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Pet Owner Consumer Behavior

It’s no secret that people love shopping for their pets. Pet supplies make up an enormous and profitable niche in ecommerce, with the U.S. pet industry bringing in billions of dollars of revenue each year. 

Pet owners’ love for their furry, feathered, and scaly friends set them apart — but what about their shopping habits? Let’s take a look at how pet owners are spending in 2021, where they prefer to shop for their pets, and some of the top-performing pet products on Amazon this year. 

 

What kinds of people are U.S. pet owners? 

Of the 1,066 U.S. consumers surveyed for Jungle Scout’s Q2 2021 Consumer Trends Report, 786 said they had purchased pet products like cat food and dog toys this year. Viewed through that lens, we can assume roughly 68% of the U.S. population could be considered pet owners — or “pet parents,” a perhaps more fitting term for the modern pet-pampering consumer that has nonetheless roused lively debate.

In a separate survey, we asked a smaller group of pet parents about their preferred shopping methods and the kinds of pet products they’re buying now, based on what’s trending on social media and how their lifestyles will change as U.S. pandemic restrictions continue to ease. Quotes from their responses can be found throughout this article.  

So, what kind of people make up the pet parent segment of U.S. consumers? Unsurprisingly, pets are popular across generations and demographic groups, including men and women, parents and child-free people, and married couples and singles.  

While people of all ages in the U.S. own pets, the majority fall roughly into the Millennial generation: 52% of U.S. consumers who buy pet products in 2021 are between the ages of 25 and 44. Only 4% of these consumers are aged 75 and up. 

Slightly more women than men own pets; 55% of consumers who purchase pet products in 2021 identify as female, while 45% identify as male. 

In terms of employment status, 65% of pet owners work full- or part-time hours. Of those workers, 77% leave home to work, while 23% work from home. Roughly 8% are unemployed or currently furloughed due to COVID-19, 16% are retired, and the remaining 12% are students, homemakers, or unable to work. 

Pet owners’ household income varies, though more than half (53%) earn under $75,000 per year. The majority (86%) say their household income is the same or higher in Q2 than it was in Q1, and only 12% say their income has decreased in the last three months. 

Many consumers made big lifestyle changes in the past year. Overall, 13% of U.S. consumers changed jobs, 12% moved, while another 18% bought or sold their home. 6% got engaged or married, and 6% welcomed a child. 

The single-biggest change? 18% of Americans adopted a new pet during the pandemic, including 24% of existing pet owners.

Some decided to take on pet parenthood to fill the space in their home lives imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A new dog owner told us, “We first considered fostering since we knew we’d both be home for a while, but in the process saw that she needed a home and was pretty darn cute.”

Says a new cat parent, “I had already been thinking about adopting but when the pandemic (and quarantining) started, it seemed like the perfect time.”

For pet owners, pets are family 

When asked which areas of their life are the most important, pet owners rank pets as their second-greatest concern, just behind family. As far as what matters most, when you’re a pet owner, your pet comes ahead of your finances, human friends, career, and even your own physical and mental health. 

Rank Value Percent of pet owners prioritizing this value in 2021
1 My family 64%
2 My pets 48%
3 My physical health and well-being 43%
4 My mental health and well-being 40%
5 My friends 38%
6 My finances 38%
7 My hobbies and interests 36%
8 My love life 28%
9 My career 28%
10 My spirituality 26%
11 Spending time outside 26%
12 My education 18%
13 Politics/Civic engagement 18%
14 Travel 16%

 

Pet owner spending and shopping frequency in 2021 

Similarly to the average U.S. consumer, pet owners have maintained or decreased their overall spending in 2021, while maintaining or increasing their spending online and on Amazon. 

Consumer spending in Q1 2021 Decreased Stayed the same Increased
Overall spending 34% 38% 28%
Online spending 26% 33% 42%
Spending on Amazon 27% 32% 40%
Spending at Walmart (in-store) 32% 38% 30%
Spending on Walmart.com 27% 42% 32%

Pet parents’ spending in the pet category has also held stable this year: the vast majority (91%) of pet owners reported spending the same or more on pet products in Q2 versus Q1. 

Pet owners are frequent, on-the-go online shoppers — 70% make purchases online at least once a week, and a quarter shop online once a day or more. And while they also use computers, tablets, and smartphones to shop online, 68% of pet owners prefer to make purchases from their smartphones. 

Like the majority of U.S. consumers, pet owners are price-conscious and interested in products with plenty of great reviews — over two thirds (68%) of pet owners look for the lowest-price items  when shopping online. Compared to the general population, they are slightly more interested in tech-forward methods of shopping, like using deal-hunting browser extensions (52% of pet owners use these), flexible payment methods, and flexible delivery options like curbside pick-up. 

 

Where U.S. consumers shop for their pets 

Pet owners tend to start their online product searches on Amazon, though many use search engines like Google. 

Compared to the average consumer, pet owners are more likely to use other social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to search for products.  

