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Veterinary Brands Re-Evaluating Sales Models As Customer Loyalty Increasingly Linked With Profits

This White Paper was published online in Today’s Veterinary Business. View the article here.

As brands develop deeper connections with pet owners to increase revenue, access to comprehensive customer data is increasingly important. Traditional sales models that separate brands from customer data are being re-evaluated as progressive brands link profits with customer loyalty.


People are getting more pets and becoming more attached them.  In the United States, households with pets increased by approximately nine million from 2007-2016 representing 55% of all U.S. households (1).

In a survey about pet ownership, 81% of respondents stated their dogs had equal importance in their families as their children (2).  The same study revealed 54% of survey takers preferred to be called ‘pet parents’ instead of ‘pet owners.’

The nature of pet ownership is changing relative to previous generations, elevating their status within the family unit.

Several factors play an important role in the growing connection between pet ownership and emotional attachment (3). First, more households have multiple pets and owners with multiple dogs in the same house are likely to spend more to satisfy them compared with single-dog owners.

Second, the generation of Baby Boomers are not slowing down when it comes to pet ownership.  In 2006, just 34% of people 70 years of age or older owned pets. This statistic jumped to around 40% ten years later.  Speculation about this increase centers on the realization among older Americans that pet ownership conveys health benefits.

Third, minority segments of the population are taking to pet ownership in greater numbers.  For example, the number of Hispanic cat owners increased 71% in the decade from 2007-2016.

Finally, the Millennial age cohort views pet ownership as a testing ground for effective parenting.  And in a related development, women are delaying becoming pregnant. Women in their early 30s were more likely to have children compared with women under 30 in 2016, marking the first time the median age reached this threshold (4).

With greater attachment comes greater willingness to sacrifice for our animal companions, to take steps to assure their well-being and to associate with brands that share the mindset of their owners.


The increase in pet ownership and the attachment of owners to pets are growing trends.  

Pet parents are so enamored with their furry family members that their affection is measured by their willingness to splurge on their well-being.  

With over 24 million pet owners in the United States, 18-35 year-olds are the largest segment of the pet-owning population.  According to a recent study, they spend generously on their pets (5).  The same study reveals that 76% of millennial pet owners responding to the survey stated they were more likely to make a large purchase for their pets instead of themselves.

Market research firm Euromonitor labels this trend ‘Premiumization” (6).  This concept relates that because more products are available at more price points than ever before, consumers are able to prioritize spending more on certain items – pet products, for example – and economize elsewhere on their shopping lists.  One brand of fresh prepared dog food sold from refrigerated cases doubled their retail sales between 2012-2016 despite their premium price positioning in the pet food market.

Another spending priority for more consumer segments including pet owners involves ethical, sustainable, and ‘green’ products.  According to a study by Wakefield Research pet owners seek out products for themselves and their pets with natural, organic ingredients (7).  Pet parents extend their own expressions of living a healthy lifestyle onto their pets. And as ‘clean’ products often have a higher price tag compared with products made with artificial ingredients or traditional production methods, spending on pet products increases.  

A byproduct of higher price is often heightened scrutiny of products to confirm they meet pet owner expectations for product quality and corporate authenticity.


Empowerment is another important component of consumer behavior underlying the shift of progressive pet product manufacturers to more stringent supply chain requirements.

Consumer power is growing with greater access to information, broader selection of available goods and services and the ability to share experiences with a wide network of contacts (8).  In fact, most shoppers believe that they know more about products in brick-and-mortar store locations then the sales associates (9).  

This information explosion places more power in the hands of consumers relative to brands.  The power shift disrupts the traditional relationship between purchaser and seller. The path to purchase is complex, involving multiple information sources for price comparison, peer validation, product research and personal satisfaction.

Brands must respond to the complex purchasing decision-making process in order for their products to prevail over competitors.  After the choice is made, the sale could be lost based on non-product related issues including shipping, delivery and return options.  Free and fast shipping and returns are the expected norm for product fulfillment, based on the model pioneered by Amazon (10).

The sales ecosystem for brands extends beyond product quality and includes the entire end-to-end experience of consumer engagement through research, service, purchase, fulfillment and returns.


A growing number of pet owners are willing to spend money on their pets instead of themselves.  This influential consumer segment expects a seamless experience throughout the purchase process including high quality, competitive price, expedited and free fulfillment and friendly customer service after sale.  

