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How to market veterinary home delivery

By AmerisourceBergen

Advantages of offering a high-impact client service

Black woman looks at laptop with small dog by her side

Effective marketing starts with meeting consumer demands — and pet owners want veterinary home delivery.

A survey of veterinary clients commissioned by Vetsource in 2021 found that 75 percent want their veterinarian to offer home delivery. In addition, 39 percent already purchase products, and 46 percent purchase prescriptions from their veterinarian — in person, by phone, or online — for home delivery. That's a 29- to 36-point gap between demand and what's available to eager consumers.

Why step into that gap by offering home delivery? So many reasons.

Benefits of veterinary home delivery to practices

Veterinary home delivery keeps revenue in-house and reduces hassles from clients using other online retailers and pharmacies that often cause more work for the practice. It also encourages clients to become sticky. Continuous connections and transactions increase the likelihood of people staying with their veterinarian.

Home delivery of prescriptions, foods, and products means keeping less inventory on-site. It also positively affects practice budgets, workflows, and stress levels in the following ways:

  • Less money tied up in inventory means more money for team retention, equipment, and training
  • Less staff time required for managing inventory allows more time for patient care and client education and retention
  • Fewer hands-on transactions and phone calls to juggle gives staff more time and energy for other important tasks
  • Less in-person purchasing traffic during typical rush hours in the morning, at lunch, and end of day lowers everyone's stress
  • Better compliance with key veterinary recommendations via autoship ensures pets always have the foods and meds they need, which results in fewer urgent visits due to relapses
  • Less space needed for inventory, including bulky foods, frees up space for better workflows or income-generating professional services

"Long gone are the days of us [filling] up our lobby with medical diets and big bags of food for people to stop by and pick up," Amy Tate, DVM, co-owner of Riverview Animal Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, says.

Tate adds that the clinic kept some retail in the lobby but used that freed-up space to retool check-in/check-out for better efficiency. The clinic also repurposed its old inventory storage room into an employee break room.

What are the benefits for clients? Ask them

Veterinary home delivery meets clients' needs through convenience. Tate thinks of home delivery as "being good stewards of their time and their life outside the practice." Plus, with her clinic on a busy street, sometimes getting in and out of the parking lot isn't easy at peak times. Currently, she estimates that up to 15 percent of active clients use home delivery.

The trick to increased usage is presenting that core convenience message in the most effective way. Josh Vaisman with Flourish Veterinary Consulting says, "That comes down to getting to know what your clients actually value — not assuming you know, but taking the time to get to know from them."

With a background in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology, Vaisman is a fan of facilitated focus groups with clients. First, choose people with whom you have a good relationship and those you want to convert to home delivery based on their pets' ongoing veterinary needs.

Then, ask questions like the ones below.

This process gives you real-world benefits and concerns that you can address in your veterinary home delivery marketing. You might hear versions of these common answers, depending on the preferences of your specific clients:

  • What do you like about coming into our hospital? What would you miss about coming in to pick things up?
    • Chatting with the team
    • Getting encouragement from the team
    • Asking questions or sharing quick updates
    • Seeing what's new in your retail area
  • Are there times when you wish you didn't need to come by?
    • At the beginning or end of a long day of work
    • When traffic gets congested on the roads near the practice
  • What does convenience mean to you?
    • Not having to call for help or refills all the time and potentially sit on hold
    • Not having to stop by during office hours, which can get tough for busy clients
    • Time savings versus in-person errands, particularly for those who live a greater distance from the practice
    • Less heavy lifting and lugging, particularly for older clients and those with mobility challenges
  • How would having home delivery improve your life?
    • It's the only way to get certain meds that require compounding
    • More reliable access to products, especially as supply chain issues continue
    • Faster and less expensive via autoship
    • Preferring veterinary channels due to counterfeit products from other big-name outlets, including a willingness to pay a little more to support the practice

Marketing veterinary home delivery

Riverview Animal Clinic's branded app serves as its main driver for marketing home delivery. If clients request a refill via the app, the team asks if they want pickup or home delivery. The clinic's team also sets up new prescription refills for home delivery after providing a small quantity needed right away. And finally, Tate's team sends emails available from their online store provider to remind clients about online ordering and home delivery about every 4 to 6 weeks. 

Veterinary home delivery keeps revenue in-house and reduces hassles from clients using other online retailers and pharmacies that often cause more work for the practice. 

Even with other options out there, veterinary clients continue to welcome email strategies. Because email is more direct and — when done well — feels more personal than other marketing efforts such as social media, many practices use dedicated and customizable tools to manage, target, and deliver emails on a variety of educational and action-oriented topics.

The survey commissioned by Vetsource revealed that 98 percent of the pet owners surveyed want to receive content and information from their veterinarian via email, and 77 percent report that they are likely to value or act upon promotional emails. Yet only 54 percent of survey respondents receive emails from their veterinarian. That's another big gap between veterinary client interest and what practices do.

Consider that the average open rate for retail emails is 17.1 percent, according to Campaign Monitor's Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022. Industries with higher average open rates include education (28.5 percent); agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (27.3 percent); and financial services (27.1 percent). That's still nowhere close to the interest and engagement reported by veterinary clients — 30 percent of whom say emails help them “believe my veterinarian wants to help me, even when I'm not taking my pet(s) to see them."

When building your home delivery email campaigns, keep in mind that the survey found people appreciate emails that meet the following needs:

  • 63 percent want reminders to refill prescriptions, with links to buy them
  • 62 percent want information that "could help improve my pet's health"
  • 54 percent appreciate discounts on products they already buy for pets
  • 48 percent like getting product recommendations
  • 47 percent appreciate discounts on products they "may want to consider buying"
  • 36 percent like the latest news and information about pets

Your home delivery emails, therefore, should speak to benefits for clients and their pets, crafted in ways to satisfy these email preferences. Even when you send other educational emails, include reminders about home delivery.

The survey also found that 40 percent consider clicking "Read Now" and 35 percent consider clicking "Shop Now," so be sure to include clear, actionable next steps for your clients to take in every email.

Veterinary home delivery is an extension of the practice

When adding or expanding client use of home delivery, Tate says, "The biggest thing is to make sure it reflects what you have in the practice and allows flexibility." For example, Riverside recommends a specific brand of external parasite protection, but one client's two poodles refuse to eat the chewable version of it. Tate's online pharmacy gives this client access to the topical version of that same brand.

"The nice thing is it allows me to meet her where she is," Tate says. "I still get compensated for it, getting part of that sale, and she's happy because she is doing what I recommend and buying from a source the practice suggested."

In short, veterinary home delivery creates a high-impact service for clients that honors and protects their time and efforts while requiring less work from you and your team. That's a win for all.

Meet pet owners' demands

Learn how veterinary home delivery with Vetsource can improve client perception of your practice