Spring has sprung and summer is around the corner. Are you and your customers ready for the change of seasons?
As spring moves to summer, more is changing than just the weather. The competitive landscape for your customers is becoming increasingly difficult when it comes to selling veterinary products. No one will ever replace the service and medical expertise that the veterinarian provides, but the sales of products – both prescription and non-prescription – are being pursued by every internet retailer that can figure out how to sell them.
Veterinarians have been experiencing the pressures of internet sales on almost all veterinary products. They are starting to accept that they may get the initial sale of a product, but the subsequent orders often go to the internet retailers. Pricing and shipping convenience are just two of the deciding factors. The most recent segment of products to come under attack are veterinary prescriptions. Walmart and other retailers have been after the veterinary prescriptions for years, but with the surge of e-commerce and home delivery during the pandemic, competitors seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Chewy, Amazon, Petco, PetSmart, and many others are pursuing the ability to access and fulfill veterinary prescription products.
Flea and tick
Right now, most of the country is gearing up for flea and tick season. These are some of the most sought-after products by internet retailers. The number of generics and nonprescription items in this category are staggering. Some of the most prominent ethical manufacturers continue to innovate within this category, for example, by having multiple indications handled by one product. But there is only so much innovation and so much efficacy that can be touted as an advantage for veterinary-only prescription products. The over-the-counter (OTC) competitors are always fast to follow and tout very similar efficacy. Price becomes a big decision-making factor for many pet parents and the season is here. The economy is not great, and the internet/home delivery competitors are more prevalent than they ever have been. We need to help our customers educate their clients and be competitive in this environment.
Pricing and promotion are one obvious aspect to competing with the OTC offerings. Be sure to offer the deals that you have available with the explanation of the competitive landscape. Many practices are still ordering on an as-needed basis and often shy away from deals that require large inventory commitments. Be sure to advise your customers of the benefits associated with these types of deals, but go the extra mile to assist them with some positioning ideas for being competitive in this environment.
Veterinarians also need help becoming more accessible to their clients. The web presence of many practices is not as accessible or compelling as it should be in order to gain the attention of the pet owner. Veterinary home delivery models and automated refills can assist the veterinarians in keeping their clients’ business to help ensure compliance and maintain visibility into the fulfilment of veterinary prescribed or veterinary recommended products. Ask your customers what they offer for home delivery. Find out if they offer a wellness plan that bundles these products with other services such as dentals, nail trims, vaccinations, and wellness exams. The veterinarian is still the No. 1 source for pet health information and guidance. “Dr. Google” has not taken over the top spot for trusted information. That veterinary expertise is the edge that the competition cannot compete with at this point. Help your customers to leverage their advantage in the market.
I remember when simply offering a website where the client could directly message the practice was a big deal. Now those are about as relevant as a yellow pages ad. The outreach and marketing of the practice must be a focus for them. Contacting customers with personal messaging about their pet is a very useful tool to help strengthen the position of the primary influencer when it comes to pet health. Make yourself aware of the offerings that you and your company can provide to veterinarians to assist them with this type of client communication and outreach. Ask your customers what they are doing to proactively communicate with their clients. Reminder cards do not cut it in this competitive environment where internet retailers have sophisticated, automated systems that require little human input to generate emails, texts, tweets, and other forms of electronic communication to their potential customers. Our veterinary customers need help to keep the attention of the pet parents that rely on them to care for their pets.
Get involved with your customers’ business and their client outreach. We must be versed on what our customers purchase and when. Those are relatively easy things to determine based on their history, which is typically at your fingertips. Knowing what products and deals to offer can be determined with a combination of their history and what you have to offer them promotionally.
The rest of the equation is up to you to find out by getting more information about their offerings to their clients. How do they communicate? What portion is proactive? Are they bundling their services with products in key categories? Do they offer wellness plans and emphasize them in times of a tight economy? Do they offer home delivery and automated refills? Help your customers navigate this changing environment.
It is not just a change of the season. We are witnessing many changes that will alter the position of the veterinarian for the future. Help them to position themselves as they should be positioned. Their success is ultimately your success. Use everything at your disposal to make it happen!
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Capuski