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Appointments on the curb – the new normal
As with humans, primary health care has not decreased during the pandemic; all of our family pets with the usual ailments needed treatment. Although the purchase of staples such as parasiticides and wormers has been shifting online, the personal visit to the veterinarian has remained a crucial element of care. Given COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements, the industry’s most impressive linchpin has been the almost immediate shift to curbside appointments with staff picking up and treating pets while owners waited in cars. In a February 2021 Brakke survey, 86% of vets were still offering this service, with 62% of visits accounting for.2 The obvious safety and convenience of this new trend seem to persist even as society moves to the pre-norms Pandemic returns. One interesting dynamic is that although 80% of vets believe owners will return to clinic visits after the pandemic, many owners are happier with the roadside service.
M / A / R / C Research, with a sample size of 1000 pet owners, reported that 86% thought the curb treatment was good or very good for their pets and 28% thought the curb treatment was better than conventional visits to the clinic. Key data from this study points to the 48% of home owners who would use the curb after the pandemic ended
Telemedicine – fights for traction
For many years, the move to telemedicine has struggled to gain momentum and while the pandemic could have been the perfect storm for the move to telemedicine, veterinarians and owners have been slow to embrace these services. Although the same Brakke study from February 2021 found that 39% of veterinarians offered telemedicine via either phone / FaceTime / Zoom or a veterinary app, fewer than 3% of customers used these services. This lack of uptake may seem obvious given the animals’ lack of verbal communication, but it also seems that pet owners need to have their animals examined personally by the veterinarian in order to feel as though they are being treated appropriately.
Online sales – an indispensable solution for future veterinarians
The convenience of shopping from home is steadily increasing across all industries and retail segments. Online retailers have been particularly successful in understanding consumer behavior and tailoring marketing messages accordingly, which has led to high conversion rates. Meanwhile, traditional brick and mortar store costs have been pumped into understanding and tracking online business. In 2020, online purchases of veterinary pharmaceuticals by pet owners accelerated, and although the need for medical supplies for staple foods like wormers and parasiticides has easily shifted to online purchases, specialty prescription drugs have had to follow suit. This has resulted in more vets writing scripts to be filled out by online pharmacies and investing in their own online ordering and delivery platforms to meet this growing need, with more than half of the practices now ordering online offer.
Brakke Consulting published a detailed report on online sales in small animal practices in 2018. This Veterinary Office Home Delivery Report4 compiled data from more than 1,100 respondents showing that:
- Half of the independently run practices operate an online shop or pharmacy
- Online sales represent approximately 1% of the average annual sales of an independent practice
This underscores the great growth opportunity in the online segment as veterinarians learn to retain their customers and potential sources of income in their practice, albeit online.
The competition is tough
With many veterinary practices selling pet food as well as grooming and gift items in addition to their veterinary pharmacy category, competition has never been more intense to maintain revenue and satisfy modern, tech-savvy customers. The rise of Chewy, Inc – an American online pet food and other pet-related product retailer – is a clear sign that US customers want their pet products to have all the variety and convenience that they find in other areas of the world enjoy their retail life. Chewy’s focus on the customer experience and the automatic shipping of products has moved away from the Amazon playbook and has paid off. Unlike many other companies that suffered through 2020, Chewy’s stock price has risen as more individuals have switched to the Internet. Since early 2020, Chewy stock has risen from about $ 30 to over $ 67. The company announced in August 2020 and had net sales of $ 1.7 billion, a 47% increase over the same period in 2019.5 As countless other online-savvy companies follow suit, your local veterinary practice needs training and invest in technology to stay in this market.
Despite the challenges and changes in the industry, the veterinarian remains central to pet health care, but practices must adapt to keep up with the strong demand for veterinary services. With most veterinary clinics busy, price increases are inevitable and Animalytix expects increases of between 7% and 9% .6 A persistent shortage of registered veterinarians and skilled staff will drive wages higher and put pressure on margins and profitability of the practice . Growing online revenue streams provide an opportunity to increase revenue and create passive income that can be reinvested to develop health services.
One thing is certain, given the strong performance of the animal health industry over the past 10 years and its ability to recover in a post-pandemic era: pets are now part of the family, and their health care has become a physical, emotional, and financial priority .
Louise Grubb is the founder and chief executive officer of TriviumVet, which was voted one of the 100 best startups in Ireland in 2020 and 2019. She has more than 20 years of experience in the veterinary and pharmaceutical industries. Her previous positions include the founder of NutriScience, a global developer and provider of animal nutrition and wellness supplements, and the founder of Q1 Scientific, a company specializing in the stable storage of human and veterinary pharmaceuticals. In 2016 she was a finalist at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards and headed Q1 Scientific.
- Association of Veterinary Hospital Managers. Insider Insight Benchmark Report. https://cdn.ymaws.com/members.vhma.org/resource/resmgr/insiders__insight_-_2021/VHMA_Insiders_Insight_Januar.pdf. Published December 2020. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
- Brakke advice. Animal Health Industry Overview 2021. Published February 23, 2021. Accessed via webinar on February 23, 2021.
- Animalytix, LLC. Lessons learned in a troubled marketplace; How COVID is shaping the veterinary channel. Published on February 16, 2021. Accessed via webinar on February 16, 2021.
- Brakke Consulting, Veterinary Practice Home Delivery Report. https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/brakke-report-examines-hospitals-internet-sales/. Published June 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
- Wile, R. There’s a $ 30 billion company in South Florida. It wants to take over the pet world. Miami Herald. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article246143765.html. Published October 19, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
- Animalytix, LLC. Animlaytix 2021 Senior Executive Forum. 2021 Key Expectations and Projections by Katz, Sapper & Miller. Published on February 16, 2021. Accessed via webinar on February 16, 2021.