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Stores playing vital role for Pets at Home as it recognises value-added services

Physical stores are playing a critical role for Pets at Home as it increasingly uses the online channel to drive customers to its outlets where they can fully engage with the brand and utilise the in-store expertise. By Glynn Davis

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Stores playing vital role for Pets at Home as it recognises value-added services

Physical stores are playing a critical role for Pets at Home as it increasingly uses the online channel to drive customers to its outlets where they can fully engage with the brand and utilise the in-store expertise. By Glynn Davis

Ahead of taking part in a panel discussion at the Retail Bulletin Omni-channel Summit 2015 on February 4 in London Matt Stead, multi-channel director at Pets at Home, suggests: “The store element and service are a big part of our business and the web is a support to this. We want to drive people into stores and with our re-launched website the first [choice] option is click & collect – to pick up goods in-store in two hours.”

With twice as many lines online compared with the typical Pets at Home store the ability to quickly deliver to stores for customer pick-up is a big benefit and Stead reveals that it helps drive up average transaction values.

One of the buy-products of this delivery to store for online orders is the insight it gives on favoured products that help the company tailor the product mix to local tastes. An important part of this product mix is the selection of pet food, which can boost the frequency of customer visits to stores – which average a visit every four to five weeks for most people.

Stead says: “Food is critical and we’ve very minimal overlap with the supermarkets. Advanced nutrition and premium food is our heartland. We’ve an extremely compelling offer for all foods and have expanded the own-label range – Wainwrights, Evolution Naturally and Aatu – with grain-free foods a big trend. It’s the ‘humanisation’ of pet foods.”

The increasingly demanding customer relies ever more on gaining insight into their pets and for using various services to enhance their knowledge, according to Stead, who says: “Our services business is very strong. You can have your pet weighed, see a nutrition consultant, and have a free water test on your fish tank.”

More of these services are being made bookable online – using a web platform called BookingBug – and with a lot of scouts and cubs visiting the retailer’s stores he says this platform will be an ideal candidate for taking such bookings.

This driving of customers into stores is also evident in the retro-fitting of vets and grooming practices into its outlets. The vast majority of Pets at Home’s 385 stores now have such services available on-site.

By adding in these elements Stead says the amount of retail space in its stores is reduced, which sits comfortably with the need for retailers to cut their square footage to counter the growing percentage of sales moving online.

Despite its delivery to store and click & collect options as well as a new mobile website that will optimise across all devices Stead says Pets at Home is not leading from a technology point of view and is more of a follower. It is simply looking to enhance the service to its customers through using technology devices.

“When you have a customer that has engaged with a colleague who is well trained then they do not require any [technology] interfaces. But we’ve put in iPads into stores where pet details can be entered because it is easier to do this digitally,” he says, adding that when medicines are bought these need to be recorded against the pet’s details so digital databases work well in this context.

This information feeds into the Pets at Home VIP (Very Important Pet) loyalty programme of which there are 2.6 million members who account for 58% of the retailer’s customers.

To further knit together its various channels and emphasise the value of the store experience in this Stead says he is looking at how to bring in the right technology in-store as part of the company’s overall multi-channel strategy.

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