Locate Every Service Your Pet Needs with Only One App
By Kris Gilbertson
It’s a busy, busy world we live in and if it seems like arranging care for canine/feline/exotic family members eats up too much time, that’s because it does. Or did. Now comes Pet Connect, the app that turns pet care into one-stop shopping.
How It Works
Pet Connect connects pet owners with businesses offering pet-related services in the user’s immediate area. In addition to pet food stores, daycare, groomers and vets, among others, this app can be the only place you need to keep each animal’s records. Think of having medical records in your phone when, for example, your new daycare needs proof of a rabies vaccination.
On the business side, this app can introduce all manner of pet friendly businesses to new customers. “As long as [the business] is a legitimate pet friendly business,” says co-founder & COO Jason Hanny, “we allow them on the app.”
Hanny adds that this doesn’t include individuals working part-time just to make a little extra money. “They must have a business license, society certification, or have taken courses in pet first aid or safety,” he adds. “Their work should be their livelihood.”
Pet Friendly Business
“Millennials are the largest pet owner segment in the world,” Jason says, “followed by Baby Boomers, and then Gen Z.” And while Millennials conduct as much business as possible through their smart phones, a recent study shows that they would rather spend more money in a local store than to buy online.
Research also indicates that 85% of pet industry businesses are individual or small operators. Hanny and Hector Ocasio, Pet Connect founder & CEO, discovered that the majority of those businesses don’t have a mobilized website or access to a mobilized app that this huge segment of their business looks at.
“We created an app that allows pet businesses to engage in the environment that pet owners use,” says Hanny, “an all-inclusive app to help them find the resources their pets need—vets, hospitals, rescues, pet stores, artists, medical records. And if you travel or move, the records go with you.”
Registration on Pet Connect is free to pet owners and they can include up to five family members or friends on their account. Businesses get unlimited use at all levels, without a contract, in an environment that is 100% pet owners.
- Basic level is a free directory that includes a business name, list of services, location with directions, and click-to-call.
- Enhanced level, for $99/year, also includes photos in the header, messages to pet owners, and hours of operation.
- Premiere level includes all the foregoing plus the mobile booking widget that lets a pet owner make a detailed request for an appointment. This costs $59/month.
“All rescues, shelters, and police/military dog trainers get free Enhanced profiles for life,” says Hanny, “and we give out Enhanced profiles to other nonprofits on a case by case basis.”
Is it worth it?
Sandra Cox, owner of Bark ‘n Bubbles in Leesburg, signed onto Pet Connect in January 2018. Cox is a working owner involved in every aspect of her business, but she doesn’t have a receptionist. With customers’ busy schedules and her workload, making appointments by phone often took three or four callbacks, and those delays cost business.
“In the first three days on the app,” Cox says, “I took 14 grooming appointments that I wouldn’t have made because I couldn’t have gotten back to them in time. In just that three days, I paid for 15 months of Pet Connect.
“It’s been 10 times easier since Pet Connect,” she adds. “Even if it’s only 5 or 10 minutes between appointments, I can go to the app and send [customers] a quick message and we can message throughout the day, if needed [to find the right time].”
Cox reports that her sales have increased 15% because of Pet Connect and now 40% of her customers book through the app, a number that grows each month. “It increased my sales because I got everybody scheduled,” she says, “and I’ve got new people coming in from seeing Bark ‘n Bubbles on the Pet Connect app.”
“It’s been a game changer,” she adds, “especially being a small business.”
How it got to be so easy
Jason Hanny met Hector Ocasio (Pet Connect founder & CEO) when they both worked in the corporate tech industry, particularly with restaurant and online service providers.
In the summer of 2014, Hector drove with his wife Sinead and dog Mason to visit a friend in Ohio. On the return trip, Mason became violently ill. There they were, in unfamiliar territory, urgently needing a veterinarian. Ocasio googled the closest vet hospital, 20 minutes away, and drove there (fast) only to find an empty building. He called the friend they’d just left who went online to learn that the hospital had moved a few blocks down the street.
With emergency treatment, Mason survived. The veterinarian told Hector and Sinead, “Your friend saved your dog’s life.” The Ocasios drove home to Maryland and next day wanted a quiet dinner in a pet friendly restaurant. They couldn’t find one.
Some 80% of people travel with their pets. How many do due diligence should their animals fall ill? Even if they do, lack of accurate information and steady updates are a major problem with many online “pet friendly” businesses. Hector Ocasio decided that “this has got to be easier.”
Recognizing a business opportunity, Ocasio developed a rudimentary test version of the app and invited Jason Hanny aboard. The first version of Pet Connect launched in March 2017 and immediately garnered so much attention that a major corporation bid (unsuccessfully) to buy it.
Midway through 2017, Hanny and Ocasio pulled the app for an expansion and redesign and launched the current Pet Connect in January 2018. But they’re not done yet.
Pet Connect is the official technology partner for 12 of the largest consumer pet trade shows across the country (Super Pet Expo, World of Pets, and Family Pet Shows). It is an official partner with the largest rehoming company in the country, Get Your Pet, and with American Pet Professionals. The company has registered pet owners and businesses in all 50 states, but this area, the DMV, is their hub.
This month, they plan to add an advertising function where, for an extremely reasonable fee, a business can target a specific area based on Zip Code(s) and distribute a weekly promotion to all pet owners on the app in their area. Through it, businesses can promote their brands and attract new customers.
The development team is working to customize information for specific categories of businesses, such as dog park amenities and identity chips. They are also working on adding pet friendly resources like hotels, restaurants, and apartments. That release is scheduled for 2019.
It’s all about connection
At a recent World of Pets Expo in Hampton, Virginia, Jason Hanny met the wife of a serviceman deployed to Afghanistan. She said her husband loves Pet Connect because he can continually connect with his family through the dog. He knows when there are vet appointments (and what they cost), and she uploads lots of photos so he knows how everyone looks day to day. “It’s a great way of connecting,” says Hanny. “That’s why we do what we’re doing.”