Saturday is National Dog Day. You might wonder how that makes any sort of difference to your dealership, especially if you aren’t a dog owner yourself. But, according to the ASPCA, 44 percent of households in the US have a canine in their composition, meaning dog owners are a major part of your customer base. It’s a demographic certainly worth exploring.
Businesses of all kinds have become dog-friendly. Offices allow pets as a stress reliever and retail establishments often allow companion animals to accompany their owners. AutoTrader, a Cox Automotive company has explored this topic for the 2017 Dog Day.
VP of Marketing for Cox Automotive, Jessica Stafford, says, “Dogs seem to be welcome in all kinds of businesses these days, such as cafes and retail stores, so we think dealerships are a natural fit as well. From our research, we discovered more than half of car shoppers surveyed look for vehicles that could accommodate their dogs, while over 20% of pet owners take their dog on a test drive. Those are clear indicators that car shoppers are deeply passionate about their pets, and dealers should take these behavioral insights into consideration in continuing to offer a more personalized in-store retail experience.”
AutoTrader research shows that one in ten dog owners bring their dog in the car at least once per week. Does that include an occasional trip to your dealership? Here are some simple dog-friendly ideas, and compelling reasons why a dog-friendly design is beneficial for business.
It not necessary to retrofit your store to be pet-aware. It’s a matter of being conscious of a dog’s needs for comfort that is required.
- A dedicated space outdoors for pets to visit the restroom is perhaps the most important feature. A spot that is inconspicuous and away from public view is crucial.
- A fresh water supply helps pets to cool down in summer and helps reduce stress.
- A pet bed is a nice touch, especially for large breeds.
- A well-stocked treat container, spare leashes, and clean-up equipment will help both pet and owner become more comfortable in the store.
Models of Success
Peltier Subaru in Tyler, TX has become a prolific example for a dog-friendly dealership. Not only are refreshments offered for both the customer and their pets, but a dog bed is available in the store and a dog tag machine is open to customer use.
Perhaps the most successful component for Peltier Subaru, according to General Manager Mike Terry, is the onsite dog park. It’s a greenspace that’s open to their customers as well as the neighboring community with park benches and a bit of shade. The dog park is open anytime the dealership is – early morning when the service department opens until the evening hour when sales closes.
Terry’s commitment to a pet-friendly environment began when researching for their new dealership. Discovering the high percentage of their clientele that were dog owners, it was clear that the dealership could offer a unique dog-friendly experience for sales and service clients as well as local residents.
Ray Chevrolet in Fox Lake, IL is also known for their pet-friendly atmosphere. In addition to a welcoming environment for dogs, they’ve partnered with local organizations. Says Tom Templeton, Marketing and Technology Director at Ray Auto Group, “We want our customers to feel like they’re at home when they visit us. So, creating a friendly environment for dogs in turn creates a more welcoming environment for our customers. The community has responded with great enthusiasm and we see dogs in our showroom all the time. Most recently we hosted the Ron and Vicki Santo Diabetic Alert Dog Foundation. After a year of training dogs to detect blood sugar levels in diabetics, the dogs met their new families for the first time.”
A Community Outreach
Both Peltier Subaru and Ray Chevrolet have seen positive reactions from their canine-compassionate approach.
- Peltier Subaru has been able to be visible in the community thanks to their dog park, and customers appreciate the ability to bring their furry family members with them while shopping for a vehicle or servicing their car.
- Ray Chevrolet’s dealership has received positive exposure on several occasions due to their dog-related events, such as the 1Pet1Vet Jeep Run that pairs a veteran suffering from PTSD with a companion dog.
In addition to positive press, dogs in the store are a welcoming presence. Customers feel more at home with a dog on site, and the frequency of dogs in the store is on the uptick.
Best Practices for Being Dog-Friendly
The inclusion of pets in your dealership doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, but it’s how it’s done that matters.
Communicate the Benefits
Peltier Subaru’s dog park may have been a bust if it weren’t for communication. GM Mike Terry says transparency and communication are key. “Once you let the people know that it’s for them to use, they can go out and enjoy it, no strings attached.” It provides a convenience that can attract customers that may have been loyal elsewhere beforehand, and enhances the dealer’s image in a positive light.
Establishing a presence in the animal kingdom takes time. Small steps eventually develop into larger events. Templeton advises, “You can start with small, easy steps. Put out a jar of dog treats at the cashier window and a bowl of water in the customer lounge. Then search out dog-related service organizations in your community to partner with. Either hold an event at your dealership or sponsor an offsite event in your community.”
Financial Results Will Follow
With an increase in dog-owning clientele flowing in and a more relaxed atmosphere, the dealership will reap the rewards that follow. For the minimal investment of the supplies required (and an occasional cleaning bill), dog-friendly dealerships can capture a higher local piece of the business pie moneywise.