COVID is a double-edged sword for thriving pet tech sales

Pet tech was booming preCOVID, but the pandemic kicked it into overdrive. In the newly published report Digital Pet Care Products and Services: E-commerce and E-connectivity, market research firm Packaged Facts said they expect sales of digital pet-care products and services—including telehealth products and services in addition to pet tech—to top $27 billion by the end of 2020.

But what exactly is pet tech?

According to Packaged Facts market analyst David Lummis, pet tech means products that are “smart” products—products that use Bluetooth, GPS, or RFID; connect to WiFi; and are controlled via smartphone apps.

In 2019, sales of smart pet products were already close to half a billion dollars.

The term pet tech wouldn’t be used to describe “a mechanical device like a self-raking litter box,” Lummis said. Instead, pet tech would refer to litter boxes that are “controlled with smartphone apps so you can set up the frequency of scooping and the number of cats who have access to it, [as well as alert you] when they need attention.”

Other pet tech examples include:

  • Pet bowls that automatically reorder food for home delivery
  • Treat dispensers equipped with build-in cameras that allow pet owners to dispense food or medications remotely while monitoring their pet at the same time.
  • Smartphone-linked trackers that monitor a pet’s location, vitals, and behavior, and also compile data logs and alert pet owners and veterinarians to potential health problems

Pet tech is also a difficult category to define, Lummis says: “It’s a broad term that’s at play in numerous categories, whether it’s feeders and waterers or litter boxes or tracking devices.”

“So many of the trends in the pet products market have something to do with digital,” Lummis added. “They’re not so much new trends as they’ve been accelerated by the pandemic.”

That’s putting it mildly.

Lummis says containment (including invisible fencing systems and smart pet doors) is the largest category, accounting for 36% of tech product sales, followed by collars and tags at 28%. Toys represent 21% of the total, with cameras and video systems and feeders/treat dispensers at 7% and 5%, respectively. Smart litter boxes—those incorporating Bluetooth/RFID and/or internet connectivity (but excluding traditional motion-activated devices)—account for the remaining 3% of sales.

Much of the rise in sales can be attributed to more people working from home—it’s had an enormous impact. And in some unexpected ways.

“It’s kind of been a double-edged sword,” Lummis says. “Because pet owners are at home so much, it actually reduced the need for some kinds of automatic pet-care tasks that these products perform.” He says some pet owners are so bored out of their minds, they jump at the chance to do many of those tasks—such as feeding pets treats by hand or reordering pet food—themselves.

Whether those tasks they want to do include cleaning the litter box is too soon to say—we’ll need to wait for end-of-the-year sales figures on those Bluetooth-enabled litter boxes.

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