But there’s more.  Based on the added complexity of the purchasing process, consumers understand brands covet their loyalty.  For many consumers, brand loyalty depends on the corporate behavior of the company.

Corporate strategies about the environment, transparency, sustainability, animal welfare, production and labor practices, charitable causes and community action are taken into account by progressive consumers when evaluating purchases. Pet owners have a heightened interest in the corporate behavior of veterinary manufacturers because their company policies directly affect the health and well-being of their beloved animals.  


Whether in the grocery store or in a restaurant, ingredient transparency is a concept gaining traction among consumers as a measure of corporate authenticity toward the public.  The mission of this grassroots is to convince manufacturers to disclose a complete list of ingredients on products that go beyond current requirements of government authorities (11).  The food industry opposes ingredient transparency so voluntary efforts to increase ingredient transparency are viewed positively by many consumers (12).  A recent study concludes that 73% of consumers consider transparency more important than price (13).

Label transparency enables pet owners to acquire advance product information about products their pets consume.  Important health considerations based on dietary requirements, physiological conditions including high blood pressure, allergens and non-GMO ingredients can be determined with complete label disclosure.

Pet parents who value their pets equally to their children demand to know each ingredient in food and other products they apply, touch and consume.

The degree to which companies willingly share full information about their product ingredients is a determining purchasing factor for a growing number of consumers.  In some consumer circles, the concept of transparency is being advocated not only to verify product ingredients, but also to confirm the integrity of the product from point of manufacture all the way through to the point of consumption.  This is the notion of supply chain transparency.

Consumers who pay a premium for high quality products are learning to question the conditions and methods used to handle, ship and deliver the item.  To these discerning consumers, product quality may be affected by the journey it takes within the supply chain. Supplements requiring refrigeration that are delivered without temperature-sensitive packaging, for example, may be ineffective or worse, harmful to the consumer or pet.

Consumers and governments are demanding the ability to monitor the movement of products as the move from origin to final destination (14).

There is a growing expectation for manufacturers to show the same level of heightened care in fulfilling product orders as they take in making the product itself.  Premium ingredients fully disclosed on product labels that are handled with the highest quality standards and delivered free and fast is the new formula for customer satisfaction that earns brand loyalty.

The solution to achieve each of these stated goals exists within the pharmaceutical supply chain.  This fulfillment pipeline is expanding beyond prescription medications to include human and animal health and wellness products.


Increasing competition in the marketplace creates obstacles for companies that must differentiate their products.  Advertising becomes less effective because more brands generating advertising decreases message retention among target groups.  WIth more items available that address the same need, pricing becomes more elastic with a small price increase resulting in large drops in sales volume.  This situation is played out online millions of times each day.

Price is only one factor in the purchasing decision.  Customer service at each stage of the sales process – pre-sale, during and post-sale have a bearing on a sale.  Ease of returns and refund policies also play a role. The perception that companies share social values and priorities with consumers is another element considered when evaluating a product.

Progressive veterinary brands are therefore realizing that focusing on enhancing the customer relationship is the most effective method of increasing sales.


Traditional sales models for veterinary manufacturers involve distributors as conduits between the brand and the end-consumer.  The connection between brand and consumer is sacrificed in the distributor sales model because customer transaction data is consolidated by the distributor.  Although brands may develop a dialog with end-consumers from their own websites, vast swaths of actionable intelligence are forfeited at the altar of the distributor model.

Premium and specialty veterinary products are especially vulnerable to traditional sales models.  Research shows premium pet products are purchased in part by pet parents who value the welfare of their pets and their children equally.  These consumers generally understand the high importance brands place on earning their loyalty and they have high expectations of brands they consume and recommend.

The timely availability of sales information and analysis is vital for premium brands to demonstrate to their customers that their decision to purchase their product is valued and important. Delay or inability to receive detailed sales analysis due to contractual agreements with distributors may harm the ability of specialty brands to realize their full sales potential.


The Amazon online marketplace is an important component of overall revenue for animal health brands. Spending on Amazon represented 43% of total online sales in the U.S. in 2016 (15). However, the success of Amazon is built partly on their ability to analyze data about successful products. In certain cases, Amazon uses their unparalleled analysis capabilities to migrate sales from successful branded items  to similar products of their own manufacture.

