The Evolution of Pet Wellness Plans and Why Today is the Ideal Time for Wellness Plan Programs (Part One)

Market forces, generational changes, and the rise of the subscription economy are reshaping how pet owners select and pay for veterinary services and products.


While this shift represents a fresh opportunity for veterinary practices that grasp the nature of today’s evolving marketplace, capitalizing on its emergence demands a keen understanding of industry trends.


Why is Today the Ideal Time for Pet Wellness Plan Programs?
Pet ownership has been on the rise for decades. Today’s pet owners spend more than ever on companion animals. The American Pet Products Association reported pet owners last year spent an estimated $72 billion. Of that, veterinary care, medicine, and related supplies accounted for nearly half of total spending.


The recent spending boom is partly explained by the increasing humanization of Fluffy and Fido. Nearly all pet owners believe their pet has human personality traits, according to recent market research by Harris Williams & Co. These owners also demand their pets enjoy the same healthy lifestyle as their human caretakers.


In fact, three-quarters of owners reported a willingness to spend any amount to keep their pets healthy, researchers found. This trend should only continue as the nation’s 80 million Millennials — who increasingly favor pets over parenthood — edge out Baby Boomers as the single largest generation of dog owners.


At the same time, consumption habits have shifted. Millennials, along with older Americans, are flocking to subscription services from Amazon Prime, Netflix, and similar alternatives. The growth of the subscription economy is expected to spur rising demand for subscription models in pet wellness.


The fusion of these forces makes today the ideal time to roll out a pet wellness plan program. However, to reap results, such a program must move beyond the bundle-and- discount models of yesterday.


What Do Top Pet Wellness Plan Programs Do Differently?
Successful pet wellness plan programs encompass both the practice of wellness and the business of wellness, explains Ron Nelson, vice president of operations with VCP, the only veterinary solution to address both of these elements.


The practice of wellness focuses on software, wellness plan design, and management. The business of wellness embraces real-time data and analytics, growth and club strategies, in-depth payment, and missed payment management tools — all designed to empower veterinary practices to grow and scale wellness plan programs.


“It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile,” notes Nelson of the distinction. A well-run wellness plan program is a strategic business tool that reaches beyond preventive care. Instead, a wellness plan program is the engine for growing compliance, building customer loyalty, standing apart from the competition — and boosting the bottom line.


Wellness plan programs also act as a foot-in-the-door to grow revenue in value-added services, including dental business and offerings like acupuncture, holistic medicine, preventatives, and beyond.


For veterinary practices weighing whether to add a pet wellness plan program, “there’s no better time,” Nelson notes. “Not only does it make sense, but the market dynamics — what’s going on in the marketplace, what’s going on outside the marketplace in terms of consumer behaviors — have all come together to make this an incredible time for membership.”


Still, uneven results have made some veterinarians wary of pet wellness plans. Next week, we’ll dig into the origins of this unease, and explore how its lingering effects prevent veterinary practices from reaping results from pet wellness plan programs.


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