Sharon Oliver, Senior Account Director in our Animal Health team, recently attended a lunch at the House of Lords hosted by the Veterinary Marketing Association. There she heard from renowned US veterinary consultant, Bash Halow, who spoke about the parallels between animal hospitals and veterinary medicine in the States versus the UK. Here she considered two of the more pertinent aspects of his talk.
Bash is an extremely informed and inspiring speaker. So much of what he shared is relevant to our activities within Animal Health. But for me there were two themes that really rose to the top of his talk: Group Consolidation and Pet Owner Needs.
Bigger veterinary groups are just beginning to get a grip on the US market and are only starting to claim some of the talent. Bash said only 10% of general practices are part of a group and this was an area that looks set to explode (he believes the mantra should be for practices should ‘join or transform’).
So for him, collaboration is a key change which will allow practices to build strong, recognisable brands and become more profitable.
Clearly, the UK is further along the track in terms of group takeovers. Versus 10%, the UK has around 33% of vet practices owned by groups – a figure expected to rise to 50% by the end of 2018, peaking at 80% within five years.
Pet owner needs
There’s clearly a sentimental streak in our American cousins. US pet owners love ‘today’s pet’ more than their childhood equivalent. 30% of them buy presents for their pets, and 63% say their dog is a member of the family.
These figures, however, seem lower in comparison to the pet loving UK, where 55% of pet owners bought their dog toys last year, and 66% say their pet makes them happy.
In the US, premium, innovative and sustainable foods are big trends, with PetSmart providing tailor-made food from in-store retail stations that show hands-on how the food is made.
This mirrors our own trend in the UK towards the ‘humanisation’ of pet food and an increase in organic and sustainable foods launching year on year in the UK.
In conclusion, the UK seems to be leading from the front, but could we learn any commercial tips from the US that could put them ahead of the game? We’ll be sharing more soon.