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5 Ways to Improve Delivery for Your Pet Business

Up your game by following these tips.

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PLATO ONCE SAID, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” That certainly was the case in 1983 when my wife, Teresa, and I were commuting every week day to Manhattan from the Jersey Shore. The last thing we wanted to do in our precious spare time was visit a store to buy 100 pounds of dog food monthly for our two Newfies. We joked that if we ever opened a pet supply store, we would offer free delivery.

In 1987, Teresa and I did exactly that with The Hungry Puppy in Farmingdale, NJ. Needless to say, we were several decades ahead of the curve. I would load up our Toyota van with what few orders we had and deliver them myself after the store closed. It soon helped differentiate us from other local pet supply stores.

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Fast forward to 2020, our delivery department contributes a solid seven figures to our revenues each year. We staff a full-time manager-driver and a part-time driver. Two box trucks and a van deliver within a 30-mile radius of our store five days a week.

What was a unique concept in 1987 — free delivery — is now a service that if you don’t provide will make it difficult to compete. Customers don’t just want convenience now, they demand it. We have evolved to also fulfill automatic deliveries, preset by the customer and supported by our POS system; same-day deliveries, for which we charge $8; and raw/frozen deliveries on Saturdays, when folks are home.

Whether you don’t offer delivery but want to, just started during COVID-19 or are looking to up your delivery game in general, I offer this advice:

1. Make a plan. Think through the logistics of how orders will be processed, from the time the order is placed to the actual routing, picking, loading and payment capture prior to delivery.

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2. Create as many customer touchpoints as possible. Our customers can place orders and communicate with us through our website, app, email, voicemail, Facebook or— go figure — even fax! And, of course, they can call us or come into the store to place orders, which gives us the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell ancillary products .

3. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Make sure your delivery vehicles are commercially insured for their intended use and that drivers are preapproved by your insurance carrier.

4. Focus on a 5-mile delivery radius if just starting out. Don’t expand until you’ve reached a profitable capacity, which is usually when the orders in that radius consistently take more than two hours to deliver, somewhere between 10 to 15 orders per day. At that point, divide the 5-mile radius into four quadrants with your store at the center and deliver to each quadrant on the same day each week. Be sure to communicate which day will apply to each of your existing delivery customers.

5. Be persistent and consistent. It can take time for customers to change their shoppings habits to utilize this service. Nudge them with discounts or dollars off. Our delivery customers spend almost twice as much per transaction as in-store shoppers, making it well worth the incentive. Market delivery on all advertising media you use.

Lastly, understand that your delivery service will not only create a competitive advantage, it will also save your business money in the long run. It is far less expensive to have a mobile footprint in other markets, up to 30 miles away in our case, then to open additional stores. We serve customers that without this service would never buy from us.

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Frank Frattini has been active in the pet industry for more than 33 years as CEO of The Hungry Puppy in Farmingdale, NJ. As co-owner, Frattini aims to enhance the relationship that people have with their pets. He accomplishes this by providing product education and retail experiences, such as a free dog park where events are held, free local delivery service, a training center, and an on-site veterinary clinic. The Hungry Puppy has grown into one of the largest-volume independent pet supply stores in the U.S. Visit thehungrypuppy.com.

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