Lockdowns, layoffs and reluctancy to venture too far from home have affected plenty of companies during the pandemic—but Chewy isn’t one of them.
Last week, the online pet product retailer reported that year-over-year sales increased 47% to $1.7 billion for the quarter ending Aug. 2. It also acquired nearly 4.6 million new customers during the three-month period—a bigger gain than all of 2019.
Chewy’s CEO, Sumit Singh, believes the pet care category is recession-resilient for one reason: An increasing number of people consider their cat or dog a member of the family. The company’s latest annual report, for instance, cites a survey showing that 69% of pet owners are spending more on pet products than in the past, and 85% are willing to pay more for healthy pet food and products.
At this year’s Brandweek, Singh discussed steps Chewy is taking to accelerate its growth from an online startup to “world-class institution.”
The first is to remain customer-centric no matter how big the company gets. Chewy, for instance, currently has over 2,000 customer-service agents in North America providing assistance around the clock.
“We don’t have automated voice lines for customers,” Singh said. “We like to pick up the phone.”
The retailer has also made moves into pharmaceutical products. Singh said that, based on current trends, there’s going to be a shortage of veterinarians in the coming decade, potentially adding more demand on top of the need for adequate healthcare. Over the past year, Chewy has invested in producing original content on blogs that feature tips and advice from vets.
“It’s been tremendously helpful to be able to provide that outlet, particularly in the time of [a] pandemic,” said Singh.
In terms of leadership, Singh said the world has become more connected, and executives can no longer work in silos. He encouraged other marketing leads to build a greater sense of ownership and connectivity within the company.
“How do you connect customer, brand, supply chain, merchandising, product development, design, content in a way that your customer looks at it as one cohesive unit?” Singh said.
The events of 2020 have undoubtedly aided Chewy’s evolution. An increase in pet adoption during quarantine, not to mention more people spending more time at home with their cat or dog, has been an opportunity for the industry. Between early March and late May, pet brands spent 51% more on advertising than the same time last year, according to data intelligence firm MediaRadar.
“When more people are at home or when we have more time to engage with our pets, well, what do you do? You indulge them,” said Singh, who came to Chewy after roles at Amazon and Dell. Singh also noted the prevalence of stories about pets gaining weight since the pandemic took hold and subsequent orders to shelter in place.
In April, Chewy released a 60-second spot created by its in-house marketing team highlighting how pets can foster community and bring joy despite hardships. The lighthearted ad shows people sharing their experiences of pet ownership under lockdown over a virtual meetup.
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