Unpacking Pet Consumer Behaviors


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The benefits of tracking consumer trends as they change the pet industry.

1.You’ve been studying pet owners for a long time. What’s the biggest shift in consumer behavior from baby boomers to millennials and Gen Z?

O’Hara: Boomers and Xers have remained fairly consistent in their behavioral choices and attitudes over the last decade. However, millennials have been really interesting to observe over the same time period. In a relatively short period of time, millennials have come to define how pet ownership has evolved – and will evolve – in the United States. Not only are they the largest group of pet owners, but their activity levels with their pet, their purchasing power within the animal health space, and their overall engagement within this industry are all significantly elevated over other cohorts. In my latest research published in May 2021 with the UVSA titled “COVID 19’s Impact on the Animal Health Industry,” I call it the ‘Rise of the Millennial.’ As for Zers, we are still unpacking their influence on our industry, given they are still relatively young and mostly still living with their parents.

2. What’s been the most interesting or surprising trend that’s surfaced among pet owners and their purchasing behaviors within the last year?

O’Hara: Great question! There are so many. Well, we know that pet ownership during quarantine rose dramatically, especially among first-time pet owners (and being driven by millennials). So, I would say the most interesting trend is the pet owner’s overt acknowledgement of the human-animal bond (HAB) and its impact upon personal cognitive, affective, behavioral, interpersonal, and psychological resilience that led them to purchase pets during quarantine – a known time of diminished physical and social activity. This acknowledgement means that the pet industry, and specifically the animal health industry, is projected to be in great shape for (at least) the next decade. That is good news for all of us!

3. What’s the key ingredient to asking the right questions for your research in order to mine the best data?

O’Hara: The key ingredient is listening! I listen to many industry leaders, corporate executives, individual and corporate veterinarians, and most importantly I listen to the end client: the pet owner. It’s active listening to key needs, barriers, and perceptions that uncover the psychology behind WHY people are behaving the way they are … and this leads to actionable insights that are meant to drive our industry forward.

Meet the leader

Dr. Kerry O’Hara

Founder and president, APG|O’Hara Research and Analytics. O’Hara has proven expertise exploring the key sectors in the companion animal landscape: pet owners, veterinarians, vet hospitals, benefits decision-makers – using their voices and behaviors as guideposts. She has nearly 30 years of applied thought leadership, consumer insights and analytics experience creating content and strategies leading Fortune 100 businesses like Nationwide, HP, Disney, and Microsoft. This expertise requires a keen ability to understand the complexities of organizations and B2B/B2C landscapes to conceptualize and effectively design insights-driven strategies grounded in a fact base.