The founders of ValuePetSupplies.com launched Casita Big Dog Rescue as an extension of their for-profit e-commerce business in September 2010. The rescue organization is important to the company, as it aims to give back to the community, says marketing director Nick Carter.
While Casita Big Dog Rescue has been placing shelter dogs with new owners for nearly two years, it is only in the past few months that the retailer began promoting those rescue efforts on its blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And Those promotions have had the side benefit of increasing sales. “This campaign is an effort to make saving dogs into good marketing,” he says.
ValuePetSupplies.com, No. 665 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide, has posted nearly 200 videos about the Casita Big Dog Rescue. The heart-tugging videos document the journey of the dogs, from their rescue from a local shelter by the Piech family—the retailer’s founders—through the arduous six or so weeks of their rehabilitation, training and being placed in a new home.
The merchant also posts these videos on its Facebook page, blog and Twitter feed, which reaches more than 7,000 followers. The efforts are sparking a viral effect for the ValuePetSupplies brand, Carter says, as the videos have been watched more than 400,000 times.
The videos praise the rescue program’s sponsor, ValuePetSupplies.com, and link back to the e-commerce site. This is driving sales, as Google ads tied to the keywords Casita Big Dog Rescue currently are bringing in around 25% of ValuePetSupplies.com’s revenue.
Moreover, 40% of those consumers who made a purchase after clicking from a “Casita Big Dog Rescue” search turn into repeat customers. Typically the retailer’s rate of repeat customers is about 20%, says Carter.
That loyalty is crucial for ValuePetSupplies.com because it competes with large retailers like Petco Animal Supplies Inc., No. 231 in the Top 500 Guide and Wag.com, owned by Amazon.com Inc., No. 1, he says. That competition means that sometimes ValuePetSupplies does not offer the lowest prices.
“Price leadership is crucial on the Internet, but you are generally within a very small amount of money and what we have going for us is 9,500 five-star reviews on eBay and Amazon that say we can be trusted,” Carter says. “Plus we have the overall coolness that we are a family business and not a giant faceless behemoth. We go out of our way to save dogs and everybody loves dogs.”
Pet care is the fastest-growing merchandising category in this year’s Second 500 Guide, as the 11 pet care retailers ranked in the Second 500 boosted sales about 35.9% from $41.4 million in 2010 to $56.3 million in 2011. ValuePetSupplies’ revenue grew to $8.3 million in 2011, a 60% increase from $5.2 million, according to Internet Retailer estimates.