Where pet owners search for products online Percent of pet owners
Amazon 76%
Search engine (e.g., Google, Bing) 50%
Walmart.com 48%
Facebook 40%
YouTube 36%
Instagram 34%
Other brand or retailer’s website 23%
Tik Tok 19%
Other social media platform 6%

On social media, pets mean business 

Owners can find no shortage of product recommendations from famous furry faces on the internet. Pet influencer marketing on social media is a huge industry, with celebrity animals like cats, dogs, squirrels, turtles, and marmosets engaging millions of followers on Instagram and TikTok. 

Today’s pet influencers are promoting everything — from cat shampoo and turtleneck tunics designed for Italian greyhounds to new music releases made by and for humans. 

 

Pet owners tell us they are keeping an eye on these trending products: 

  •  “I’ve been seeing some cute handmade collars on TikTok lately!” – a dog owner
  • “Oh man, I want a cat hammock.” – a cat owner
  • “There’s a remote treat dispensing camera thing that looked interesting.” – a dog owner 

Online shopping offers convenience and variety

More than one in five pet owners (23%) in the U.S. shop on Amazon for pet supplies. A similar number (22%) shop for pet products online at Walmart. 

Where pet owners plan to buy pet supplies in 2021 Pet owners
Amazon.com 23%
Walmart.com 22%
Another online retailer 14%
Walmart stores 21%
Another in-store retailer 15%

Three quarters of U.S. pet owners (75%) are Amazon Prime members, and 50% have Walmart+ memberships. 

We asked pet parents why they prefer shopping online versus in-store. They said buying pet food at a discount with automated “subscribe and save” programs is a big plus, as is the greater selection of products and fast shipping offered with online purchases. 

“I don’t have to pick up a 30-pound bag of dog food except to get it in my house from the door,” said one pet owner of the benefits of shopping online. 

On the other hand, brick-and-mortar pet stores offer unique perks, since shoppers can bring their furry friends along to help make purchase decisions. 

“I like to be able to see the quality of the toys before I buy,” said one pet owner. “Also love taking [my dog] with me so she can choose something for herself!” 

A cat owner echoes the value of examining toys in person: “I can evaluate the quality of the product [in-store]. I feel like pet products can sometimes be needlessly expensive…if it’s a toy I know is going to be obliterated quickly I don’t want to spend too much.” 

All of the pet owners in the smaller survey group say they shop for their pets on Amazon, though many pointed to Chewy, an online pet product retailer, PetSmart, and PetCo as staple shopping destinations.     

Pet owners are brand loyal 

Pet parents tend to be loyal to certain brands, particularly when shopping for their pets. When asked whether they look for specific brands when buying pet supplies, 42% say “always,” and another 46% say “sometimes.” 

Pet owners shop for specific brands for these types of products  Always/sometimes
Cleaning supplies 90%
Groceries 89%
Pet supplies (cat/dog food, toys, etc.) 88%
Beauty & personal care (cosmetics, shaving kit, etc.) 87%
Clothing 87%

Pet owners are more brand loyal on behalf of their pets than they are regarding their own personal care products and clothing.

 

Top pet products to watch in 2021 

Like many U.S. consumers, pet owners plan to resume a variety of pre-pandemic activities this year, including visiting family, working in an office, and staying at hotels. 

As of June 2021, more than half of pet parents say they’re already comfortable doing the following:

  • Visiting relatives or family – 65%
  • Dining indoors at a restaurant or bar – 59%
  • Working in an office outside the home – 54%
  • Attending in-person religious services – 50% 

By September of this year, a majority of pet owners say they’ll be comfortable staying at hotels, attending weddings, and flying in planes. As they begin to leave their homes for work, errands, and extended vacations, many are looking for products to help their pets transition smoothly to having more time alone. This includes everything from anti-anxiety supplements to automatic food dispensers, and puzzle toys to keep idle paws occupied while owners are away. 

We asked pet parents about the kinds of products they’re shopping for right now. Here’s what they told us, plus related top-performing listings on Amazon. 

“Calming” supplements for dogs

Intended to reduce stress related to loud noises, separation, and travel, these popular anti-anxiety dog chews are in high demand. 

“Smart” toys

Interactive and robotic toys for cats, like this electric flopping clownfish, are becoming bestsellers on Amazon, with monthly sales in the tens of thousands. 

High-tech automatic pet feeders 

Returning to the office could mean the occasional late work night. So that their dogs and cats don’t miss a meal, pet owners are buying automatic feeders in droves. Some options, like this one from Furbo, have cameras and smartphone compatibility so owners can dispense treats remotely. 

Dog car seats

Of course, some pet owners will simply bring their furry friends along when they reenter the post-pandemic world. In that case, they’re probably in the market for safe transit products, like comfy car seats for dogs, a category seeing high demand. This option saw a jump in sales this June. 

Cat backpacks

One person we spoke with suggested another handy transportation solution: “Cat backpack, 10/10 recommend.”

The same goes for owners of cats and other small pets, many of whom are buying cat backpacks. Take this one from Lollimeow, which has sold over 3,000 times in the past month.  

 

Pet owners shop with family in mind

Pet owners tend to be discerning, brand-loyal, and tech-forward shoppers who value their pets as much as their human families. With so many consumers adopting pets during the pandemic, the pet supply industry is poised to grow even more. 

Have you splurged on any pet products in the past year? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

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