I make no bones about it. I loathe going to Walmart and so does my husband. I don’t shop there and unless under the gun to find something that I can’t get any other place on earth I don’t go. But lots of other people do.
We did a survey of veterinarians and practice managers that attended two large veterinary conferences earlier this year. The questions had to do with telephone and texting capabilities for their practices. We then compared them to actual consumer preferences (i.e. what their clients want) and found some pretty big surprises.
How many of your clients come in daily to purchase refills, preventatives, food and other pet supplies? Chances are it is a good number...but it's declining. Competition from online providers, like Chewy and Amazon.com, has never been tougher. Some of these companies are so well-funded that they are willing to LOSE money in order to get your clients' online pharmacy business because they know that, once they get them away from you, they'll never buy medications/food from you again. We've even seen some online providers with retail prices that are less than the average veterinary practice pays wholesale!
Despite this trend, and while convenience and low price are important to the modern consumer (Are you really any different?), a significant number of clients would still prefer to buy these items directly from you. Why? Because they trust you.
When Banfield’s State of Pet Health 2015 was released, it shed light on some worrying statistics. Beyond reflecting the general decline in the use of veterinary services (dogs averaged 1.5 visits in 2006, down from a mean of 1.9 visits in 2001), it suggested that veterinarians and pet owners are increasingly operating on two totally different wavelengths, with our conversation topics and vocabulary diverging sharply from the common concerns of pet owners.
While the majority of veterinarians want to speak about vaccines, spay/neuter, & parasite control, pet owners are most concerned with their pet's diet, exercise, play, and emotional well-being. These differences are creating less schedule routine visits, more emergency situations, and more pet owners seeking Dr. Google.
There’s two ways we can apply this information. Either veterinary professionals must change their rhetoric to match the expectations of their clients, or we need to do a better job educating the public about why we advocate for preventative medicine like antiparasitics, dental cleanings, and vaccine protocols.