How to appeal to millennial pet owners in a postpandemic world.
The post–COVID-19 pandemic world will usher in a new order of millennial moneymakers—tech-savvy and adaptive workers 25 to 34 years old. Recent data have revealed that these millennial pet owners are not always fond of the vaccine-centric approach to annual pet care.1
For many younger owners, offering vaccine titers as an annual service aligns more with their holistic notion of health care. To get these clients in the clinic, veterinarians should shift the focus from an annual visit for vaccinations to a more appealing approach spotlighting patient well-being.
Millennials are willing to spend big bucks on their pets. According to a 2019 pet industry study, this generation is considered the most engaged pet owners compared with other demographics: 40% had pet insurance and 40% had at least 1 type of pet-related subscription service.2 However, millennials tend to spend less on veterinary care compared with other pet-owner demographics.2
What’s the reason for this deficit in veterinary spending? It’s not a lack of money. In fact, millennials often outspend other age demographics by double in nonveterinary, pet-related products and services. One answer may be that older people tend to own older pets and these geriatric animals require more veterinary care. However, data suggest that millennials don’t spend as much at the veterinary clinic because they don’t believe in the value they’re offered.
Millennials may turn down regimented, vaccine-centric, annual visits and instead choose pet health care options that parallel what they pursue for themselves.1 Young people have cobbled together their own approach to good health that includes veganism; vegetarianism; cross fitness; health drinks such as kefir, kombucha, and coconut water; and Google’s search engine to learn about their various ailments. The highest sales growth in pet food has been in the natural category.
Pet owners who are circumspect about vaccines have likely trended away from traditional health care practices because they may have been alienated from it as patients themselves or because alternative and holistic health is now a mainstream concept.
Young veterinary team members, like their counterparts in other fields, want to feel fulfilled at work. A 2016 study identified social consciousness, wanting to make a difference in the world, and a desire for autonomy in decision-making processes as important attributes of their ideal career.3 These young team members are likely to resist regimented approaches to health care and prefer guidelines, such as those reaffirmed by the American Animal Hospital Association in 2017 that endorse titers for core-vaccine diseases as an alternative to more traditional pathways to good health.4 As an added bonus, you encourage discussion and thoughtful evaluation of the patient and the client’s needs—the very thing that puts the focus on the medical consultation and underlines your expertise as your business’s competitive strength.
Your clients have learned that they can live, eat, work and shop without leaving the comfort of their home. Online shopping has skyrocketed, and brick-and-mortar stores must continue to work hard post crisis to regain foot traffic.
Retail stores such as Tractor Supply Company and Walmart offer low-cost vaccination services to drive buyers to their locations. Low-cost vaccine services capitalize on the clients’ perception that the reason for an annual veterinary visit is the “shot,” not the examination and consultation. In response, veterinary practice teams have 2 choices: price match and continue to put the emphasis on the vaccine, or retool their image as providers of personalized care for dogs and cats.
In the past, vaccine titers have been prohibitively expensive for some pet owners, but new in-house titer tests such as VacciCheck or Zoetis’ TiterCHEK CDV/CPV (canine distemper virus/canine parvovirus) antibody test kits keep costs down without compromising quality. These tests can be performed during patient visits just as we currently complete testing for tickborne or heartworm disease. They give clients what they want, underline your team’s sense of value, and keep your practice competitive.
Our postpandemic world will come with seismic changes. The age demographic that may be most capable of adapting and emerging as the major breadwinners in the new economy could also be your dream client: the millennial. They love their pets like family and have a proven track record of spending money to give them the best possible care. Let’s make sure we’re ready to meet them on the other side of this crisis with a business model that’s in line with their beliefs and their interests.
Bash Halow, CVPM, LVT, is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and of the Veterinary Management Institute series at Purdue University. During his 20 years as a veterinary professional, Bash has served as a practice manager, regional manager position and hospital administrator before opening his practice management consulting business, Halow Consulting. Bash is also a regular Fetch dvm360 speaker and a dvm360® advisory board member.