Pets are an adorable source of companionship, comfort, and a great reason to get outdoors if you have an animal that needs walking. Interestingly, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in their 2019-2020 Pet Owners Survey reports that as many as 67% of 85 million families own a pet. When you consider that in 1988 (when the APPA did their first-ever survey like this), just over half of these homes (56%) had pets, that’s a huge leap.
These perks aside, it’s also a business opportunity.
Because with pets come pet accessories and pet products.
The pet product niche is a lucrative one—but don’t take our word for it, take a look at these impressive figures:
- The average US household spends around $500 on their pets each year
- An affluent US household spends around $1,523 on their pets each year
- Around $36.9 billion was spent on pet food in 2019
- Approximately $30.2 billion was spent on vet care and pet products in 2019
- Pet owners spend an average of $28.36 on their pet for Valentine’s Day
If you want a slice of that pie, read on. Our guide is going to take you through:
- The importance of doing your homework on pet products first
- The kinds of pet products you can make
- Where to source pet products
- How to sell and market pet products online
That’s lots to cover, so let’s dive in!
Do Your Homework First
You must choose your products wisely before launching your pet products business. Why invest time and money in merchandise that won’t sell because they’re not on-trend or because no one wants them?
This is why doing your homework is imperative. So, here are a few thoughts to get you started:
- Buy a few pet magazines and look at pet-related blogs. These are fantastic resources to learn about what’s hot and what’s not.
- Keep an eye on celebrity trends. Celebrities are often pictured with their pets so take a look at magazines, blogs, and social media posts to find out what’s trending at the moment so you can capitalize on it.
- Head to Google Trends—it’s an invaluable tool. Search for phrases like “pet toys” or “pet products” or something more specific like “dog collars” or “dog leashes,” and you’ll see how popular your search queries are over time. You can filter by time period and location to hone in on trends as recent as the past 4 hours, days, months, 90 days, 5 years, etc.
- If you have a stellar idea that you really think will sell (because there’s a gap in the market), conduct competitor research and product research to be sure that your approach is unique. If you’re spot on, you then have a unique selling point to showcase.
By doing all the above, you’ll better position yourself to pick products that will actually convert into sales.
What Kind of Pet Products Can You Make?
If you’re into crafts or handy with a sewing machine, you may want to make bespoke pet products. There are several products you could create yourself, such as:
- Pet toys
- Pet collars/leashes
- Pet beds
- Pet accessories
- Pet clothes (jackets/boots/etc.)
- Pet food
- Gifts for pet lovers
There are a few perks to creating your own pet products. For instance, you’ll have full control over every aspect of the production cycle, and you can launch your own uniquely branded line of products. Pretty neat, right?
Let’s look at some of the above suggestions in more detail:
If you’re planning on selling to dog and cat owners, there are a few things you can try to make. For example, you could use heavy-duty recycled materials, like old denim, to make dog toys. It’s a simple option that’s usually easily accessible.
You could also make adjustable dog collars or leashes in brightly-colored or unique fabrics or even use recycled or scrap materials left over from other projects. Perhaps you could even personalize the collars or leashes by sewing a name tag or message onto them, giving you the option to charge more for the product. You could also make a bespoke line of dog collars and leashes for special events like weddings where you could customize the items to match the wedding’s color scheme.
Every animal lover wants their beloved pet to have a good night’s sleep. For cat and dog owners who wish to encourage their pets not to sleep on their own bed at night, a pet bed is a great option.
Tuft + Paw is a successful example of how pet products like cat beds can be taken to the next level (see our Tuft + Paw case study here). They’re a modern cat furniture company that creates high-end pet products. This brand was born when the founders wanted cat furniture that appealed to both homeowners as well as their darling feline friends. They’re now known as the “West Elm of cat furniture” because of their high-quality materials and designs.
Pets don’t just need a bed and toys—there are dozens of other pet accessories you could sell online. For example, pet towels for beach days or cleaning up after muddy walks, pet bandanas, or even decorative items to put inside fish tanks.
Did you know that January 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day? (Yes, there really is a day dedicated to this!) You could capitalize on this by creating a line of pet-wear. Many stylish pet owners would be interested in the opportunity to invest in seasonal-appropriate pet clothing for the animal in their life.
According to Petpedia, 60% of millennials say they buy jackets, sweaters, and other clothes for their beloved pets. A little lateral thought and some investment into sturdy fabrics, and you can have a line of pet clothes ready to go in no time.
Pet food is a big business—mainly dry pet foods. In fact, pet food and pet treat sales in the US increased in 2019 by 6.5% to $36.9 billion and is currently forecasted to grow a further 4% in 2020.
