Like any business owners, vets should know their market. So, what do Australian pet owners look like? Where is the research? And how can vets use this information to market themselves more effectively? Krisinda Merhi reports
With one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, it’s safe to say Australians are animal lovers. Almost two thirds of Australian households have at least one pet. Dogs are the most popular choice (4.8 million of them, to be exact), followed by cats and fish (yes, fish count as pets).
Although these statistics are testimony to our love of all things four-legged, furry or scaly, they don’t reveal much about the pet owners themselves.
For veterinary professionals, understanding animals is important, but knowing your client is just as crucial. Like any business owners, vets should know their market.
But where do you find this information? And what should you do with it?
Where to look
Understanding your market proves significantly harder when there’s no market research to guide you.
Data on pet ownership in Australia is virtually non-existent. Even our own census overlooks our furry friends.
Insurance provider, Petplan Australasia, decided to bridge the gap last year by launching their own pet census. The survey included questions about health, finances, social relations and family pet life. The aim of the census was not just to generate pages of numbers and figures but to create a snapshot of the sorts of relationships Australians have with their pets.
Travis Atkinson from Petplan explained why the Pet Census is so important: “Pet Census 2016 is steered towards adopting practices that promote positive pet welfare and generally encourage a successful and happy relationship between the owners and their companion animals.”
Before Petplan’s census, however, Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) functioned as the main source of research regarding our cuddly friends.
AMA is the peak industry body representing the leaders of the animal health industry in Australia.
Their annual reports highlight the role pets play in modern Australian society “both in terms of the value people place on their pets and the value they deliver to us”
Identifying who owns pets and pets they own gives us insight into:
- the diversity of the pet population
- the drivers and barriers to pet ownership
- reasons for pet purchases
- attitudes towards pets
- pet health management
- estimated pet costs.
Understanding these things ultimately means pet owners, government bodies and industry professionals are in a better position to care for animals and cater for the needs of their owners.
So, what exactly does the average Australian pet owner look like?
What we know
All types of people own all types of pets. But 2016 research conducted by AMA has found some people are statistically more likely than others to be pet owners.
“Understanding owners as well as pets is important because vets are running a business—and it’s the owners who pay the bills.”—Rob Johnson, Engage Content
Sixty four per cent of pet owners are female. Within this group, the higher proportion (72 per cent) belong to Generation Y and are between 18-29 years old.
Most live in a home (although not all own them), and most homes have multiple inhabitants: 74 per cent have three or more adults, 73 per cent have children.
Sixty six per cent work part-time (not so good for those hefty vet bills), while 65 per cent are full-time workers.
Australians spend an enormous $8 billion per year on their furry family members. If you break that down dog by dog, that’s a grand total of $1,051 per year for all pet costs, including food and veterinary services.
Despite these costs, the portion of pet owners who have pet insurance in Australia remains relatively small at about 10 per cent compared to the UK where it is around 40 per cent.
All this data provides an image of what a pet owner might look like. Or, more importantly, what they don’t look like. They’re less likely to be male, over the age of 70, unemployed, living in an apartment or small, childless households.
Understanding these things ultimately helps vets recognise the sorts of services their client is looking for: the needs of a 70-year-old long-time pet owner will be very different from those of a 30-year-old mother of three who just bought her first pup.
“Understanding owners as well as pets is important because vets are running a business—and it’s the owners who pay the bills. And while you can’t really say any one ‘type’ of person is a pet owner, you can look at what types of people around your area will be good customers,” says Rob Johnson from Engage Content.
According to Johnson, the more vets pay attention to the type of client base they are attracting, the more likely they are going to be listened to in return.
“Owners will follow your treatment plans, bring their pets in regularly, and trust your judgements as a vet,” he says.
But getting to this point isn’t just about reading the stats or getting to know every client that walks through your door—it’s what you do with all this information that is most important.
“Once you understand why people would want to bring their pets to you, you can make it easier for them to do so,” says Johnson.
“People in advertising and marketing talk a lot about ‘customer pain points’, but it isn’t just pain that motivates them to come to you in particular. They also have to know, like and trust you if they’re going to put the health of their pet in your hands.”
The best way to get them to do this: showcase your knowledge and experience. Be willing to have all sorts of conversations either in person or on your own website. Write a blog. Send out newsletters. Help them without being asked to do so.
Male, female, dog lover or cat owner; they will appreciate it. That might not be an official statistic but it’s definitely fact.
Read about pet ownership in Australia at www.animalmedicinesaustralia.org.au