PawsEco: The first ever virtual marketplace for pet store owners
- Written by Leanne Baker
Pet industry expert, Rio Afero, launches the first virtual e-commerce platform designed to support pet store expansion, as pet-ownership soars in
Australia to over 61%
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the pet industry in both positive and negative ways. Taking full advantage of time at home, many Australians have seized the opportunity to either grow or begin their four-legged family, with more than 61% of Australian households now owning a pet. Despite having one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world, up until now, Australian pet stores have to make do with very little innovation and business support, in what is still a very traditional industry.
Rio Afero, PawsEco founder says, “Every pet store has unique needs, with many varying factors, like location, community involvement and customer base. Surprisingly, while they are recognised as an ‘essential service’ - your pet will always need feeding - many stores don’t have access to simple technology for basic business needs. PawsEco changes this.”
PawsEco is both a cloud-based platform that supports pet stores with the tools they need to operate day-to-day, and to grow. The platform offers a myriad of services, including point of sale, product ordering and inventory, CRM, and even an integrated template service which powers the distribution of branded e-marketing materials, such as welcome letters, in-store offers, pet birthday acknowledgements and e-receipts! And for pet owners it is also an online marketplace, offering a range of high quality pet-related products such as pet food for all kinds of pets.
Determined to support Aussie small businesses, when a pet owner buys pet food or supplies on the PawsEco online marketplace, they can nominate any one of the local, independent pet stores registered with PawsEco to receive 10% of the purchase profit.
Opening his first pet store, Shrink My World, in 2012 in one of Sydney’s many pet-owning paradises, Darlinghurst, Rio Afero soon created a unique space equipped with quirky products and a small variety of pet food. After just one year, Shrink my World, expanded to double the size with a vast inventory curated by his regular customers and their furry counterparts, a business that continues to grow and evolve.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pet ownership and adoption has soared, with the RSPCA receiving record numbers of calls and foster-care inquiries during the lock-down period. Between the 2nd of March and 19th April, Pet Rescue recorded a staggering 12,534 adoptions in the one month period - double the usual amount. With pet ownership numbers on the rise and physical store visits in question, many pet store owners found themselves losing out to international distributors who flood the market with poor quality cheap products, and due to a lack of stock, variety and basic business solutions.
Rio explained, “Many other point of sale, inventory and CRM systems don’t understand the specific needs of the pet store industry, and lack the flexibility required to cater to both clients and their pets. We wanted to create a system that not only provided a wider variety of product to pet store owners, but a platform to support and help their business grow, without impacting their sales or local reputation.”
What is PawsEco?
PawsEco is both an online marketplace and a digital platform which provides pet stores with the vital business tools required for individual growth, all in one place, including 24/7 on-the-go access to cloud-based point of sale, CRM, reporting and community support online. Staff can foster loyalty and remember customer preferences by searching their customer database on PawsEco by both client and pet, along with tracking sales, a service history and even a picture of the owner’s pet, where available, like their own personal PawsEco online profile. Rover, Fluffy, Tweety and their pet friends are well taken care of!
The PawsEco platform also gives pet store owners virtual access to a multitude of quality pet food brands, accessories, supplies and even additional sales via a structured commission system - enabling them to expand their business into 21st century- style commerce, without having to expand their retail space.
Rio Afero says, “My team and I decided to take matters into our own hands, and design a platform to meet the unique needs of the pet industry, and their customers. A platform that made finding and purchasing unique, high-quality products for their pet stores, a walk in the park. The PawsEco marketplace enables pet store owners - like me - to find unique products and supplies to order directly into their inventory - ‘in the cloud’ - meaning they can support both new and existing customers at a really low cost.”
Pet owners and customers can now source and purchase a wider range of products through PawsEco, without under-cutting their favourite pet stores, but also at their own convenience. With many of us now fully adapted to shopping online, thanks to COVID-19, customers now have an option between a store visit, or delivery to their own home.
How does it work?
When customers purchase through the PawsEco shop, the order is fulfilled and delivered by the PawsEco Team. As part of the process, the shopper is asked to select a local retail store of their choice to receive a 10% commission at checkout. This is hugely beneficial for retailers with a limited range of products as it increases their offering without the additional e-commerce costs.
Alongside the many logistical perks of PawsEco, the platform provides the pet stores with an online presence that they wouldn’t have otherwise. When stores join the network, a profile is created to alert and inform customers of the pet store’s presence and offering, with plans to develop this further to include online booking systems for those who offer grooming, doggy day care and other in-store offers. While the world of e-commerce continues to grow, the PawsEco platform encourages local businesses to join this growth, but at the same time drives customers to keep visiting stores.
Rio says, “Many pet stores are not in a position to immediately create an online store or website, especially at the moment. With PawsEco, local pet stores can capture those online sales and also offer new brands and favourites, without having to ship, handle or stock count.”
Unlike many other online pet retailers and in keeping with the industry's infamous community spirit, PawsEco will not undercut local stores or flood the market with cheap, overseas products. Instead, PawsEco focuses on local suppliers with prices based on mutual, recommended retail prices - which will not be slashed.
Rio says, “The pet industry is like no other, it is collaborative. From doggy day-care to dog walking clubs, for as long as we have known, pet ownership in Australia is a team effort. It is a community-driven commitment that has built the foundation of the PawsEco platform. We are passionate about helping local pet stores not just to survive during this time, but to thrive.”
Since soft launching at the end of June 2020, word of mouth in the pet store community is already in play. PawsEco already has multiple pet stores signed to the platform, to reap the many rewards offered by PawsEco, who continue to support their local pet-community whilst simultaneously encouraging business and sector growth.
For more information, visit the PawsEco website: https://www.pawseco.com.au/