Obviously, larger pet food companies dominate the majority of the market, however, pet owners usually want to feed their pets healthy and nutritious food so you could create your own line of dry foods for pets. If you’re planning on selling to higher-end clients, you could even offer a bespoke option with food tailored to their animal’s specific diet and health needs.
Gifts for Pet Lovers
And finally, how about designing unique, customized gifts for pet lovers themselves? If you’re an artist, you could offer bespoke, pet-themed wall art where pet owners send in photos of their furry friends for you to create a customized piece of art. You could draw or paint their beloved pet and have them framed!
Where to Source Pet Products
Of course, if you don’t possess the creative DIY abilities to make your own pet products from scratch, you could also source your pet products from a supplier. If that’s your preferred option, there are a few routes to consider.
Let’s take a look.
There are plenty of online dropshipping directories where you can source high-quality pet products. This is an excellent option for anyone who’s just getting started and has a limited budget.
Dropshipping enables you to sell online without having to buy any inventory upfront. When customers purchase something from your online store, you purchase that product from your dropshipping supplier, and then your supplier ships the order directly to your customer from their warehouse.
Spocket (Spocket Review) is a fantastic example of a first-rate dropshipping app. What makes Spocket different is that most of their suppliers are located in the US, EU, and the UK which helps to ensure quicker shipping times to customers located in those, or nearby, regions. Spocket also integrates directly with Shopify and WooCommerce stores which helps to automate the dropshipping process.
Spocket’s payment plans are pretty reasonable, with its Starter package costing $19/month (including a free 14-day trial).
For your money, you can:
- Import up to 25 unique products
- View real-time inventory updates
- Get email support
- Have unlimited orders
- View global pricing rules
- Get shipment tracking numbers
This provides you with everything you need to get started, and there’s always the option to upgrade to one of their more extensive plans later on.
It’s worth noting that Spocket has a track record of helping entrepreneurs succeed in the pet niche. Their website features a case study on how dog owner Marc Shapon set up a dropshipping store selling dog products and in under a year, he was making sales worth $60,000 a month!
The Pros and Cons of Dropshipping
Dropshipping has its fair share of pros and cons but if you do your research thoroughly, it’s possible to avoid common pitfalls.
The most notable advantages include:
- There’s no need to purchase or stock large amounts of products
- You don’t need to pay upfront for merchandise, which means less financial outlay and therefore risk
- As you don’t have to worry about the logistics side of things, you can spend more time on sales, marketing, and customer support
- Dropshipping is easy to get started with
- It offers you location freedom
Whereas, the cons include:
- Typically, you make less profit than if you were to manufacture the products yourself or purchase merchandise from a wholesaler.
- You have less control over the entire logistics process, such as the shipping times or delivery process.
- If something goes wrong during the manufacturing or shipping process, you’re still liable.
- Inventory management can be challenging if you have communication difficulties with suppliers—especially if they’re overseas, where language barriers and time differences play a role.
Before you hit the ground running with drop shipping, don’t forget to factor in shipping and marketing costs to avoid underselling.
You may also want to consider running offers on bundles of items, such as a pet product gift box including a matching dog coat, leash, and bandana. Bundles help to increase your average order value so they can help boost your profits, but you’ll likely have to make special arrangements with your dropshipper to make them a reality, so keep that in mind.
Alternatively, you could purchase wholesale items from popular pet brands.
Although using wholesalers gives you greater control over your branding and your delivery process in general, it’s more time-consuming than dropshipping and requires upfront inventory purchasing as well as inventory management systems.
If you’re considering this option, it’s worth doing your homework. You’ll want to research high-quality pet product wholesalers so you can find the right ones to work with. Ideally, they should offer the kinds of products you want to sell, they should have MOQs that you can meet, and they should provide good communication and troubleshooting processes.
Another option is private labeling. Private labeling is similar to wholesaling in that you purchase and sell another company’s product, however, you’ll be able to put your own brand name and logo on the product instead. This means that you can sell ready-made products without having to design or manufacture them yourself, and they’ll also fit your own branding requirements! Some private labelers even offer dropshipping so you don’t have to handle any of the shipping or logistics processes either.
And finally, the last option to create pet products to sell online is to work with a manufacturer to bring your ideas to life.
This is an ideal option if you already have a strong sense of:
- The kind of brand you want to convey
- The products you want to create
- The demand for these products
And you don’t mind putting in the work.
Manufacturing products is the most time-consuming option out of all the options we’ve mentioned, and it requires you to purchase your inventory upfront. Plus, you may even need to fund the costs of making custom molds or casts to make your unique products.
It does, however, offer some appealing benefits. When you manufacture your own products you usually get the best profit margin earning potential, and you get complete control over your product design and your branding.
So although there is great risk with manufacturing, there is also great reward.
How to Sell Pet Products Online
So now that you’ve decided how you’re going to make or source your pet products, you need to know how you’re actually going to sell them online.
