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How to Start an Online Pet Store?

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Yuri Musienko
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Our article will reveal a specified guide to starting your online pet store. We’ll tell you how to find a promising niche, what platforms to search for the suppliers on, how to create a product range, and how to sell products better – in marketplaces or on your own personal website.

Choose a niche of your pet store

A niche product is a category of services or products, which serve a customer base with definite preferences. The simplest example is a division of buyers into lovers of cats, dogs, reptiles, and arachnids. Each group usually buys a certain range of products for their pets – starting with food and ending with medicine.

When launching your online pet store, you better bet on one narrow niche. This will make it possible for your platform to stand out from the competitors by creating a website and advertising, which will receive a great response from a specific consumer audience. This approach is more effective and cheap.

How to find a niche for a pet store?

  1. Choose pets that you like. If you don’t like spiders, reptiles, dogs, or insects, you shouldn’t sell products for such animals. In addition, you shouldn’t choose reptiles if it’s depressing you that they usually feed on live mice or other rodents.
  2. Decide on a product type to sell. You can sell apparel, toys, or treats for pets; provide services of care, walking, and training; custom apparel.
  3. See what’s trending on Amazon. You can find what sort of products are popular among the pet owners by searching through the Amazon Best Sellers section.
  4. Look for products that evoke emotions. They are easier to promote: people won’t usually buy dog food through an advertisement of an unknown shop, but they might buy a cute chew toy without thinking twice.
  5. Verify the size and price. When you start, it’s easier to sell small and low-cost products. Then, delivery and storage will be cheaper for you. Besides, a product for $10 is far easier to sell that one for $100 or $299.
  6. Check reviews. It’s the simplest way to filter out poor quality goods. Moreover, in doing so, you can find customers’ pain points to create resonating advertising campaigns.
Apart from the things described above, you should use various analytical sources when looking for a promising niche. For example, Statista shows what type of pets Americans own.

The number of pet-owning households in the USA, by species. Source

The graph shows that Americans like dogs, cats, and fish most of all. Therefore, these niches in the USA have the biggest customer base and products for these pets exactly are the best to sell in your online store.

Statista also can show you what products exactly to sell. For instance, these are sorts of cat and dog products that are popular among Americans.

Things that people buy for their pets in the USA. Cats are on the left; dogs are on the right. Source 1, Source 2

Likewise, you can check other niches as well.

Identify the target audience

If the choice of a niche defines a product range and design of your online store, then the analysis of the target audience is important for marketing. If you know a place of residence, relationship status, age, level of education, and other demographics data of the buyers, you can run an advertising campaign, which will be targeted only at those people, who you need.

Marketing research might help you identify your target audience; for instance, survey data from OppLoans for the United States. According to it, on average, Americans spend about $126 per month on their pets; the heaviest expenses are in Delaware ($312) and the smallest expenses are in Idaho ($20).

Average expenses of the USA residents on their pets by states. Source

If you see what pets people spend the most money on, they will be small mammals ($253), dogs ($140), reptiles ($117), birds ($113), and cats ($92). Consequently, it’s best to sell dog products in the USA because there are many dogs and people spend lots of money on them. Besides, it’s also profitable to sell reptile products as their owners spend almost double on their pets from lovers of other animals.

Here are several other indicators, which can be helpful when choosing the target audience of an online pet store in the USA:

Select pet product suppliers

If you aren’t manufacturing the products yourself, you need to get them from somewhere. There are two options. The first one is to buy them on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy and to resell them on your site. The second one is to find wholesale suppliers. Here’s where you should look for them:
  • on dropshipping marketplaces. We’re talking about the search on such platforms as AliExpress, Oberlo, and Doba. With their help, even a beginner will be able to find a reliable supplier for his store and make an order;
  • in online directories of wholesale suppliers. These are aggregator websites with listings of suppliers around the world. There you can easily sort and find the suppliers for your niche. The most popular online directories are SaleHoo, Worldwide Brands, and Wholesale Central;
  • contact product manufacturers. If you’re after some special product, you can check with its manufacturer and arrange the dropshipping to your store or organize your dropshipping supply chain.

Create a product range

SaleHoo Market Research Labs will help you find products with the best combination of demand and competitiveness

The product range is a list of specific goods, which you'll be selling on your platform. You can form such a list in several ways. For instance, you can use a listing of Amazon Best Sellers or its analogs on eBay and AliExpress. They can help you understand what names in the chosen niche are popular with the buyers and how they evaluate them after purchasing.

Alternatively, you can use such tools as SaleHoo Market Research Labs, due to which you can compare the products for sales and for the number of stores, where they already are. You can conduct a similar study with the help of Spocket, Jungle Scout, Sell The Trend, Dropship Spy, Pexda, Niche Scraper, AliShark, eComHunt, and AliExpress Dropshipping Center.

