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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

February 7, 2011

The Internet and You

By David Lass

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In case anyone out there is in doubt, I’ve got a news flash for you--the Internet is here to stay. In just the last few years, the Internet has totally changed the way we get information and do business. The pace of this change is happening at lightning speed, and something that was brand-spanking-new six months ago may be old-hat today.

So, what should the retail pet store owner do about the Internet? If I had the complete answer to that I would go out and get rich. I do have some thoughts, based upon my observations in many pet stores and in many different conditions. The first thing that is clear to me is it is impossible for a local fish store to compete solely on the basis of price. I have been in a few stores where a potential customer comes in clutching a printout from a website and asks the store owner if he can beat the Internet price on this sophisticated lighting system--or chiller or mega-filter. The answer is probably “no,” as in many cases prices advertised on the Internet can be the same as, or even lower, than what a store can buy the item for at wholesale.

The two things a local store can offer to compete with the Internet are service and livestock. Ask the potential Internet customer what he/she is going to do if the fancy lighting system craps out after a week or if the chiller arrives banged up. Emphasize that if they pay a little more to buy a product from your store, they have a live person to speak with instead of an address on the other end of the computer and a place to go with any problems. Most of all, there is no way that the Internet can compete with your local store when it comes to the livestock. No picture on a computer screen can ever be as good as your customer being able to come to your store, point into a tank full of fish and say, “I want that one.” Service and livestock, they are the best (and maybe only) ways to compete with the Internet.

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