I, Olivia, am a millennial. A word that might conjure several images in your mind. While I am partial to avocado on toast and have been known to snap a few selfies (guilty), there are some generational stereotypes that pet businesses should be chucking straight out the window – and for very good reason. Because marketing to millennial pet owners is the future.
Many of my peers may not yet have said their ‘I dos’ or stepped on the property ladder, but there is one milestone millennials are monopolising more than any generation before them: they are becoming pet owners. Myself included.
In the first of our blog series on millennial pet parents and marketing, I’m here to bust some common myths, so you can make sure you are appealing to this complex and considerably lucrative market.
In 2018 something big happened. Millennials took over baby boomers as the biggest pet-owning generation. Ever. If that wasn’t enough to perk up your ears, it’s estimated that by 2025, one in three pet owners will be millennials.
Global lockdowns have added a surge to this wave, pushing these numbers even higher. Over one third of young adults aged 24-35 welcomed new pets into their house during the pandemic. Around 2.1 million collected a new pet in lockdown, and a further 1.8 million are planning to add a pet to their household in the near future.
With millennials forging a bright future for the pet industry, it’s therefore crucial to understand how to market to them. While millennials constitute a wide range of people, with varying hobbies, dispositions and brand preferences, learning to appreciate their common traits and psychological preferences is invaluable. It allows your pet business to assess it’s foundations, and connect better with it’s newest and largest audience, an audience that has long-been misconstrued.
So let’s start with some of the most common misconceptions, and break down the real data-driven truths behind them, so your pet business can pivot to meet them where they really are. (At the dog park most likely…)
Let’s start with the part of this statement that is pretty true. Millennials generally consider themselves time poor. In a survey of 19,000 millennials across 25 countries, 73% of millennials reported working more than 40 hours a week. But this is shifting. We are no longer willing to compromise our work-life balance, with surveys suggesting most millennials are now willing to take substantial pay cuts in order to achieve it.
Around nine in ten millennials want a flexible working week, with nearly 1 in 3 millennials saying they would consider looking for another job post-pandemic if their workplace was not pet-friendly. Indeed, the pandemic has been a huge driver for younger workers wanting more quality time with their pets. Before the pandemic, just 29% of workers said they had access to flexible working arrangements. Now, only a tiny 7% think they won’t work flexibly in the future!
But that doesn’t mean we millennials don’t love convenience. Research has found that across all categories, millennials indulge in convenience pet services (such as dog walking, subscription boxes and repeat deliveries) the most. Spending almost double that of baby boomers! Something to get your nose into for sure if you plan to start marketing to millennial pet owners…
Whilst we might be putting off children for longer (sorry mum!), it’s not true that we aren’t having babies.
In the US, the American Veterinary Medical Association found that “85 percent of dog-owners and 76 percent of cat-owners think of their pets as family.” But what’s interesting is that this is even stronger amongst millennials, who are increasingly choosing pets instead of, or as practice for, kids.
The most likely market to give their dog birthday presents, cakes and dress them in clothing? You guessed it, it’s us. Look – a bandana is cute ok!
On a serious note, the term “pet parents” isn’t just a fun turn of phrase, it’s an accurate reflection of generational shifts.
Whilst we millennials have lower salaries on average and higher housing costs than previous generations, the sheer size of our demographic outweighs these factors. Millennial spending was set at a whopping $1.4 trillion in 2020. So disregarding our pockets won’t set your business tails wagging, that’s for sure.
What’s even more interesting and myth-busting is how this spending is framed. Because it’s becoming clear that the younger generations are willing to spend more on their pets than ever before. In the UK alone, more than 50% of pet parents aged 19-38 said they’d rather cut expenses for themselves than cut back on their pets.
(There goes my spa weekend…)
But perhaps most interesting of all, half of 16-34-year-old pet owners say that pampering their pets makes them happy. Meaning that for a significant number of millennial pet parents, buying things for their beloved animals is an enjoyable experience they look forward to. This has only grown during COVID, with the same report finding that millennial spending on pets increased during the pandemic.
Well without my weekend brunch sessions, I’ve definitely been adding to the dog fund more than usual!
While it might be natural to assume that with our ever expanding choices and a reputation for “ghosting”, loyalty would be in short supply for us. But that’s not the case. We are so loyal, in fact, that nearly 80% of millennials would pay for brand loyalty programs.
And loyal millennials could even do the work for you. Nearly 77% of millennials are said to have recommended a product or service in the last month. Meaning that your pet business could be reaching even more customers, without you lifting a finger!
Which leads nicely onto our next myth bust…
While Ad blocking methods are employed by around 40% of this age group, there are other ways to advertise. For example, millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by blogs than other selling methods.
So in case you haven’t already guessed, social media could make a big difference to reaching millennials. Personally? So many of my purchasing decisions are made from friends’ recommendations, shout outs and blogs from carefully curated influencers I trust. Why is that?
Social proof could be the answer. It’s a psychological concept that humans naturally look to those around them to help make decisions. Being born in the age of tech and growing up with social media, millennials have the opinions of close friends and aspirational role models at their fingertips to help with all manner of purchasing decisions.
Ah, that famous magazine article, that got it oh so wrong.
Why? Because what millennials want above all else is a socially conscious brand. 71% of us will pay more for a product if it has a good cause behind it. Whether it’s a charitable donation included in the purchase price, helping a local business thrive, or eco-friendly choices being made by the brand. A sense of anxiety about the world around us leads millennials to look for personal, authentic connections and ways to feel good about our consumer habits.
A pet food study found this too, where 28% of respondents aged 18 to 34 said they’re interested in seeing more sustainably sourced pet food, with 25% saying they’re also interested in pet food with plant-based protein.
There you have it.
Myths well and truly busted.
So what’s the truth? Well, as we’ve seen, millennials are a big market with a lot of spending power, that offers loyalty and some serious word of mouth. We care deeply about our pets and want the best for them, and we’re certainly willing to fork out a fair amount for our beloved Fido.
The sooner you build a relationship and deep connection with millennials, the higher the chance of having serious staying power for your brand.
So how do you build that relationship?
Our next blog, part 2 of marketing to millennial pet owners, will be diving into the emotional drivers and core values that millennial pet owners are looking for in your brand. To help you tap into this pet-mad market and put some brilliant best practices into action. So stay tuned!
Remember, we offer easy peasy, no-pressure consultation calls, to help with any queries you might have. Whether it’s how to build brand loyalty with your millennial market, or to check if your social media is up to scratch. We can work some magic, just see.