Walmart goes to the dogs (and cats, too)

Discussion
Source: Walmart Pet Care promotional video
Nov 19, 2020
George Anderson

Walmart’s “Save Money. Live Better.” tagline appears to also apply to fur babies and their “90 million” pet parents, too.

The retailing giant announced last week the launch of  Walmart Pet Care, an omnichannel program that offers pet insurance and services such as dog-walking and pet sitting.

Melody Richard, Walmart’s merchandising vice president, pets, said that the retailer’s new program was designed in response to a spike in pet adoption and ownership rates that coincided with the novel coronavirus hitting the U.S .

“As the most shopped omnichannel retailer for pet products, our new pet care services and support offer our customers trusted, convenient services that provide the exceptional care their pets deserve,” she said in a statement.

Walmart has partnered with Petplan to offer insurance for cats and dogs. The retailer’s customers can get up to 10 percent off the policies offered that cover “veterinary fees due to accident, injury or illness, including chronic and hereditary conditions.”

Each of the insurance plans include access to $1,000 worth of online veterinary appointments, and members can also schedule appointments and file claims through Petplan’s digital service.

The retailer has teamed up with Rover to offer dog walking and pet sitting services to customers. Through Rover’s website or app, Walmart customers can book appointments with over 300,000 providers in local communities across the country. Walmart customers using the service will receive a $20 gift card to spend with the retailer after using Rover the first time and then again after their fifth appointment within a six month period.

The new services that are part of Walmart’s offering appear to be an attempt to level the competitive playing field with Petco, PetSmart and other pet speciality retailers that offer grooming, training, vet care, etc. to their customers. Walmart introduced its PetRx pharmacy online and in-store service last year as a lower-priced alternative to rival services marketed by drugstores and speciality chains.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can Walmart effectively negate some of the perceived service advantages offered by pet speciality rivals by partnering with third-party providers such as Petplan and Rover? Do you expect other non-specialty retailers in the pet category to begin offering similar programs to Walmart’s?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Walmart is smart to leverage partnerships to round out its pet portfolio. Doing so mirrors its expansion into services and healthcare for people."
"All smart, but expected moves by Walmart. You’ll see other retailers offering more services to match, lest they be left behind."
"This is an interesting move for Walmart. Pet insurance is a fairly niche market, as stats show that only 2 percent to 3 percent of pet owners actually leverage pet insurance."

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14 Comments on "Walmart goes to the dogs (and cats, too)"


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Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Walmart is smart to leverage partnerships to round out its pet portfolio. Doing so mirrors its expansion into services and healthcare for people. If anything, ignoring the pet opportunity would have created a gaping hole in Walmart’s growing suite of services. The only challenge is one of awareness and integration. As Walmart extends its tentacles into new businesses, getting the word out and articulating benefits and a clear value proposition is of the utmost importance. Easy navigation and optimized search within the Walmart.com environment will be critical to competing against known entities. It’s a tall order to present a massive portfolio of products, solutions, and services with easy navigation and clarity, yet if customers don’t know about these services, they might as well not exist.

Keith Anderson
BrainTrust

These are smart moves for Walmart given the growth of pet ownership and the opportunities driven by trends within the category, like the humanization of pets.

Along with the pet pharmacy and the other initiatives noted, this does seem to make Walmart a more complete provider of pet goods and services to loyal Walmart shoppers, helping some shoppers consolidate trips and positioning Walmart on better footing versus the specialists.

It also gives Walmart a point of difference versus other price- and value-driven players like Chewy and Amazon. I’m curious to see how else Walmart leverages its growing omnichannel capabilities in this category too.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

It always makes me nervous when a company strays outside its lane and gets into a new business. I’m sure that the decision to launch Walmart Pet Care came after the results of the program PetRx. If anyone can pull it off, Walmart can. They have relationships with companies like Petplan and Rover. They have distribution. They have a customer base (that they know really well). And they have the capital to invest in this venture. Very few retailers are in this position.

Bethany Allee
BrainTrust

The results are in: Walmart is crushing it. In the past 24 hours I’ve been asked to comment on Walmart’s physical footprint in regards to commercial real estate growth in the midst of the pandemic, and I’ve seen local artisans promoting their “locally sourced” lines they’ve produced with Walmart. Now we’re discussing their play in the lucrative loyalty space that is pet specialty.

