'Petsumer' trend emerges

'Petsumer' trend emerges

Thais treating pets as surrogate children represents a marketing opportunity

Dogs are walked to a dog park by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in Bang Khen district. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Dogs are walked to a dog park by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in Bang Khen district. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A growing number of people in Thailand are choosing to have few or no children, with some opting to become "pet parents" instead, lavishing attention and money on household animals.

This high-spending group represents a new niche that can be attracted through a "petsumer" approach to marketing, according to the College of Management Mahidol University (CMMU).

The value of the Thai pet market is projected to expand at an average annual rate of 8.4% to reach 66.7 billion baht in 2026, according to the Department of Business Development at the Commerce Ministry. According to Euromonitor, the worldwide pet market will grow by 7.5% a year to US$218 billion in 2026.

The figure for Thailand is in line with the rising domestication rate in the nation based on the dog and cat registration database.

"However, the birth rate in Thailand has decreased dramatically since 2017. This implies a growing number of households are choosing to keep pets as family members," said Asst Prof Boonying Kongarchapatara, chair of the Marketing Programme at CMMU.

"Additionally, many businesses are opting to engage with pet owners using a pet marketing strategy. Pets are used as part of the brand identity in order to communicate with the target audience and create a memorable brand image, as well as for other marketing purposes."

Advertisements that incorporate both animals and products influence purchase decisions for 43.8% of respondents surveyed by CMMU. It's not necessary to make a "hard sale"; rather the technique capitalises on the cuteness of pets, said Asst Prof Boonying.

"This 'pet influencer' technique implies that pets can deliver marketing benefits such as assisting in the promotion of products or services while also entertaining followers," he said.

Pacharapun Thiensiri, a master's degree student at CMMU and the leader of the study team, said it sent questionnaires to 1,046 people and followed up with more in-depth interviews with 100 of the respondents.

The group consisted of 66.8% females, 22.3% males and 10.9% other sexual orientations. Some 77.3% of the sample group was in the Gen Y age range of 24 to 41 years old.

The respondents who owned pets could be grouped into three categories: "pet parents" who treat animals as their children (49%); "pet prestige" who keep pets for social status (34%); and "pet healing" for people whose pets can aid and heal (18%). Among the respondents who had pets, 40.4% had dogs, 37.1% cats, and 22.6% other animals.

"Some 39.3% of the survey group reported monthly pet food expenses ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 baht," he said. "The average annual cost of caring for a puppy or kitten is 14,200 baht per animal.

"Bathing and haircutting are the most common services purchased by devoted pet owners, accounting for 61% of all services. Most of them select services from a location that is convenient for travel."

Based on the survey insights, CMMU developed a "petsumer" strategy for marketers to target high-spending pet owners. For product and service strategy it recommends:

 

  • Personalisation: Products and services must be relevant to specific needs.
  • Easy access: The priority is convenience and ease of access.
  • Trustworthiness: Products and services must be trustworthy, reliable and of acceptable quality.
  • Social influence: Decision-making is affected by social influencers.
  • In terms of communication strategy, marketers are encouraged to keep the following factors in mind:
  • Uniqueness: Product and service identities must be distinct and memorable.
  • Psychological support: Pets are utilised to communicate, while also helping to relieve stress.
  • Engagement: Efforts should be made to develop a relationship with clients until they become loyal.
  • Rights: It is critical to respect the rights of animals.

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