The theme of the GlobalPets Forum 2017, held this year in Warsaw, Poland, was ‘the nature of pet business’. In relation to this topic, Trend Strategist and Futurist Richard Lamb, managing partner at TrendWatcher.com Future Agency, sketches today’s fast-changing world and how the pet business can adapt to it in a proactive way.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” In 1963, Leon Megginson gave his interpretation of Darwin’s ideas with this particular line in a speech. Similarly, the pet business also has to adapt to survive. And to understand the changes ahead, we have to look to the past as well. We have to recognise change on a higher aggregation level and make the present and future rhyme with the past. And we have to consider the underlying structures and interests to translate them into predictions.
In the case of the pet industry, we have to consider the original concept of selling pets, pet food and accessories. Once this was done directly between farmers, without stores as we know them today. Progressively, these pet foods and accessories were traded at local open-air markets. Just a few decades ago, these markets turned into small pet shops, many of them family-owned. Today, most of these family businesses have been swept away by retail chains with up to thousands of outlets around the world.
These are all manifestations of the original concept of selling pets, pet food and accessories. Selling pet food and accessories online was a major breakthrough and therefore the next manifestation after the rise of pet retail chains. Multichannel and cross-channel presences were quite logical, although they still focussed on the conventional sales channels. On the other hand, an omnichannel presence is an important step forward because, from now on, the focus is on the customer and a consistent brand experience in all forms, online and offline. The ratio between online and offline sales varies widely, depending on the region and customer type. Therefore a huge range of possibilities should be offered to reach all pet owners. Besides shops with high service and entertainment levels, customers expect a presence on their smartphone, tablet, laptop, interactive TV and so on.
So what is the next manifestation of selling pets, pet food and accessories? We are on the eve of Buy-On-The-Fly and, later on, Buy-Without-An-Actual-Transaction-Moment.
In a Buy-On-The-Fly situation, a customer does not visit a shop, or a web shop: he simply points his smartphone (or other personal device) at a product like pet food. The app recognises the product and suggests where to buy it. The pet owner orders through the app and the product will be delivered at home.
The next manifestation of selling pets, pet food and accessories might be the Buy-Without-An-Actual-Transaction-Moment. Financial institutions and innovative FinTech enterprises are already running pilot projects with Buy-By-Use transactions. In this situation, we do not pay at the moment we order pet food or when it is delivered; we make micropayments at the moment our pets start eating an amount of food.
These Buy-By-Use transactions will become possible once the Internet of Things is widespread. Many tiny sensors and other devices will surround us in our daily lives to register and control what we and our pets are doing all day. Sounds scary? Think in terms of opportunities. It is your future in the long run.
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