There’s no doubt they can combat any negativity. The industry already knew Walmart is a top innovator – 2020 seems to be the year where Walmart customer perception is catching up to what the industry has seen coming. Huge, well-deserved kudos to Walmart.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

I see somewhat of a disconnect between the type of client that pays for dog walking services or insurance and the Walmart customer persona. I know they have tried to go “up-market” with some of their online services and have ended up shutting them down but we’ll see how this goes. There are a lot more pet owners since February so perhaps these services will resonate.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Another shrewd move by Walmart. Tapping into the huge growth in pet ownership by expanding their assortment and leveraging existing, trusted brands in adjacent services will give them every chance to steal share from pet specialty retailers. Walmart’s reach and marketing budget combined with the new levels of shopper trust they have earned recently will certainly attract new buyers, and as long as Rover and PetPlan can (handle the uptick in volume and) deliver quality services, this seems like an easy path to market share and expanded basket sizes.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

The number of families with pets is huge so this new service has the potential to connect with many consumers. Using third-party providers is a way to expand this service quickly. However relying on third-party providers puts Walmart at the mercy of how those providers provide the service. Great idea if the execution works well.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

The idea is good in theory, until you figure in whether people shopping for dog walkers and pet insurance are Walmart’s core customer. Everyone is looking to expand their business in ways both logical and illogical. Time will tell which one this is.

Natalie Walkley
BrainTrust

This is an interesting move for Walmart. Pet insurance is a fairly niche market, as stats show that only 2 percent to 3 percent of pet owners actually leverage pet insurance. (I’m one of them and it is worth it!). Pet walking and sitting may be a more attractive offer, but walking seems to be a more urban request, and Walmart’s target is more rural.

Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

Walmart is smart to continue to expand into the pet industry. It will round out their ability to continue to allow consumers to consolidate their shopping experiences. Their timing is sound as the pet industry consistently has an upturn when economic times are difficult. Walmart has the infrastructure to manage the individual state requirements as well as the home delivery aspect of the pet industry that has grown significantly in the last five years. Even if they break even in the pet care segment they will be increasing shopping “events” digitally and in person feeding the overall success of Walmart.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

Great move by Walmart by launching Walmart Pet Care and entering into strategic partnerships with brands like Rover and Petplan to provide a holistic offering to their customers given the spike in pet adoption and ownership rates. The success would lie in effectively integrating the benefits of these partnerships and provide a seamless customer experience.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

Walmart is looking to expand its customer base and the pet care market is certainly larger this year than ever before, so why wouldn’t they try to grow in this direction? I’m not sure how these new pet services align with existing Walmart customers, but, Walmart has already taken more market share than ever before due to the pandemic so perhaps this will prove to be a wise move for incremental revenue and growth. What’s important here, is that Walmart is moving quickly via partnerships to expand into adjacent market areas – in other words, they’re willing to experiment. If this doesn’t produce the results they want, they can quickly end the partnership with little repercussions. Smart move by Walmart and they continue to show retailers how it’s done.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

As always, the service component is an important factor for the customer. Retailers like Walmart will continue to append their products with services that support making customers lives easier. This drives value and in turn loyalty — Amazon’s whole prime program is based on added services. Partnering for these services reduces the cost of building up the service and in some cases acquire new customers. All smart, but expected moves by Walmart. You’ll see other retailers offering more services to match, lest they be left behind.

ajcatterson
Guest

This is a no-brainer, and I’m amazed more retailers don’t classify pets as a member of the household. 41 percent of American households have children, but 67 percent of U.S. households have a pet – the math is compelling!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Walmart is smart to leverage partnerships to round out its pet portfolio. Doing so mirrors its expansion into services and healthcare for people."
"All smart, but expected moves by Walmart. You’ll see other retailers offering more services to match, lest they be left behind."
"This is an interesting move for Walmart. Pet insurance is a fairly niche market, as stats show that only 2 percent to 3 percent of pet owners actually leverage pet insurance."

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