Define the pricing policy

Selecting the prices for your products is one of the most important and difficult tasks because you need to find an optimum level for each name, which won’t scare buyers away and will be enough for getting the profit. You need to conduct an analysis of competitors’ prices, consider all regular special offers and discounts, and then form your pricing policy.

Besides, you should consider the following things when pricing:

  • marketing gimmicks really work. A nice example is price tags that end with 99: for instance, $39.99 instead of $40. People like buying things cheaper because the brain perceives such purchase not as savings but as earnings (as they didn’t save – they earned 1 cent);
  • people prefer simpler prices. If you test two price tags; for example, $14.23 and $14.99, you’ll see that the second price tag will do better, although the price is higher. The reason is the brain again: it strives for simplicity because this information is easier to perceive, process, and store;
  • **.99 works only with low-cost products. Never mark prices like **.99 for expensive and luxury products. Firstly, this looks bad (9000 is more beautiful than 8999,99). Secondly, if you sell expensive products, this creates a subjective feeling of cheesy things;
  • clients can be allured with free shipping. If the order is quite big, don’t get greedy and offer to pay for delivery. This will make the buyer feel less discomfort from spending money (for this reason, children get lollipops after visiting the dentist);
  • a strategy of bundle pricing works well on the Internet. Such strategies as «buy one, get one free» or «buy two, get 50% discount for the third», work great in e-Commerce, and especially in advertising.

Choose a platform to launch your store on

Marketplaces. Selling goods on Amazon and eBay is a great opportunity to start a business on the Internet if you don’t have extra money for developing your website or app. It’s simple, fast, and cheap (free if you have a small product range – a small number of ads). Besides, you’ll get access to the biggest customer bases in the world without investment in SEO and advertising.

A drawback of this approach is a lack of flexibility to set up business processes and the impossibility to stand out amongst competitors. In addition, if you carry out direct deliveries from AliExpress, then the selling on Amazon and eBay can be not such a good idea because in this case, you need to conclude an agreement on dropshipping with the suppliers. If you carry out the direct delivery on Amazon, then you need to use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

Your own website or app. It’s the best option if you need to distinguish yourself from competitors and if you have no desire to give 5-30% of your profit to the marketplace. For the most part, people outsource a partner, who takes over organizational and technical aspects of the process. The client defines the goals, design, and features of your online store.

Development cost depends on aims, complexity, set of functions, and method of development of the store. For example, a WordPress-based website will cost you $500 and the website development from scratch might cost $5-50 thous.

e-Commerce platform. You can also use various SaaS solutions to launch the store; they take over all tasks apart from sales and marketing. For instance, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion. By using them, you only need to pay for a subscription ($50-5000 per month), make simple customizations (select a template, payment solutions), and add the product to the listings.

The disadvantages of this option are non-unique design and features, subscription payment, which is unprofitable over the long run. Besides, the work of an online store on the basis of SaaS depends on the SaaS service provider: if it doesn’t work, your website will stop working as well.

Start a marketing campaign

Almost all of the advertising of pet products seeks to provoke the emotional reaction. Cute, funny, sad, or stylish photos and videos of animals are usually used to do so. For example, as does Doug The Pug on the Instagram and Facebook pages. Storeowners post bright photos and videos of their pug and promote some merch sometimes. One would think that it’s too easy but it works. The most important thing is to move the audience.

Instagram page of the pet store @itsdougthepug with 4 million followers

It’s not so hard to achieve even if you don't have a cute kitty or puppy. For instance, you can follow the suit of the user Global Huapin, who has opened his shop on Shopify and made a profit of $20 thous. per month only in 4 weeks. It’s all thanks to well-done posts on Facebook.

Here’s his first fortuitous post with a 30-second video, where a dog is looking at a driver pitifully, and a provocative question: «An abandoned puppy, I wanna take him home, but my girlfriend does not like it. What should I do?».

A fan page of Global Huapin had only 1000 likes until this post

Global Huapin has posted it in 5 communities on Facebook and has received 1 653 569 views, 9715 reposts, and countless responses. As a result, 3000 people visited his website and bought 137 dog collars for $29 apiece in the next few days. Their wholesale price on Chinabrands was only $2,99, which made Global Huapin $3500 of net profit.

Make as moving posts as @itsdougthepug, ask as provocative questions as Global Huapin and your online pet store will become as successful.

How to Start an Online Pet Store? key takeaways:
  1. Choose a niche of your pet store
  2. Identify the target audience
  3. Select pet product suppliers
  4. Create a product range
  5. Define the pricing policy
  6. Choose a platform to launch your store on
  7. Start a marketing campaign
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