How to compete in the dog food industry
eCommerce Intelligence

How To Compete in the Dog Food Industry

by Emily Hunt , Market Research & eCommerce Specialist 4 Min.
February 11, 2021 | Updated July 4, 2022

COVID-induced loneliness increased the demand for man’s best friend to replace human companionship over the past year. As a result, pet adoptions soared to record numbers, and the pet food and supplies industry reached an estimated $99.0 billion according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Some of the world’s largest brands, including Mars, Nestle, General Mills, and J.M. Smuckers are already in the dog food industry. We expect competition to surge as big-box retailers enhance their eCommerce channels and direct-to-consumer (DTC) grows in popularity. With the growing challenge to capture shoppers’ attention and dollars, we provide tips for brands to stay relevant:

Tip #1: Understand the dog food industry’s competitive landscape

Global pet food and supplies-related web traffic grew 72% (YoY) in Q4 2020. Chewy.com harnessed the most traffic share (18.9%) for the year, while D2C and wellness-related brands dominated the top 10 fastest-growing websites, with 175% traffic growth on average.

Amazon and Chewy lead big-box retail

Target, Petco (which recently went public) and Walmart, fell behind Chewy.com and Amazon for the number of converted web visits. However, the laggards are making moves to close in on the competition, including: 

  • Joining forces with pet startups: Both Target and Petco announced partnerships with startups (Wild One and Jinx) this Fall. Petco also acquired the subscription service Pupbox to beef up digital offerings and promote brand loyalty. This activity helps the retailers expand their product and customer base.
  • Launching specialized pet sectors: In 2019, Walmart launched its pet pharmacy, walmartpetrx.com, to rival chewy.com’s pharmacy business. The decision paid off — walmartpetrx.com became among the fastest-growing pet supply websites in 2020 (+148%) as consumers turned to online channels for subscriptions.

D2C competition disrupts the pet food market

Pet owners are investing in personalized and premium pet food. This trend fuels the growth of D2C brands. Thefarmersdog.com, which emphasizes real food “tested by humans’‘ and developed under the guidance of vets, took the number one spot for the fastest-growing site in the pet industry (+384%). Ollie (+122%), a company that prides itself in offering healthy human-grade dog food, also made the top ten rankings. 

Findings by the APPA indicate that premium, human-grade D2C dog food brands have strong staying power. Despite coronavirus’s economic impact, less than 20% of pet parents are willing to switch petcare brands to save money. More traditional dry food companies that are losing market share to D2C should consider offering premium pet foods or emphasizing all-natural ingredients and similarities to human food in their messaging.

Read More: Best Marketplaces for Online Dog Food Sales

Tip #2: Develop a targeted keyword search strategy

Cater to hooman education

Consumers are curious about dogs, particularly the different breeds! IAMs.com, owned by Mars, is among the top 10 fastest-growing pet supply websites (U.S.). It generates significant traffic share from inquiries related to dog breeds. For instance, it takes the top and third spots for dog-related keywords with “dog IQ quiz“ and “dog breed selector.”

Isolating traffic from IAMs’ dog breed selector, which makes up nearly half of the traffic to its website, we see that it continues to grow, with 82% and 89% rise in March and April. These months were the beginning of lockdown when many started considering getting a dog. Even if IAM’s traffic was top-of-funnel and exploratory, the low bounce rate (10%) indicates engaged users. These users may return to IAMs.com when they are ready to nourish their new furry family member.

Other manufacturers may increase traffic and boost engagement by putting out educational and interactive content like IAMs.

Leverage Amazon SEO

Total visits to Amazon’s pet & animal food and supply category grew 70.7% (YoY) worldwide in 2020, making its marketplace an attractive option for brands to expand their distribution channels. With our new Shopper Intelligence, we provide tips to fine-tune this strategy.  

Use generic terms in non-branded Amazon product searches

Non-branded dog food searches performed strongly. With only four out of ten of the top keyword searches on Amazon related to particular brands, sellers have the opportunity to acquire new customers who are not yet loyal. To do so, companies can prioritize optimizing for generic terms like “Puppy Food” in their listings.

Learn more – Amazon SEO Guide

Tip #3: Build pet parent customer loyalty

Switching dog foods may be against most vets’ advice, yet, consumers seem willing to experiment. Though it’s difficult to ensure repeat customers, here’s whose customers are the most loyal: 

Big-box retailers

Among big-box retailers, stickiness, a measure of customer loyalty, was above average for Chewy.com and Amazon. These retailers have “subscribe & save” or “autoship & save” programs that provide discounts to shoppers who sign up for regular shipments. eCommerce channels without “subscribe & save” should consider implementing the feature. These programs push consumers towards repeat pet purchases and benefits suppliers who can expect a stable order volume each month.

Amazon dog food products

Brands that underperform on customer loyalty should tailor marketing efforts to focus on customer engagement. This will help tap into additional revenue opportunities. 

Case study: Hill’s Science Diet

Hill’s, which is among the top products for Amazon’s dog food category, has the opportunity to increase recurring revenue by $2M a month if returning visits (59%) reach the same level as the category (68%).

In addition to optimizing its Amazon listings, Hills should use its website to direct consumers to Amazon or another online retailer where they can purchase its’ product. Right now, the site’s “Where To Buy” section lists brick-and-mortar stores before online channels. Streamlining will also help turn organic traffic (via high-quality, educational content) into sales. 

Download: Dog Food Performance Insights Report 

Tip #4: Gather more insights to drive Amazon sales

Our discussion only scratches the surface of pet food industry insights, which we can generate using our new Shopper Intelligence and Similarweb Pro. Shopper Intelligence provides Amazon product research, sales data, and customer journey insights. It reveals metrics to optimize Amazon listings like product views, units sold, purchase frequency, and brand basket mix. 

Ready to try Shopper Intelligence and start pulling insights? Set up a demo.

We’re huge dog lovers at Similarweb, so stay tuned for more pawfect reading!

Amazon Dog Food Industry

Rocky, Similarweb’s Chief Barketing Officer

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