August 12, 2021

Analysis: The Purchasing Patterns of Pet Owners

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon, Ecommerce Trends, Pet Supplies

Americans are serious when it comes to their pets. Depending on which survey you reference, anywhere from around 49% to 68% of American households own at least one pet. But while the number of pet owners may vary from one survey to the next, they all agree: dogs are easily the most popular pet in America.

On the low end, surveys estimated that 38% of American households are also home to one dog or more, while one survey said that nearly half (48%) did. In both surveys, dogs dwarfed their competition in terms of total popularity.

To celebrate National Dog Day, and because we’re always eager to uncover new ecommerce trends, we wanted to do a deep dive into the online sales for pet supplies, and dog supplies in particular: When do people do the most online shopping for pet toys? When are people most likely to buy clothes for their pets? What about pet food? And did COVID-19 change the way people shopped for pet supplies online? And how are those trends holding up so far in 2021?

To find out the answers to these questions, our data science team analyzed market demand for pet supplies on Amazon for 2019 through 2021 so far.

Did COVID make a long-term impact on online demand for pet supplies?

First, let’s examine pet supplies as a combined category (for all pets: from dogs to cats, fish to birds, and more). We’ll start with a look at weekly demand from 2020 through 2021 so far.

It’s clear that the earliest weeks of the pandemic drove millions of Americans to stock up on pet supplies online. Demand started out flat in early 2020 before leaping to a 15% increase by the week of April 5th compared to the first week of March.

It then remained consistently above pre-pandemic through the rest of 2020, and has actually only continued to increase in 2021, even as things began to open back up.

This may be because Americans got more used to buying their pet supplies online, or it could be that COVID resulted in a huge influx of new pet owners across the country.

The tremendous growth in demand for pet supplies becomes even more apparent when we examine monthly demand since 2019:

2020 started well ahead of 2019 but clearly took off even more during the earliest months of the pandemic. 2021’s trends have somewhat mirrored 2020’s, peaking in March instead of April, but has remained consistently well ahead of last year.

But what about dogs? Was demand for dog supplies impacted in the same way as pet supplies in general?

Once again, we see a huge boost in demand for dog supplies in the earliest weeks of the pandemic. This time demand jumped by 19% between the week of March 1st and April 5th, outpacing the boost that all pet supplies received.

Dog supplies have also remained quite high in 2021 so far as well. Let’s take a look at the annual comparisons.

Once again, we see 2020 start the year well ahead of 2019, but then start to take off in the springtime. Demand for dog supplies also hasn’t slowed down in 2021, remaining consistently ahead of 2020 for each month so far.

So did COVID have a similar impact on other types of pet supplies? Let’s start by taking a look at how much demand in March and April of 2020 changed vs the same months in 2019.

Bird supplies experienced the largest boost in demand in the first months of lockdown rising by 80% in 2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

All pet supplies got a 46% boost, while cat and dog supplies experienced a similar increase of 43% each.

Now let’s see if all types of pet supplies are also experiencing a sustained increase in demand in 2021.

Demand for all types of pet supplies have seen demand remain higher in 2021 so far compared to the same timeframe in 2020. Once again, bird supplies have experienced the largest increase in demand, but cat supplies weren’t far behind.

So it looks like online demand for pet supplies have remained high this year even as things have begun to open up. There are a few possible explanations for this. People may have grown used to the convenience of online shopping for their pet supplies, or, perhaps, there were enough people who decided to get a new pet during the pandemic that we’ll continue to see an overall increase in demand for pet supplies.

Demand for pet food skyrocketed in initial weeks after pandemic

We’ve seen a clear and sustained increase in online demand for pet supplies for pets of all shapes and sizes, but what about pet food?

Let’s start again by examining weekly demand for all pet food from January 2020 through 2021 so far.

As you can see, there was a much larger surge in demand for pet food in the first weeks of lockdown than there was for pet supplies. The week of March 15th saw online demand for pet food shoot up by a striking 103% compared to the first week of March.

Unlike with pet supplies, however, demand for pet food quickly fell and remained consistent throughout the rest of the year. As you’d expect, this trend holds true for dog food as well.

