From pet birthday parties to Starbucks Puppuccinos, businesses have recognized the shifting bond with our four-legged friends and are engaging with pet owners on a new level. Owners are increasingly viewing their furry pals as family members and providing them with products and experiences they would normally treat themselves with — a trend dubbed pet humanization. With businesses selling a variety of premium products and services to cater to this trend, pet spending has increased from $53.3 billion in 2012 to $136.8 billion in 2022, according to the American Pet Products Association. Sharmin Attaran, a Bryant professor of Marketing, recently reflected on the industries part of this trend and what the future could bring.
Q: How are companies leaning into the pet humanization trend?
A: Companies are actively developing products and services that cater to pets' emotional and physical needs, as well as their owners' desire for a closer bond with their furry companions. This includes offering personalized and customized pet products, organic and natural pet food options, pet-friendly workplace policies, and innovative pet technology such as smart collars and activity trackers. For example, Google is known for its pet-friendly policy, allowing employees to bring their well-behaved dogs to the office. They have designated dog-friendly areas within their offices, equipped with amenities such as dog-friendly play areas, outdoor spaces, and dog-friendly cafeterias.
Q: Businesses such as hotels and restaurants are becoming more pet friendly. When did this become the standard?
A: The trend of businesses becoming more pet-friendly started gaining momentum over the past decade, and this shift can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, pets are considered integral members of the family, and pet owners seek ways to include them in various aspects of their lives. Secondly, businesses recognize the growing market of pet owners and the potential for increased customer loyalty and revenue by providing pet-friendly services.
Lastly, the rise of social media has fueled the desire for unique experiences and opportunities to create memorable moments with pets. One notable example is the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, which provides a cozy and inviting environment where customers can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while spending time with adoptable cats. The concept became popular through social media platforms like Instagram, where visitors would capture and share adorable moments of themselves interacting with the cats.
Q: Is this trend here to stay?
A: The pet humanization trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. The bond between pets and their owners continues to strengthen, and people's willingness to prioritize their pets' well-being is likely to persist. As a result, we can expect further innovations in pet products and services, increased personalization, and a focus on pet health, wellness, and emotional enrichment.
The integration of technology, such as smart pet devices and telehealth services, is also likely to shape the future of the pet industry. For example, Fi's smart collars are equipped with GPS tracking, activity monitoring, and geo-fencing capabilities. Pet owners can track their dog's location in real-time through a mobile app, set virtual boundaries to receive alerts if their dog wanders off, and monitor their pet's activity levels and health data. Furthermore, the collars are integrated with telehealth services, allowing pet owners to connect with veterinarians remotely for consultations and advice. Through the Fi app, pet owners can schedule virtual appointments, share health data with veterinarians, and receive professional guidance without the need for in-person visits.
Q: What industries are hopping onto the pet humanization trend?
A: Besides the hospitality and restaurant industries, we are witnessing pet humanization trends in various sectors. Retailers are expanding their pet product offerings and fashion brands are creating stylish pet accessories. Home decor companies are introducing pet-friendly furniture and decor while real estate developers are incorporating pet amenities in residential communities.
The travel industry is also adapting to cater to pet owners with pet-friendly vacation rentals, airlines offering pet travel options, and travel agencies curating pet-friendly itineraries. Airbnb allows hosts to specify if their listing is pet-friendly, providing a wide range of options for pet owners looking to travel with their furry companions. This feature enables pet owners to find suitable accommodations that welcome pets — eliminating the stress and hassle of finding pet-friendly hotels or rentals. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines has a dedicated program called Delta Pets that allows passengers to bring their small dogs, cats, and household birds in the cabin. The program ensures the safety and comfort of pets during air travel and provides guidelines and restrictions to ensure a positive experience for both the pet owners and other passengers.
Q: How do pet influencers on social media relate to this trend?
A: Research has shown a significant rise in the popularity of pet influencer accounts and the impact they have on consumer behavior. Many pet owners have created dedicated accounts for their pets — sharing their cute and funny moments, product recommendations, and pet-related experiences. These pet influencer accounts have become a source of entertainment, inspiration, and valuable insights for pet owners and enthusiasts alike. People are drawn to engaging with pet-related content, as it brings joy and emotional connection to their lives. According to a study conducted by Influence Central, 47 percent of pet owners follow pet influencers on social media platforms, and 65 percent of them reported being more likely to purchase a product or service endorsed by a pet influencer.
This growing trend has not gone unnoticed by brands. Numerous companies across various industries are actively collaborating with pet influencers to promote their products and services. The rise has also opened new avenues for brands to engage with their target audience. The authenticity and relatability of pet influencers creates a unique opportunity for companies to connect with consumers on a deeper emotional level. By tapping into the pet-human bond and aligning their brand messaging with the values of pet owners, companies can effectively reach and resonate with a highly engaged and loyal audience.