Recently, I participated in a roundtable with several other pet store owners on general issues that affect us all. One panel member mentioned that the best thing he had done was to take delivery services in-house, using his employees rather than external vendors. In the long run, he said, the decision saves him money as he avoids high fees for delivery services, even factoring in the additional costs of providing the service from his own pool of customers. employees.
I don’t do delivery, although I used to. Giving it up was a difficult but well-considered decision. It was the right one for us, but there is a bit of regret associated with that because my goal is to always be “full service” for my clients. I offered not only pet food delivery, but also pick up and delivery of pets for their grooming appointments.
As the service grew in popularity, I had to be away from the store for longer and longer. I know you think I should have hired someone to do delivery and pick up. However, the demand did not warrant a new hire. As for a current employee taking over the task, I was not comfortable with that. Many of our pickup/delivery customers have given us access to their homes so that we can pick up or drop off in their absence. This level of confidence was not something I took lightly. It’s not that I don’t trust my team—if not, why are they on my team? It was that I wanted to be able to deal directly with any issues instead of having the ability to get mixed feedback from clients and my team. I phased out all delivery services, and it really didn’t affect us at all.
At the height of the pandemic, like most store owners, I quickly restored delivery services as well as curbside pickup. There really was no alternative; it was hard to do business in 2020 without having these services. Over time, the demand for these services began to decline, and again I was forced to make a decision. It was pretty easy to interrupt the delivery for the same reasons I was doing before. I don’t have an e-commerce site, manpower, or, for that matter, the envy. I want to be face to face with my clients. I want to learn the names of their dogs and show them the latest and greatest in pet food. Building those relationships is vital to our success, but that same nagging guilt was back: there was a segment of buyers I wouldn’t serve.
Imagine my excitement when I noticed an ad on Facebook offering DoorDash to pet stores. I knew some big box stores offered this service, but I hadn’t seen any independent pet stores in my area offering it. I filled out the online form and waited for my phone call.
I learned a lot during this phone call. On the plus side, it would be an easy setup, basically providing SKUs and pricing. They would take care of putting the products on their website. As for the price, it would cost me nothing for a trial period, and after that DoorDash only takes a commission from sales. It certainly appealed to me that there are no monthly fees. There was also no time commitment. I would be able to cancel at any time. On the negative side, it is expensive after the trial. We all know that pet food margins are tight and it’s hard to give up any percentage.
I decided to give it a shot. I haven’t seen a downside, especially with a free trial. DoorDash sent a tablet that sits near the front register. When I receive an order, the tablet notifies us. At that point, I can acknowledge the order and collect it, while DoorDash sends a dasher (the driver who will deliver the order).
Now that I’ve been using the service for several months, I can tell you that it’s not perfect. You have no control over the dasher. If they’re late or lost, you really don’t have to do anything. DoorDash manages the fulfillment, so if your customer doesn’t get their order quickly, most of the time they’ll be mad at you even though you had no control over the situation. It’s also difficult to keep information accurate and up-to-date on the DoorDash site. Since this is a relatively new service for them, they don’t have all the settings in place for retail like they do for restaurants. If I need to update a price or bag size, I have to submit a request and wait for them to update their website.
Here is a big plus. DoorDash will offer coupons and other promotions that benefit the customer but are fully funded by DoorDash. These can be offers such as 50% off a customer’s first order or a $10 off coupon.
I do several things to promote the service. I had our front windows painted with “We ship with DoorDash” and posted several posts on social media about the service. Even with these ads, most of my DoorDash customers were brought to me through DoorDash’s marketing efforts.
Overall, I think it was a positive experience, and I would definitely recommend micro-indies to check it out. You can win some new customers.
BC Henschen is a well-known champion of pet owners who want the best in their pet’s food. He is the consumer advocate for the Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) and is a former director of the World Pet Association (WPA). Henschen is a popular speaker at industry events and meetings. A Certified Pet Care Technician and Accredited Pet Trainer, he is a partner of Platinum Paws, a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store. for pet owners who want more for their pet than a bag on a shelf.