Recently, we conducted a survey on pet owners among the women aged 45-65 who gather at our website and beyond. While we were not surprised to learn about this generation’s disproportionately high spending in a $50 billion industry, we gained some new insights into the unique issues facing aging pet owners – and their aging pets.
Women and pets: The empty nester’s new child?
When we asked Boomer women whether they consider their pets to be a part of their families, all of them – a full 100% – said yes.
And when we asked if they were the primary decision-maker when it comes to purchases and care for their pet(s), 90% of them said yes.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me – an active father of young children – I would not have answered yes to either of these questions. I love our dog and cat, but I do not consider them to be full members of my family, and I would not make healthcare decisions (to use one example) as if they were. And while I don’t object to the dollars my household does spend on them, I definitely do not consider myself the primary decision-maker on pet purchase decisions.
Female pet owners make up a remarkably rich target for manufacturers, retailers and others selling pet products and services. Much of the energy and discretionary dollars they once focused on their children are now focused on their pets.
What does this mean for marketers?
Forty million aging women think about their pets a little differently than the rest of us. First, pets are different to manage and care for as you age. And, second, pets that are aging themselves present new challenges for their also-aging owners.
Healthcare grows in importance as humans age, and market-based solutions are rarely satisfactory. The same is true for pets.
Eight percent of our survey respondents told us that they have health insurance for their pets – a number far higher than the national average (other surveys suggest that only 1% of pets are covered by health insurance). And 48% of our respondents have concerns about healthcare costs for their pets. Boomers may represent the ideal market for pet insurance: Although many of them have it already, even more want it. Pet insurers may have only scratched the surface of this important market.
The midlife pet owner often finds herself also managing a midlife pet, one who shares her daily aches and pains. The list of aging-pet needs that this customer will pay to address goes on and on. It can include more comfortable beds or furniture that make it easier for the pet to rest comfortably; prescription arthritis medication; hip replacement surgery; and collars and leads that make it easier for aging arms to restrain a strong dog without causing either of them pain.
Loving Pets and Loving Travel
I have written here before about the dollars that Boomer women are spending on travel. And now we know more about the dollars they are spending on pets. When you put the two together, you see that there is a rich market opportunity to serve the women who want to travel with their pets, and the women who want to leave their pets behind.
Fifty-two percent of our respondents said they travel with their pets (and those who do so take an average of three trips per year with their pets). And 54% says that they have difficulty making travel plans because of their pets. These two findings indicate a host of rich business opportunities targeting the Boomer pet owner: first, products and services that maker it easier to travel with your pet, and second, products that ease the mind of a traveling Boomer about the condition of the pet(s) left behind.
PetSmart had a clear bead on this opportunity when it recently announced plans to extend its line of Martha Stewart products to a “Camp Martha” concept, offering outdoor camping and travel solutions for pets and their owners. Other opportunities could include pet car seats (for safety and better views) and monitoring systems that let owners see how pets are doing when they are on the road.
Pets can play an increasingly important role in the lives of their aging owners. So can businesses that serve them both.