Pet Brands Use Paid Social to Expand into Ecommerce

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Pet Brands Get Their Paws Into A Multi-Billion Dollar Market

Last year, over one hundred billion dollars was spent by Americans on their pets. This year, that number is expected to rise. Broken down by category, pet food and treats accounted for 40% of this expenditure. Online pet product sales are now estimated at 30% of total sales for this category.

The pet supply industry has become an ecommerce focal point. From Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brands such as Chewy, to the ecommerce platforms of retailers such as Petsmart, the industry was one of a minority of verticals that benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. What drove this growth?

First off, there was a general increase in consumers turning to ecommerce, due to various lockdown restrictions put in place by governments and workplaces. Second, many people over this period adopted pets – 23 million families, in fact, or 1 in every 5 households.  

These two trends led to pet-oriented stocks gaining dozens of percentage points during this period. Some, like Chewy, are still trading at almost triple their early-2020 values.

Using Paid Social Media To Get — And Stay — Ahead

With such a massive opportunity, and intense competition, pet supply retailer brands are turning to paid social media advertising. This helps them to stand out, connect with consumers, and drive valuable actions. This is particularly relevant given that Gen Z pet owners are more likely to turn to social media for pet-related content.

As we’ll see in this Report, many of the featured brands make extensive use of dark ads, or hyper-targeted ads visible only to a target audience – and not the general public (or, critically, competitors). BrandTotal delivers deep insight into competitors’ dark versus public advertising, showing the entire number and percentage of dark and public social ads each brand is running. You can also use contextual intelligence layers and correlate filters such as consumer sentiment by dark ads, public ads, or all ads – and much more.

In this Report, we’ll dive into these pet supply brands and find out their strategies and tactics when it comes to paid social media advertising, including the crucial arena of dark marketing. 

Of particular interest is how consumers respond to these paid social media strategies and what the key drivers of consumer love and loyalty are. 


08/12/2021 - 11/09/2021

Brands in this Report

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The Overall Landscape

First, we turn our attention to the overall online pet care market in terms of all the brands featured here, over the period of this Report. In terms of paid Share-of-Voice (SOV,) Petco leads the field with over half of the total (55%). Next come Chewy (23%), The Farmer’s Dog (9%), and PetSmart and Bark (5% each).

From an engagement perspective however, the landscape looks completely different.

This time it’s PetSmart well ahead with 1.3m engagements, followed by The Farmer’s Dog, Harringtons, Petco, and Chewy. 

Social Media Channels Used

It’s informative to see which social media platforms were preferred by which brands. 

While many brands chose a broad mix of channels, Petco and Bark chose YouTube in the vast majority of their creative campaigns. Other brands such as Chewy, PetSmart, and Tailored also made extensive use of the channel. 

Nom Nom, Cat Person, Dandy, Maev, Because Animals, PetPlate, and Republic of Cats all used Facebook for the majority of their campaigns. 

For Instagram, it was the Farmer’s Dog, Sundays, and Yumwoof who were the major users of this platform. 

Learning From Individual Brands


Chewy has been a success story. How is the brand leveraging paid social media to connect with consumers, generate love from pet owners, and promote engagement? What can marketers learn from this brand?

When it comes to ads, Chewy’s goals around its creatives show its priorities: Awareness-type ads make up 25% of total ads, Consideration-oriented ads only 3%, and the lion’s share – 72% – of ads are conversion-driven.

In general, ads are relatively evenly distributed from a target age perspective:

These numbers show that while Gen Z-ers and Millennials are addressed, the brand is heavily targeting the 55-64 year-old age bracket. These consumers are likely to be bigger spenders, and might be parents with more than one pet at home. This is compared to younger pet owners who are more likely to have a single pet.

The brand’s top engaging ads were around gifts and gifting. This dark ad, which was run in the leadup to Father’s Day, had over 4.7k likes, and 950 comments. 

Facebook Ad from Chewy

Interestingly, while the brand has ads that drive consumers to a “Shop Now” CTA, many ads – this dark ad being a prime example – direct users to the Chewy blog. For marketers, this is a super important insight: when it comes to paid social media ads, not every ad needs to lead to an immediate sale. There is still a funnel in play, and value-adding content has a massive role in this customer journey.

Facebook Ad from Chewy

Pet Brands and Ecommerce: Finding Success Through Paid Social Media

The pet brands featured in this Report have, in the main, successfully connected to consumers and effectively used paid social media – particularly dark ads – to drive their ecommerce success. 

One of the main learnings coming out of this Report is the need to effectively measure social advertising, particularly in light of the fact that in many cases, key intelligence on competitor brands is hidden from public view. 

BrandTotal turns this data into actionable insights that you can implement immediately for your brand to see results faster.

Want to read more about pet brands and ecommerce? Access the full report here!