Theyre the same, and theyre different, and theyre getting ready to invade your veterinary hospital. Get to know them as employees and clients.
Wait, where'd everybody go? I thought we were all obsessed with millennials, born 1981 to 1995-ish. But now the kids born in 1996 are turning 22, graduating college, flying into the workforce and, yes, buying pets that need your veterinary care.
So while the millennials (born mostly to boomer parents) will continue to spend, it's time to think a little bit about Gen Z (born mostly to Gen-Xers).
This is a generation that…
...never lived without the internet
They might have gotten their own computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone earlier or later in their life, relatively speaking, but this generation's world has always revolved around the internet: for entertainment, for shopping, for answering questions.
But here's a weird dichotomy: According to one source, 53% of Gen Z bought something via their mobile device in the past six months (vs. 37% of millennials), yet 53% also say they prefer in-person communication over IMs or emails. Though, when they say “in-person communication,” do they mean just sight and sound and not presence? Maybe, as 85% of them prefer YouTube as their favorite website over millennials' favorite, Facebook.
Time will tell how Gen Z pet owners navigate their favorite ways to get veterinary help, whether informative face-to-face appointments at home or in the clinic, or via televisit calls (with video) over their smartphones. Probably … both.
Does Gen Z want veterinary care delivery to change?
The answer is, probably. Asked their preferences for information and veterinary visits, Gen Z and millennials answered very differently from older pet owners.:
72% are interested in veterinary visits to their home for routine dog health services (vs. 42% of those ages 55-74).
77% are interested in veterinary visits to their home for routine cat health services (vs. 42% of those 55-74).
57% are interested in veterinary visits to their workplace for routine dog health services (vs. 22% of those 40-74).
54% are interested in veterinary visits to their workplace for routine cat health services (vs. 21% of those 40-74).
18% used a mobile clinic in last 12 months for veterinary services (vs. 6% of those 40-74).
Source: Packaged Facts, “Gen Z and Millennials as Pet Mark Consumers: Dogs, Cats and Other Pets”
One hiring firm asked Gen Z to rattle off their top priorities in a job: Their top three were growth opportunities (they'll leave the position without them), generous pay and making a positive impact (that's in veterinarians' favor). Runners-up include job security, healthcare benefits (easier for corporate practices?), flexible hours and a manager to learn from (you do mentor, right?).
… may distrust big brands.
A survey from Packaged Facts focused on pet food found that Gen Z is less likely to trust “the quality of pet foods produced by larger companies … [a] finding [that] may simply reflect Gen Z's overall lack of trust in large corporations and government institutions.” Could that skepticism work in independently owned veterinary practices' favor? Time will tell.
While predicting the future is fraught with problems, big veterinary companies, large corporate hospital chains and small mom-and-pop veterinary practices are all trying their best to appeal to the pet owners of today and preparing for those of tomorrow.
The surprise is always how fast tomorrow gets here. Start thinking about it now to save yourself some grief.