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New Website Helps Single-Shop Pet Store Compete With the Big Dogs

This article was featured on Pet Product News on February 18, 2016. You can read the full article here.

One independent retailer shares why using a professional to deliver a next-level website is the way to go.

Pet World of Natick, Mass., is a small fish in a big aquarium of huge pet store chains. In fact, this single-shop, family-owned pet store has to compete with one pet store from a national chain on the other side of its parking lot. Yet today, the store is thriving, with a bigger, more geographically widespread customer base than ever before. How are they doing it?

Doug Alton, Pet World’s owner, attributes much of his store’s recent success to the store’s new website, designed and developed by Champ Internet Solutions of Newton, Mass.

“We were a store very much in need of an improved Internet presence,” Alton said. “The new website accomplishes this and then some. Previously, our customer outreach was limited to the Natick area, but this new site gives us a stronger presence throughout New England. With branded product information, a photo gallery, a live-action Kitty City Cat Cam and the ability for our customers to reach out to us more easily, visitors are spending more time on our site. These increased virtual visits are translating to many more real visits to our physical location.”

A Presense Out of the Doghouse

Alton views Pet World’s old site as a bad introduction to the world of Internet marketing—one created in-house in the late ’90s with the bare minimum of functionality. Featuring a picture of the store, business hours and not much more, it was, according to Alton, a “glorified phone book ad.”

“We realized that in order for a website to be effective, we either needed to have a full-time in-house expert running the site or an outside vendor creating and managing the site,” Alton said.

Pet World decided to take the latter route after being introduced to Champ Internet Solutions by a woman who was helping the store with some marketing and promoting animal rescue group events.

“You want your web page to be a reflection of who you are and what sets you apart,” Alton said. “I appreciated how Champ and its president, Seth Worby, took a real interest in Pet World’s business, learning as much as they could about what sets our pet store apart from the large chains and the pet store industry in general.

“It was only after they knew our business almost as well as we did that they set to creating our website,” Alton continued. “The new site showcases all the unique benefits of shopping with us, including our unmatched industry knowledge, our newest products and the immersive pet experience that our customers have come to expect from Pet World over the years.”

The new site also makes it easier for customers to find exactly what they are looking for, with a depth that you might expect from a large chain’s website, Alton added.

The challenge with Pet World was developing a website that created clear calls to action to bring customers through the door, as Pet World does not sell its products online. Since the new site launched, visitors are spending 37 percent more time on the site and viewing, on average, 10 percent more pages with each visit. Customers are visiting Pet World with clear purchasing intent.

Pet World’s new website has a clickable photo gallery of product and animal thumbnails (that expand to larger pictures) and listings of everything from dry dog food to bird toys to pet carriers—which all expand to provide detailed descriptions and listings of available products. The site also features regularly update event listings, new product promotions and price discounts with printable coupons.

Virtual Visits to Kitty City

Another new feature of the website is the live Kitty City Cat Cam, which allows visitors to view adoptable cats—and their antics—in the store-based shelter during the hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pet World donates the space for the cat shelter to Stray Pets in Need of Massachusetts.

“Over 8,000 cats have been adopted through the shelter,” Alton said. “We sincerely enjoy giving back to the community in this way. Our vendors are also excited and involved with Kitty City Cat Cam sponsorships.”

In fact, Alton has plans to expand Kitty City, letting users activate a toy within the shelter. He also has plans to offer increased product placement opportunities to Pet World vendors, giving them a chance to showcase a new toy or cat food.

Not a Static Solution

One of the aspects of the new website that Alton greatly appreciates is the site’s building-block nature.

“The new site is easy for us to customize,” he said. “It gives us the ability to make immediate changes without having to call Champ for assistance. They’ve made it very easy for us to pop in information and functionality ourselves. It’s so important in the retail space to be able to keep our customers up-to-date with the very latest product specials, and even product recalls.”

To achieve the end goal of keeping the lines of communication between the store and its customers always open, Champ also helped Pet World set up a new Facebook page, which employees are populating with informative posts, event information and photos, and coupons.

“The new Facebook page is a great customer feedback loop,” Alton said.

Pet World also has built a customer database, maintained by Champ, which the store is using to send out email newsletters once a month, created and distributed by Champ.

“These email newsletters are certainly a much better value for us than the traditional mailings we used to do,” Alton said. “They are less expensive to produce, and we feel that they are getting a higher level of readership. Since beginning this new email initiative, we’ve increased our newsletter subscriber base from about 500 to more than 3,000.

“We feel that we are truly realizing our potential with this new website,” Alton continued. “Features like the Kitty City Cam and the clickable picture gallery are a lot of fun, for us and for our customers. And they are contributing to a website that is helping Pet World stand out in a world of national chain stores.”

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