Customers tap and connect to a New Jersey store.

On any given day, a pet parent may want to:

  • Schedule a food and treats delivery
  • Ask a veterinarian about vaccines
  • Get advice from a dog trainer
  • Use digital coupons to save money
  • Find out about pet-friendly events

For customers of The Hungry Puppy in Farmingdale, NJ, there’s an app for that — and so much more.

THE IDEA

Tap & Connect

In 2015, store social-media and marketing director Joanie Hausleiter and buyer and office manager Tami Wolfe brought the idea of an app to owners Frank and Teresa Frattini.

“The goal was to create community and to give The Hungry Puppy customers another way to reach us,” Frank says.

App feature Bring Your Pup allows shoppers to earn $5 off for doing exactly that three times within a month.

“It celebrates and rewards the relationship they have with their pet,” he says. “And it shows that we’re happy they choose to be a part of our community.”

Users can submit questions to store veterinary and training staff through the app. They typically get a response same day, at most within 24 hours. An events calendar, photo albums, and links to social media and review sites also invite participation.

Specials and coupons, some exclusive to app users, are accessible, and customers who spend $75 on pet products can unlock the Scratch Card feature to win Pup Bucks for future savings and free services. I Need a Delivery requests a phone call from a team member who will take an order and schedule it for drop-off.

THE EXECUTION

Embrace the Template

The four settled on 23 features, some duplicates of The Hungry Puppy website functionality and others exclusive to the app. To keep development simple — and costs low, less than $2,000 — they used Swiftic, a DIY mobile app maker.

“The platform is very easy to use and customize. It didn’t take very long to launch,” Hausleiter says. “We did mostly everything guided by techs from the platform in the beginning. Now I do it all on my own.”

Annual upkeep expenses run around $500. Customers can download the app for free via Apple or Google Play.

THE RESULTS

Community Growth, Higher Sales 

More than 6,000 pet parents use The Hungry Puppy app, with Frank looking at Pup Bucks redeemed as the greatest indicator of its success as they are mainly awarded through it.

“Between $800 and $1,200 Pup Bucks come back each month,” he says, adding that the average sale has gone up by 10 percent since launch.

Hausleiter also sees great value in the app’s ability to send users notifications of sales and specials — text message marketing that actually gets read.

“Our push notifications have an almost 100 percent open rate,” she says.

Do It Yourself: Five Steps to a Pet Business App

  • Research DIY app builders. Hausleiter recommends looking for a highly customizable platform that offers detailed analytics on usage and users.
  • Brainstorm features with your entire staff — different generations have different needs when it comes to technology!
  • Once launched, promote the app through online and in-store promotions that offer a discount to those who download it.
  • Use push notifications to further connect with customers.
  • Regularly evolve the app and build marketing around popular features. Customers who earn Bring Your Pup rewards also get social media shout-outs, creating even more engagement.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 edition of PETS+.