How Pet Tech Will Impact the Future of the Pet Market
Pet tech companies, like Petcube, aim to better connect people and their pets through technology.
Within the pet industry, we’ve been talking for years about the still mostly untapped potential of technology as a market growth driver. Now, it appears, the word is out.
In her May 29, blog, Kelsey Davis, senior manager of digital media marketing for the Consumer Technology Association, says: “We have tech that tracks, monitors, and assists with our homes, our fitness, our nutrition, and more. It’s time for our pets to get in on the latest tech trends,” and, in June, her company came out with a new report: Pet Technology: Ownership, Use and Perceptions. “A desire for safety and peace of mind is driving consumers’ pet tech purchases,” the report concludes, projecting that the market for emerging technology devices used to monitor, entertain, feed or track the activity of household pets will increase 20 percent to 4.3 million units and 18 percent to $233 million in sales during 2018. Market analyst Statista places the pet tech numbers a good deal higher. By its account, sales of just wearable pet technology—including sensors, GPS and RFID products—rose to $510 million in 2017 and are projected to reach $900 million in 2022. By either count, pet tech represents no more than 1 percent of the $50 billion in pet products sold in the U.S. in 2017, signaling tremendous potential for advancement.
When I first homed in on pet tech as a key pet market trend 10-plus years ago, we were talking mostly about automated feeders, waterers, litterboxes, electronic toys, training products and GPS tracking implants, and all of those products still figure prominently in today’s pet tech universe. What’s new is the increasingly essential integration of smartphone- or desktop-based apps to control such products and connect online, making it easy for pet owners to monitor their pet’s behavior and reorder supplies. What’s also new is the surge in wearable pet technology, quantified by Statista. With pet microchipping systems now par for the course, a new wave of pet trackers and activity monitors is disrupting business as usual, providing pet owners with easy-to-use apps packed with Fitbit-style monitoring and the ability to connect with pet health care providers. Much of the product advancement ties into e-commerce as well, as noted in a previous installment of this column, “The Internet Becomes the New Pet Parent,” which discusses the “internet of things,” defined by Wikipedia as “the network of physical devices, home appliances, vehicles, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors and other components that enable the objects to connect and exchange data.”
One key benefit of smart products is convenience, with most such products intended to make pet care easier. The other critical aim, as with pet products in general, is enhanced pet health. Smart products allow pet owners to track not just their pet’s location, but also its activities, vital signs and body functions, enabling them to detect health problems and take action earlier on. To this end, in-home and on-pet devices are increasingly connecting to e-commerce operations representing products and services, providing product recommendations and ordering capabilities, and allowing pet owners to interact directly with veterinarians and other service providers.
With so many pet specialty-type products now available online or in mass channels, the future of pet market premiumization hinges largely on enhanced pet health, which, in turn, hinges largely on technological advancements designed to at once lighten the pet care load and involve pet owners more directly. To a large extent, therefore, the winning marketers, retailers and service providers will be those whose operations are technology-rich, with pet care paradigms integrating internet-connected smart products and services serving as make-or-break differentiators.
David Lummis is the lead pet-market analyst for Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, and author of Packaged Facts’ U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2018-2019 (packagedfacts.com).