Demand for dog food also more than doubled during the week of March 15th compared to the week of March 1st. But, once again, we see those figures fall rapidly as grocery stores and pet stores began to open up again, and pet owners were also undoubtedly sitting on a reserve cache of dog food.

Let’s see how this compared to other types of pet food.

Cat food experienced the highest increase during the peak of lockdown pet food shopping, with demand surging by 111%, edging out dog food’s 103% increase.

Demand for bird food also nearly doubled, while fish food came in at the bottom of the list with a still impressive 57%.

It’s clear that all types of pet owners stocked up on pet food during lockdown, but the charts above show that demand was rather short-lived.

To see how demand for different types of pet food has fared in 2021, we took the total demand each type of pet food experienced in May through July this year and compared it to the same timeframe last year.

Nearly all types of pet food have actually seen online demand increase this summer as opposed to summer 2020. Bird food experienced the biggest bump, with demand up 31% compared to last year, while demand for cat food and dog food has been up 17% and 12%, respectively.

Fish food, meanwhile, has seen demand remain basically the same this year as during the same time last year.

Once again, this growth in online demand for pet food comes despite things opening back up and a broader return to in-person shopping, further strengthening the case that we may have seen a sizeable increase in new pet owners over the past year.

Either way, we will be watching these trends closely as the year continues.

When is market demand highest for pet toys?

First, let’s examine pet toys as a combined category (for all pets: from dogs to cats, fish to birds, and more).

Demand started out flat in early 2020 before dipping slightly in the early days of the pandemic. It wasn’t long into lockdown, though, that demand for pet toys rebounded to pre-pandemic levels where it remained consistent throughout the summer and fall.

Demand then more than doubles during the peak holiday shopping season. Pets across America, it seems, are absolutely showered with gifts during the holidays.

You can see that after the holidays, pet toy demand in January and February of 2021 were ahead of last year, suggesting perhaps that a lot of people thought quarantine was the perfect time to get a new pet last year.

Here’s what demand looks like when we split out the top 4 types of pet categories in our analysis:

Dogs are the most popular pet in the U.S., so it comes as no surprise to see that demand for dog toys on Amazon far exceeds any other type of pet. So to account for the sheer popularity of dogs, we next compared how demand changed for each type of pet toy from week to week.

Taking this view you can see that demand for dog toys, cat toys, and fish toys all categories nearly double during the peak holiday shopping season, while bird toy sales increased by only 30% in the same timeframe.

Sales for all types of pet toys also experienced a similar dip and subsequent rebound in the early days of the pandemic, although cat toys bounced back somewhat slower than the rest.

When is market demand highest for pet clothes?

Last, but certainly not least, we’re going to examine pet clothes. Because who doesn’t love seeing a dog in a bowtie or a cat in a halloween costume?

Let’s start by seeing when demand for pet clothes is highest among all categories:

The clear winner here is Halloween, where demand surges by 200% to over 370% between the weeks of September 27th through October 25th. That’s a lot of pet Halloween costumes!

Christmas appears to drive a slight increase in demand, and there’s a slight uptick in late February (before a steep pandemic-driven decline), but everything pales in comparison to Halloween.

Let’s see how the different pet types stack up:

When it comes to demand for pet Halloween costumes, dogs once again completely outrank the other pets we examined. Things are a lot closer during the rest of the year, though, with cat clothing actually outranking dog clothing during the week of February 23rd.

Here’s how demand changed throughout the year:

Demand for dog clothing spikes at +472% vs average during the week of October 18th, outpacing cat and bird clothing’s still-impressive increases of 380% and 377%, respectively.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that COVID-19 has had a major and long-term impact on online demand for all types of pet supplies.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we may see continued growth for online depend for pet supplies this year, especially as we start to hit the holiday shopping season. Or, with the growth of virus variants and the return of in-person masking, we may see another slight boost in online demand for pet food.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

More Resources
Amazon MPS Benchmark: Top Pet Supplies Brands 2021
20 No-Brainer Tactics For Growing Amazon Sales in 2021