Overcoming the Consumable Retail Barrier at PetFoodDirect.com

By April 16, 2010

Consumables is one of the last barriers of online retail - and PetFoodDirect.com is a company that is changing consumers' habits when it comes to shopping online for pet supplies. With a full spectrum of pet foods from off-brand t

o specialty, PetFoodDirect's selection, combined with the convenience of delivery that this site has such high customer loyalty.

Vice President of Marketing Colton Perry told eMarketer today that the 140 brands that the site carries is far more than Petco or PetSmart, many of which customers have a hard time finding anywhere else. "Our customers have become more aware of what they are putting in both their bodies and their pets’ bodies and are more educated on the different diets you can feed a pet." According to Perry, his typical customer is a woman over forty, but all types make up their demographics. Additionally, about eighty percent of orders are for pet food, and about sixty percent are products for dogs.

But selection and convenience are not the only features that make PetFoodDirect unique. They do not really compete on price, so items may be slightly more or less on particular products at other retail establishments. "But we are very value- and promotion-driven," Perry explains. "Once you become a customer, we offer specific discounts." Since the company began in 1997, they have learned that online businesses must have a very strong customer service presence. They currently use a Zappos-like, customer-embracing model. New management has refocused the customer service by doubling the staff in the call center for higher volume, and a dedicated electronic inquiry group.

To get people to try new things, PFD produces a newsletter and introduces new products through content and merchandising. "We have a recommendation engine but we don’t get in your face." Instead, the engine is based on other customers' buying patterns, suggesting slightly higher margin items so it is not a hard upsell.

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