If you’re new to online selling, this may seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be if you’ve done your homework and you’re fully prepared.
Create an Online Store
There are tons of ecommerce platforms you can use to create and launch your online store. It’s worth checking out your options before committing to one in particular, but one of the most popular platforms and the one we recommend is Shopify (Shopify Review).
If you’re new to ecommerce, then Shopify’s Basic plan is an excellent place to start. It starts at $29/month, plus they offer a free 14-day trial. As your business scales, you’re free to upgrade to one of Shopify’s more extensive plans if you choose to.
- Shopify makes it quick and easy to set up an ecommerce store
- They integrate with thousands of apps so it’s effortless to extend your online store’s functionality
- They offer professional-looking templates that lay an excellent foundation for the design of your store
- It’s easy to customize your online store to reflect your brand
- You don’t need any website development or coding experience to get started
- Its many features can be overwhelming if you’re new to this
- It’s not completely free—there is a monthly or yearly fee
Other ecommerce platforms worth considering include BigCommerce and Squarespace.
If you’ve already done a bit of research and are still undecided, follow the checklist below to ensure that the ecommerce platform in question is the right one for you:
- They offer multiple levels of customer support (such as live chat, phone, email, online resources, blog posts, forums)
- Store set up is straightforward and relatively quick
- The costs are listed upfront (now and in the future)
- They offer high-quality and a wide range of website themes
- They offer high-quality data analytics and reporting tools
- Their app store is comprehensive and useful
How to Market Pet Products Online
Last, but definitely not least, it’s time to think about marketing your pet products. After all, if no one knows your store is out there, how can they buy from you?
Let’s start with a few basics.
Marketing to pet owners has one significant advantage: Your target audience has an emotional connection to their pets. They want the best for their companions. In many cases, it’s likely that their pet is an extension of their family. That’s something you can use to your advantage when creating your marketing strategy.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Use Instagram & User-Generated Content
People just love pet pictures. If you’re skeptical, look at the Cats of Instagram’s account, with its 11.6 million followers! Or Doug the Pug, a Pug from Tennessee who has 4 million followers and a lifestyle that rivals many social media influencers!
So, launch an Instagram account for your online store, personalizing it with pet photos donning your products. You can also ask your customers to send in pictures of their pets wearing or using your merchandise. This is an effortless, inexpensive, yet effective way of extending your reach.
Check out our Instagram Marketing post for more ideas on how to market your products on Instagram.
Run Competitions or Giveaways
Run competitions or giveaways on your social media accounts! Ask pet owners to send photos or videos of their pets enjoying your products, and the cutest one wins a prize. This is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website and increase your reach.
Use Your Personal Connections
Tell all your friends, family, and connections about your new brand. Some of them will have pets, so ask them whether they’ll test out some of your products and post about them on their social networks. This is a useful way to create authentic chatter about your brand, which can drum up some interest in your products.
Try Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Ask your customers to tell their friends! You can even incentivize them if you have the budget. For example, you could offer a discount for every referral they make that converts into a sale.
You should also ask your customers to leave reviews on the products they purchase from you. Why? 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they do their friends, so it will pay off in the long run! You can use automation emails through your email marketing platform to send out reminders to customers to review their latest purchases.
As your business grows, you should also consider influencer marketing. It’s fair to say that in recent years, this marketing method has skyrocketed. If your budget doesn’t stretch to major influencers, find micro-influencers. These are social media users with less than 10k followers who are happy to collaborate with small brands.
Here are a few tips on finding the perfect influencer to team up with:
- Conduct hashtag searches on Instagram using the following keyword phrase: “# + your niche keyword.” Scour the top posts to find the people behind them and see how many followers they have. When you find accounts with a decent amount of followers, reach out to them and ask if they’d be interested in collaborating.
- Use Google to look for bloggers and pet specialists. You can also utilize Twitter to find people with large numbers of followers who tweet about pet products.
- Use influencer marketing platforms like Grapevine or Famebit, or even go through influencer management agencies like Gleam Futures to find the right influencers for your brand.
Optimize for SEO
SEO is one of the most important ways to drive new traffic to your online store, organically. When you optimize your website for SEO, you’ll improve your chances of ranking in Google search results which means that people searching for products or answers to their questions could end up on your site.
There are so many different ways to optimize your online store for SEO so check out Backlinko’s Complete SEO Beginner’s Guide to get started. The Backlinko team knows their stuff when it comes to SEO and if you’re totally new to it, their guide will walk you through everything you need to know, step-by-step.
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, you now know more about how to sell pet products online! It’s an exciting niche to get into, and it can be lucrative if you find the right product to sell to the right niche. You can really get creative with pet products and you can expand your product line over time, so start small and see where you can grow to. Good luck!