Additionally, manufacturers selling directly to Amazon or in the Amazon Marketplace as third-party vendors both suffer from restricted access to important customer sales and behavioral data. Amazon is recognized as extremely stingy when it comes to sharing customer information with brands that sell on the platform (16).

Amazon acknowledged their desire to keep customer information in their hands to increase their share of the overall veterinary product market. At a 2018 NAVC E-Commerce seminar, two Amazon executives managing their animal health business for consumables commented that Amazon wants to leverage the strong emotional bond pet owners have with their pets to create deeper connections with its customers through the pet category (17).

Progressive premium pet brand are reevaluating their relationships with distributors and end-consumers to increase their ability to succeed in a rapidly changing marketplace.  The unique attributes of premium pet consumables brands may find success by utilizing a pharmaceutical logistics services provider that may also eliminate barriers between sales data and consumer behavior.


Products moving within the pharmaceutical supply chain are among the most regulated and scrutinized of any industry. Progressive manufacturers of veterinary products utilize the pharmaceutical supply chain in response to questions about supply chain integrity and to demonstrate their commitment to the highest levels of product integrity to pet owners.

Requirements for the proper manufacture, storage, handling and distribution of pharmaceutical drug products are strict, demanding precise and consistent compliance.  Guidelines in the United States are known as Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations. These guidelines are listed in the Code of Federal Regulations that is enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The two sections of federal regulations governing pharmaceutical drugs are 21CFR210 and 21CFR211 (18).

There are additional cGMP guidelines for sanitation, training, facility maintenance, hygiene, operations and inventory control of finished pharmaceuticals beyond those listed in 21CFR507 required for animal drugs, feeds and related products.

The more stringent standards that exist within the pharmaceutical supply chain increase confidence and reduce potential negative implications for animal health manufacturers that utilize pharmaceutical logistics services providers.


Of equal importance, consumers, including pet owners, expect that the companies behind brands they trust are taking every precaution to assure their product integrity at every step.  This includes taking every available precaution during the fulfillment process. For them to discover otherwise may be interpreted as a deception on the part of the manufacturer, despite full compliance by the brand owner.

This culture of ‘perception deception,’ where a company complies with regulations that do not match the high standards of their loyal customers, is a potential marketing problem prone to exposure with serious negative business ramifications.  

The specifics of cGMP requirements for finished pharmaceuticals compared with veterinary food grade requirements may be surprising, even to supply chain professionals.  For example, a reading of the guidelines state that hot and cold water in bathrooms is not mandatory for veterinary food grade distribution facilities. Written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) mandated for pharmaceutical warehouses is not specifically required to comply with veterinary food grade facilities.  High security, redundant power and entry/exit logging is optional for veterinary food grade facilities. Off-floor storage of products is prohibited in pharmaceutical grade facilities but is allowed for animal health products. This is not an exhaustive listing of these qualitative differences.

Although veterinary products manufacturers may work with pharmaceutical logistics services providers, the expense for additional compliance may be commensurate with other facilities.  And the potential savings from added safeguards can potentially save a business from financial loss.


The cost/benefit analysis for animal health brands working with pharmaceutical logistics services providers includes important factors beyond price.

For many animal health brands that have traditionally operated within a distributor fulfillment model, working with a logistics services provider is a departure from the norm.  It is important to note that manufacturers working with logistics services providers retain ownership of their products. Unlike the distributor model, where manufacturers sell their product to distributors that then sell to their customers, logistics services providers fulfill orders to destinations as instructed by the brand owner.  The sales network is developed by the brand owner in the logistics services provider fulfillment model.

The retention of product ownership in the LSP model enables the free flow of important customer data directly back from the LSP to the brand owner.  Distributors own the relationship with end-consumers and may guard key data points about customer behavior for their exclusive benefit. Sales data transparency enables brand owners to refine marketing outreach strategies, gain information to develop new products and interact directly with customers for valuable feedback and two-way communication.


Information flow, shipping and fulfillment are not core competencies of premium animal health brands.  Priorities instead focus on research and development and marketing. Supply chain logistics are often left to other companies with the hope that efficiencies will be maximized and costs will be minimized.  Many of these firms selling online believe that fees from Amazon for shipping and fulfillment cannot be duplicated from other sources. Actually, Amazon accounts for approximately 3-5 percent of Fedex revenue and low teens for UPS (19). Strongly positioned logistics services providers negotiate aggressively on behalf of their clients with carriers for shipping rates and delivery speed that rival large online retailers.  Online sales conducted from brand-owned websites can be fulfilled directly by a logistics services partner in a seamless transaction including picking, packing, shipping and also returns after sale. The design of these programs produces high satisfaction levels for customers who believe they are interacting with the brand name at every stage of the process.


