Live shopping is one of the hottest spaces in retail, and with good reason: it provides a fun and convenient way for retailers to connect with shoppers from the convenience of their homes. Petco is staying at the forefront of social commerce via multiple live shopping events, produced in partnership with Facebook, that combine fashion, charity and adorable animals.
“Consumers are increasingly exploring and discovering things they love in social environments and they’re looking for faster, more convenient ways to shop and real-time engagement with the brands they love,” said Jay Altschuler, VP of Media Transformation at Petco in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our goal is to be a leader in innovating and driving the use of social commerce in our category and in the U.S.”
Initial Live Shopping Event Generates 12% Lift in Online Traffic
A key element of Petco’s strategy for its livestreams is providing clear callouts and opportunities to shop. Live shopping is just as new to most consumers as it is to retailers, and Petco wants to make it as easy as possible for them to adopt this fast-growing trend.
“Our biggest unlock has been seeing live social commerce activations as more than just a single moment in time,” said Altschuler. “We engage pet parents and create excitement for our brand in the live event, then extend the experience to even more pet parents through a mix of organic, paid, commerce and influencer for a three- to four-week campaign.”
Petco’s first live shopping event, The Perfect Fit, was held in late April 2021. Actress, model and pet parent Arielle Vandenberg hosted the combination pet fashion show and dog adoption drive featuring rescue dogs from L.A. Animal services, which received a $100,000 donation from Petco and Petco Love. Petco also used the opportunity to build awareness of its Youly and Reddy private label brands.
The results “exceeded our benchmarks across the board,” according to Altschuler. The event reached more than 986,400 people, 44% above the benchmark set by the retailer, and sales were double the cost of holding the event. The experience earned a 14% engagement rate, 260% above the engagement benchmark, as well as a 12% lift in overall Petco.com traffic. Perhaps most important, all seven dogs featured during the fashion show were adopted.
The retailer’s next shopping event was held in July with Petco Field Day, hosted by former Olympian Gabby Douglas and Petco National Dog Training Manager Darris Cooper. This sports-focused stream included games, demonstrations and educational content to teach viewers about fun and safe physical and mental exercises for their pets.
Petco Field Day was an even bigger success, reaching 2.43 million live viewers and achieving twice the return on ad spend (ROAS) as The Perfect Fit. The on-demand version of the event is still bringing in additional viewers, and Petco saw a 14.2% lift in ad recall, a 5.9% lift in favorability and a 5.9% lift in recommendations following the livestream.
Petco Leverages Existing Influencer Relationships
Petco went into social commerce with some built-in advantages. The retailer was already well established in the general social media space before it started exploring the commerce side, making the move a natural evolution for the brand.
The brand made its social commerce debut with Shops and Collections on Facebook and Instagram, which represented an extension of its existing social media presence. Petco was already working with influencers to spread the word about its offerings, and they’ve continued to be an asset in the realm of social commerce.
“We know consumer decision journeys begin and are highly influenced by social and influencers,” said Altschuler. “With the ongoing growth of the role of social media in consumers’ shopping process — for example, more and more people are researching and discovering brands and products in social media — we saw an opportunity for Petco to facilitate purchases within that environment, effectively bringing shopping to the consumer rather than making the consumer come to Petco.”
The successful integration of influencers and social commerce included a 2020 TikTok campaign for the Reddy private label brand. Petco partnered with major influencers, including Jason Derulo and Dixie Damelio, in a campaign that made 28.3 million impressions and inspired 1,500 pieces of user-generated content, including custom-branded Reddy songs.
“The next generation of pet parents will have different shopping habits, and we’re excited for this new opportunity to both respond to and shape emerging consumer shopping behaviors,” said Altschuler. “Our approach has been to create an experience that drives consumer brand preference and product consideration, rather than act as a purely ecommerce channel. We see social experience and commerce capabilities as interlocked and interdependent when building out campaigns.”
Successful Live Events Rely on a ‘Union of Human and Pet Talent’
Running a successful live shopping event can be a challenge for any retailer, but Petco had an additional factor to consider: the pets themselves. Running a live event with animals can be unpredictable, but “part of the joy of creating pet-specific content is that anything can happen,” said Altschuler. “The union of human and pet talent is a special thing to witness, and those relationships are very real on and off set.”
A lot of work went into ensuring all the on-air pets were safe and comfortable during the production, and there was plenty to be done to assure a great experience for shoppers as well. Petco had a team dedicated to interacting with fans in real time while adding relevant products on-screen. Additionally, both remote and on-site teams worked together to coordinate the event and ensure that it was both shoppable and interesting.
Petco plans to continue experimenting and growing in the social commerce space in 2022, with the goal of staying ahead of shopper expectations. The company is testing new ways of making ads and content shoppable, and the “test and learn” approach the retailer used in 2021 will continue to define its strategy in the future.
“Our Facebook Live events are a great example of bringing creativity, social media and commerce together to connect with pet parents in a new way,” said Altschuler. “In addition, we’ve built out a more robust Shops strategy across Facebook and Instagram. Moving forward, we have plans to take our approach to additional emerging social platforms and partners, and will continue to experiment through different types of creative activations.”
Petco will join Facebook, Zox and Clientricity to discuss livestream and live shopping during the 2021 Retail Innovation Conference, Nov. 16-17. Registration for this virtual event is free.