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Jen Phillips April

Jen Phillips April

How Pet Stores Can Beat First Bag Syndrome

When customers enter your store looking for pet food, they’re often confused. Is limited ingredient best for their precious pet or should they go with one of those pre-packaged frozen raw diets? Some pet lovers ask outright which is the best dog food for their pooch? Others might not let up they are confused unless asked.

As a pet store owner, you have a lot of knowledge about pets and in particular pet food, which you should share freely with all your customers. You educate them on the nutritional analysis of pet foods. You explain there’s no one size fits all “best” pet food.

After a lengthy debate, they buy a bag of food and many times, that’s the last you see of them. This phenomenon is known as “first bag syndrome" and sadly it plagues independent pet retailers everywhere.

Here's how it plays out... consumers borrow your expertise, make a selection and then when it's time to purchase again they turn to ordering online or go to a big box retailer because they think they can get a better deal.

Does this sound familiar?

If your store is like most independent pet stores, you work hard on attractive displays and a well-curated selection of pet food and supplies. You’ve put a lot of thought into which pet food brands you carry, and you're passionate about your choices. You’re happy to help customers find the food that will most benefit their pet. Here are just a few ways you can entice them to return when they need a refill on that first bag of food.

Be a Go-To Resource

The strength of being an independent retailer is in both your knowledge and passion for pets. No online retailer can beat the personal touch. You have the advantage in that you can get to know your customers and their pets. Talk with them, find out their concerns and hopefully present a solution to their problems.

Is Max having skin issues? Then you can recommend supplements or a diet change to help. Or, maybe they’re having behavior issues and you can recommend a trainer. 

When you become a trusted source of information, people will turn to you for advice and they are much more likely to buy what you are selling.

In today’s digital world, you can share such information not only 1:1 but also through blogs, social media, videos, and email newsletters. 

Know Your Pet Food Inside and Out

Pet food is a confusing arena for the average consumer. Not only is there an overwhelming number of choices from novel proteins to frozen diets, and beyond, but there’s also safety concerns and a lot of stigma due to the number of food recalls over the years. 

One way you can help them is to educate your staff on pet nutrition guidelines. Share tips on how the pet owner can assess whether a food is a good fit for their pet. They may not realize that bright eyes, a glossy coat, and good energy are signs that a dog is well-nourished.

Stay up to date by reading pet industry blogs (like this one!), following brands on social channels, and leveraging the knowledge of the distributors and manufactures. You can even requests in-store demos for certain brands.

Incentivize with a Customer Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs are a great way to incentivize your customers to return again and again. These points-based programs offer discounts, store credit, and other perks for your customer after they spend a certain amount of money on pet food.

Our food vendors are partnered with Astro Loyalty which integrates with your POS so there’s no need to keep track of paper cards, it tracks everything for you. You can even send “miss you” coupons when you haven’t seen someone for a while.

Here is a great overview of what Astro Loyalty has to offer, it's a no-brainer!

Exude Outstanding Customer Service

A knowledgeable and friendly staff makes your customers feel welcome. No consumer wants to frequent a store where they feel ignored or like they’re interrupting.

When a customer walks through your doors, it's showtime! Make a fuss over their dog. Ask his or her name. Make it a point to get to know your customers. On their next visit to your store call them by name, let them know you remember them and make them feel special.

Personalization is the key to repeat sales. Another benefit of Loyalty programs is they can  provide personal insight on your customers which can help you create a more targeted and personalized marketing materials. We’ll cover this in more detail in an upcoming blog post.

Key Takeaway

So, as you can see, your advantage lies in your ability to create a customized and personalized experience for each customer. Make them feel special and share insights that relate to their pet’s health and happiness and you’ll not only ensure they come back for more, but also help to cure any symptoms of “first bag syndrome.” 

Have questions on this? Start a discussion below and let's chat.

About Jen Phillips April

A web writer since 2005, Jen’s written over 1000 articles on pet-related topics. She’s also led dozens of blogging and social media-themed workshops for small businesses around the country both virtually and in person. Passionate about both pets and digital marketing, you can find out more at When not working with her fabulous clients, you can find her eating tacos and practicing her Spanish in her adopted home of the Riviera Maya.