Pet owners are part of changing purchasing behavior among consumers who are more engaged with their pets, empowered with an abundance of informational resources and predisposed to support brands and products that share and actively promote shared values.

The culture of expectation for product excellence extends to service and support before, during and after sale.  Ingredient and label transparency are important measures of brand authenticity that influence purchasing decisions.

The concept of transparency creates a halo effect that includes price, quality, customer service, shipping, delivery, returns and also the fulfillment process and supply chain operations.  There is an expectation among discerning consumers that the brand owners maintain product integrity from point of manufacture to final destination.

For pet owners and the brands they entrust to maintain their furry friends’ health and well-being, this complex formula for business success may be achieved with confidence by utilizing a pharmaceutical logistics services firm for receipt, storage and fulfillment.

Strict quality guidelines required for compliance by pharmaceutical logistics services providers as well as their keen understanding of the importance of on-time product delivery generate confidence among progressive animal health companies lacking in other warehouse facilities. Transparency of customer data is another benefit enjoyed by veterinary manufacturers with their own sales networks that partner with pharmaceutical logistics services providers.

Although several options exist for successful order fulfillment of animal health products, important consumer research and demographic indicators suggest veterinary manufacturers may benefit from closer examination of their supply chain practices to satisfy their valued customers.


  1. Facts, Packaged. “4 Trends Driving Pet Population and Pet Ownership Growth.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 24 May 2017,
  2. Coren, Stanley. “Do We Treat Dogs The Same Way As Children In Our Families?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2 May 2011,
  3. Facts, Packaged. “4 Trends Driving Pet Population and Pet Ownership Growth.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 24 May 2017,
  4.  LaMagna, Maria. “More American Women Are Having Babies in Their 30s than Their 20s.” MarketWatch, MarketWatch, 16 Oct. 2018,
  5.  N/A. “The Factors Influencing Millennial Pet Owners’ Purchasing Decisions.” Woodruff, 16 May 2018,
  6. Boumphrey, Sarah, and Zandi Bremer. Megatrend Analysis. Euromonitor International, 2017, Megatrend Analysis,
  7. Boumphrey, Sarah, and Zandi Bremer. Megatrend Analysis. Euromonitor International, 2017, Megatrend Analysis,
  8. Wixcey, Nigel. The Growing Power of Consumers. Deloitte LLP, 2014, The Growing Power of Consumers,
  9. White, Stephen. “Consumers Feel More Knowledgeable Than Store Assistants.” Digital Marketing Magazine, 26 Feb. 2016,
  10. Claveria, Kelvin. “4 Examples of How Technology Is Changing Consumer Behavior.” Vision Critical, 4 Feb. 2017,
  11. Berkowitz, Sarah F. “What Is Ingredient Transparency?” MNN – Mother Nature Network, Mother Nature Network, 31 May 2017,
  12. Reed, Genna, and Phalavi Phartiyal. “Transparency in Food Labeling.” Union of Concerned Scientists, June 2016,
  13. Power, Rhett. “Trust Is as Important as Price for Today’s Consumer.”, Inc., 30 Mar. 2018,
  14. Duckworth, Nigel. “Supply Chain Visibility and Transparency: How Everybody Wins.” Transforming Data with Intelligence, 10 July 2018,
  15. Pathak, Shareen, et al. “Retailers Chafe at Amazon’s Tight Hold on Data.” Digiday, 15 May 2018,
  16. ibid. #15
  17. James, Katie. “What’s Amazon Doing In The Pet Consumables Market?.” DVM360, 2 October 2018
  18.  Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Manufacturing – Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) Regulations.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research,
  19. Duprey, Rich. “FedEx and UPS Could Lose Billions as Amazon Air Expands.” The Motley Fool, The Motley Fool, 10 Jan. 2019,

Lawrence Hotz runs the marketing department at WDSrx—Woodfield Distribution LLC, a logistics service provider for human and animal prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, medical devices, and health, wellness and personal-care products.

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