Disruption in Pet Care Services

Kudos to Carmen Rustenbeck at IBPSA for picking up on the Inc Magazine article on DogVacay.

Rustenbeck writes in this article in Pet Boarding and Daycare Magazine of her reaction to Inc's premise that 'pretty much anybody can take care of your dog'. Here she legitimately argues the point that professional pet care givers must understand and practice the fundamentals of safety, health, emergency preparation and overall 'standards of care', and further (via marketing) that kennel businesses should  "make sure you’re setting yourself apart from “pretty much anybody” with your education, your preparation, and your certification."

Rustenbeck is right, kennel and daycare operators can set themselves apart by maintaining high standards of care - and letting their prospective customers know about it - but in many states there are limited levels of regulations and standards. IBPSA is making progress in establishing certification levels for facilities and individual professionals, but regulations and industry-led standards do not prevent competition and disruption* of an industry. Look at what AirBnB did to to short-term lodging - in spite of extensive industry health regulations. Or what Uber and Lyft are doing to transportation - specifically taxis - which are well regulated in most cities.

AirBnB, Uber and Lyft are all disrupting* their respective industries, and DogVacay (now merged with Rover) and other businesses are disrupting - at least to a certain degree - the pet care industry.

*Economists refer to disruption as "an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances" (wikipedia).

Will we see total disruption and displacement of pet care facilities? No, just as we will likely always have taxis and hotels, but the impact could be meaningful over time, especially as tech-loving and gig-economy embracing millennials continue to increase their share of pet ownership.

Avoid the way of the Dodo

What are consumers of services like Rover/DogVacay really looking for? Is it indeed the 'safety' and 'less stress' of their dog to stay in someone's private home versus a dog care facility? That's the prime benefit pitched by Rover, but my gut says that customers using this service are really looking for other key benefits:

  1. Convenient online scheduling of the services,

  2. Easy payment methods,

  3. Easy way to repeat the process,

  4. Some person-to-person 'touch', but the customer is always in control of how much.

Everyone wants safety, low-stress and belly rubs for their pets. They can get this at any quality dog boarding/daycare business. What Rover is providing is an easy way for customers to find and select someone to take care of their pet, pay for the service, get a 'warm and fuzzy feeling' about the pet's care, and repeat the process.

So how does the dog care facility-based business avoid displacement? Deliver everything that Rover provides and more with your business:

1. Adopt and implement the best available technology for online bookings and reservation management.

2. Make it easy for your customers to pay you.

3. Make it easy for your customers to be repeat customers.

4. Provide convenient 'warm and fuzzy' feelings, via emailed/texted Report Cards with pictures of their pets having fun at your facility.

5. Ensure that your customers understand the level of care and safety you provide to your pet-guests. Demonstrate the expertise of your staff. Repeat, repeat, repeat through marketing to your current customers and prospective customers.

6. Demonstrate the added benefits that pets get with real facility-based 24-hour care and socialization with professional care givers and other pets.

 

I'm not an alarmist, but the 'threat of disruption' in pet care services with online sitter-connecting services like Rover/DogVacay is real enough to want me to pay attention, and help dog kennel/daycare facility-based businesses stay ahead of the pack. - Andy

 

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