A fondness for animals was part of the motivation behind entrepreneur Darcy Foster’s decision to establish PetWellbeing.com, a website where shoppers can purchase alternative health supplements for their pets.
Foster chose this niche market upon discovering that there was a dearth of information on the topic while at the same many people were looking for an alternative to conventional medicine when treating their pets’ ailments.
It took time and hard work, but Foster has successfully tapped into the North American online market with PetWellbeing, and in the last four years business has skyrocketed.
“Like all business there is a learning curve, especially online,” he says. “It has become easier now that we have created a brand, but certainly we had to invest a lot of energy into making it a destination for people who are looking for information about holistic health for their pets.”
The site sells more than 120 products that offer remedies for everything from liver disease and Cushing’s disease in dogs to cancer, kidney disease, and hypothyroidism in cats.
All PetWellbeing’s products, manufactured in a certified organic processing facility in Kelowna, British Columbia, are developed by veterinarians, naturopathic doctors, and a master herbalist, and all undergo stringent testing.
Realizing that “a lot of websites are not that great,” Vancouver-based Foster conducted extensive “user testing” to make the PetWellbeing a mine of information and easy to navigate.
“What we've really tried to do is to focus on our customers and give them the information that they're looking for,” he says.
This involves providing comprehensive online resources for natural pet care information. The site boasts a library of over 250 articles, several blogs, an educational newsletter, and its own Wiki site.
“One of the things that differentiates us is that we have a very strong background in understanding how to get people to come to the website and how give them an experience that is good,” Foster says.
The company has offices in Vancouver and Atlanta, Georgia, and the products are registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for export to the U.S.
Part of the brand’s success has been thanks to a “customer review” process, Foster says.
Within three weeks to a month after a customer buys a product, the system automatically surveys the customer to get feedback on that product. After going through a moderator, the review is uploaded to the website.
“If the product is having a real positive impact then other people get to see that from a third party's perspective, and that's really helped drive the business. It allows people to see how a lot of other people are using the product and the sort of success they are having with it.”
As well as monitoring social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, the company uses Yahoo Answers to get the word out about PetWellbeing.
“If somebody is looking for an alternative to a pharmaceutical that they may have been giving their cat or dog that has been causing nasty side effects, they may ask that question in Yahoo Answers,” says Foster.
“What we've tried to do is be in the places where the conversations are happening and introduce ourselves and introduce the PetWellbeing brand.”
While conventional pet medicine certainly has its place, says Foster, interest in the alternative, holistic approach to keeping pets healthy has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. He believes this is partially due to the high cost of tests and some medications offered in conventional veterinary practices.
“There are a lot of people who are dissatisfied with the process that they generally have to go through now,” he says.
“What we really try to do is focus on maintaining pet health to prevent illness and huge vet bills. We're just trying to offer an alternative and give people an opportunity to feed their cat or dog something that is going to help benefit or supplement their diet.”