to online sources.

“According to our veterinarian survey, nearly two thirds of veterinary practices offer online purchasing and home delivery,” said Brakke Consulting President Robert Jones, PhD. “But only one-third of clients are aware of the service. While about one in five pet owners are purchasing pet health products online from their veterinarian, an additional 25% would readily do so if their veterinarian offered online shopping and they were aware of the service.”

That discrepancy may be the result of two key factors, according to the report:

  • The companies that provide veterinarians’ online sales and home delivery services aren’t as popular among consumers as are online retailers such as Chewy and Amazon
  • Pet owners who most trust their veterinarians tend to be older and shop online less than younger pet owners, who rely on other sources of information

Leading online retailers are making a big play for veterinarians’ pet product sales, according to the study. In addition to Chewy and Amazon, which dominate the market, 1800PetMeds is a major online player, while brick-and-mortar retailers with online presences such as Walmart, PetSmart, and Petco further dividing the pet supply pie.

While all those companies compete for market share, the report singles out the quick rise of Chewy as striking. The company, which started in 2011 under the name “Mr. Chewy,” accounts for 35% of online pet supply sales—and a whopping 55% of online pet food sales.

And while that share is ebbing,

In terms of weakness in the area of online sales and home delivery services, the Brakke report notes that they’re primarily handled by three companies, only one of which earned a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS) from veterinarian clients. Chewy and Amazon, on the other hand, both have night NPS scores from their customers.

Demographics may be more important.

Of pet owners age 55 or older, Brakke reports that 89% consider their veterinarian to be the most trusted source of information about pets, whereas only 5% say the same about online sources. But for pet owners ages 18-34, only about half consider the veterinarian the most trusted source of information, while 29% put more trust in online sources.

The good news: veterinarians continue to outsell online retailers in the pet medications market, with 74% of total sales, in large part because of those same older demographics.

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