How can a veterinary home delivery program help with client retention?

By MWI Animal Health

Delivery services help both the veterinary practice and the client

Woman opens package as dog looks on

A robust veterinary home delivery program can hugely benefit both veterinary practices and pet owners. Home deliveries of prescriptions and pet supplies not only help veterinary practices be more competitive, but also help improve pets' health and clients' medical compliance. In fact, these delivery services are one of the COVID-inspired technologies that were so beneficial during the pandemic, many veterinarians have decided to keep them in place permanently.

Here's a look at exactly why your practice and your clients' pets can benefit from home delivery and how you can communicate those benefits to your clients.

Home delivery services free up time and space in your practice

Home delivery services allow your practice to free up two precious resources: time and space. When your practice dispenses medications, staff spend much of their time on inventory management. They have to monitor product levels, track expiration dates, and continually execute inventory audits. This antiquated process takes up both time and space in your practice.

In addition, pet owners often stop by clinics right after work to pick up medication. But this is the same time that other clients are picking up their pets from surgery. This can create an extra busy end-of-day volume of clients. Allowing clients to have their medicine delivered can alleviate this end-of-day rush.

By modernizing your practice and embracing home delivery services, you automate all of these time-intensive chores. This frees up your employees to focus on more valuable tasks, like spending more time with current clients and reaching out to new ones.

These services fit your clients' lifestyle

Home delivery services make life easier for your clients, especially if your home delivery provider utilizes auto-shipments. Clients don't have to remember to refill prescriptions. Instead, prescriptions are automatically shipped to them, taking the heavy lifting off of the client.

Home delivery services enable your practice to fit into your client's lifestyle because it provides them with the value and convenience they desire. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for convenience and touchless interactions. For example, some people are still uncomfortable shopping in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than trying to force them out of their comfort zones, a home delivery service meets them where they are.

Other clients, who have busy schedules or may lack easy access to transportation, can benefit from a delivery service that helps them stay compliant with their pet's health without having to solve schedule or transportation problems.

Your clients are more likely to be compliant

A big problem that all veterinary practices face is noncompliant patients. In fact, clients' own health habits often match how they care for their pets. But with automated prescription shipments, clients don't have to fall behind on forgotten refills. Instead, shipments arrive regularly on their doorstep, helping them stick to a predetermined health plan for their pets. One study showed pet owners who used home delivery purchased 140 percent more doses of parasiticide.

A veterinary home delivery program can especially help clients with senior pets or pets with chronic illnesses. These clients often need their pets' medication refilled frequently, which can lead to lower compliance if they don't have time to stop by the vet's office. By making it easier to get their medication, they're more likely to stay on top of all their pets' medical needs. In addition, some delivery services come with customized email or voicemail messages to remind clients to refill their prescriptions. When a client has a lot of prescriptions to keep up with for their senior or chronically ill pet, this can help a great deal.

Look new ways to promote your delivery service. Include links at the bottom of your invoices and in email signatures, send monthly emails about new products and specials, and have signage up in your office.

The future is e-commerce and the future is now

Another simple reason to adopt a home delivery service is so that your veterinary practice doesn't fall behind and seem outdated. E-commerce has become part of our daily life. The pandemic sped up the desire for convenience, and that's not going away anytime soon. The American Animal Hospital Association reports that every serious pet business should have an online presence, whether it's through a direct-selling website or a third-party e-tailer.

Millennials represent the biggest share of pet owners, and together with Generation Z, they generated 57 percent of the growth in pet ownership in 2019. These younger generations are driving the trends in pet markets. They are "now consumers" with a high expectation of speed. They prefer service providers to meet them on digital channels, whether purchasing items online or communicating with customer service. But while they prefer shopping online, they also remain loyal to brick-and-mortar pet retailers and are more likely to look to veterinarians for advice on products.

Because their base expectation is receiving shipments at their doorstep, providing a home delivery option can be a huge boon for veterinary practices. You can offer the best of both worlds: convenient, online deliveries and trusted advice on pet products.

Clients who subscribe to an auto-ship service are unlikely to switch

Auto-ship customers are especially difficult to lure away when they're committed and receive medications or products regularly from a particular service. If you can get your clients to subscribe to your auto-ship service before a larger retailer, you'll be highly likely to retain them. It's a race to be the first auto-ship service they commit to, which means proactive communications are vital.

Be proactive in communications

This is where a good client communication software solution can come into play. Don't wait for your clients to reach out to you. Instead, utilize a software solution that automatically sends welcome messages to new clients, along with email reminders, texts, and even postcards about upcoming appointments and prescription refills to current clients. Include links to your home delivery service in your messages.

Some software solutions will even alert you when a client is skipping an appointment or a refill. You can send them a more personalized message, letting them know they can schedule their refills and receive them through home delivery. You might even set up a client loyalty awards program and offer discounts on your home delivery products based on points your clients accumulated.

Don't forget to also utilize your social media channels. When you're launching a veterinary home delivery program, talk about it on all of your social media accounts. Post status updates, have a live Q&A session covering the service, and share videos explaining how to use it. Recommend medication or food delivery immediately following an appointment.

Continue looking for new ways to promote your delivery service. Include links at the bottom of your invoices and in email signatures, send monthly emails about new products and specials, and have signage up in your office. The key is being proactive in your communications and reaching out first and frequently.

Focus on trending markets

Recently, clients have had an enhanced focus on being healthy, not just for their pets but for themselves too. Clients are increasingly valuing fresh products, like farm-to-table food trends. In line with this, premium pet food has become one of the fastest-growing segments. Pet supplement interest is also up, with sales increasing 21 percent from 2019 to 2020.

This is a prime opportunity to leverage your expertise when communicating with your clients. If there's a premium pet product or supplement that your veterinary practice sells through home delivery, reach out to your clients and recommend it. Because your clients trust you, your suggestion could carry more weight than a random online ad.

This worked well for a one-doctor veterinary practice. The practice's clients trusted its advice on pet foods. So when it added online sales tools with recommendations to its website, its year-over-year pet food income increased by 39 percent.

Leverage your expertise

Though your clients certainly could get their home delivery prescriptions and supplies from larger, competitor websites, your expertise can give you an edge over the competition. If you're offering a specific pet product that you think would be of particular help to a client's pet, reach out to them by name and let them know. Explain why you think the product will be helpful for their pet's unique needs. Remember that you're not selling a product, you're advocating for their pets' quality of life.

Still unsure about how to start a home delivery service?

If you want to start a veterinary home delivery program but just aren't sure where to start, MWI can help. Vetsource Home Delivery helps you offer a seamless service for prescription refills and running a successful online pharmacy.