Delicious Data: Bark Debuts Breed-Specific Chow

Bark knows plenty about what dog parents want for their pets and is cooking up its data into three new dog food varieties. And while the first varieties are aimed at the most common breed and breed blends -- a Labrador retriever mix, a pit bull blend and a Chihuahua -- the company says more will roll out soon as it collects feedback.

"We wanted to figure out a way that we could take all of our data and transform that into a mealtime experience," says Alexa Figueras, director of marketing at Bark, the parent company of BarkBox.

She tells D2C FYI that a decade's worth of data has yielded plenty of insights about health concerns and taste preferences and more helpful ways to cross-sell. "We could see many trends for each breed, keeping all that weird, quirky information in mind."

Bark has even gone one step further and can match its Happy Team, as it calls customer support specialists, with each breed. Got a question about what to feed your Chihuahua cross? You'll get put in touch with a team member who also owns such a pooch, and can offer firsthand advice.

Labradors, for example, tend to overeat, making weight gain a genuine concern. In addition to balancing the composition of the food, teammates who are Labrador owners might offer a slow feeder. Pit bulls are prone to skin issues, so the team can counsel owners about supplements.

"Or if a dog needs more mental stimulation, we might offer information about a puzzle feeder," adds Figueras. "And we can ask about allergies. The idea is that we let customers know that all dogs are not the same."

The company started with these three breeds because they comprise about 15% of the customer base. "We want to start here and make sure we're keeping these dogs happy and their humans happy," says Figueras.

In the months ahead, Bark will introduce more varieties, she says.

But for now, it's focusing on what it can learn about marketing the new products to its current fans. "We'll be able to target existing customers with specific messaging -- they already know and trust us as a brand. And we already know everything about that dog -- its name, breed, what kind of food it currently eats and its favorite toys. We know if it's high energy or needs more durable toys."

Bark's also got data that will intrigue dog-lovers. For instance, Luna, Bella and Charlie are the most popular dog names, but there are plenty of boxers out there named Tyson. In Alaska, the most popular breed is not a Siberian husky, but a Lab. And Utah is the only state in which doodles rule.

Figueras says all this goes to the heart of the brand's mission. "It's helping us build deeper trust, and we understand that for our audience, dogs are not just dogs. They're not just pets. They're our children."'

For that reason, Bark isn't particularly concerned that inflationary pressures will lead its audience, primarily millennials, to scale back spending on pets. "We're not a fancy brand, and plenty are more expensive. And our customers will continue to spend to keep their dogs happy and healthy, no matter what."


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