Tails.com exploring ways to merge bricks and clicks

Pet-food subscription service Tails.com has further international expansion, new product development, and physical retail space on the roadmap, as it approaches its two-year anniversary under the majority ownership of Nestlé Purina Petcare.

The business, formed in 2013 to provide dog owners with food portions tailored to individual pets’ needs via an online subscription service, has used pop-ups, exhibitions, and festivals to spread its message, but is a more permanent store on the horizon?

Chief marketing officer, Miranda Cresswell, is the former vice president for digital brand strategy at Ralph Lauren, and spent several years in New York coinciding with the direct to consumer movement taking hold when digital-only companies ventured offline. Three years into life at Tails.com, that US experience is influencing her outlook.

“There’s something super powerful for me about having that physical availability for our customers,” she explains to Essential Retail.

“I worked in New York City for 14 years, seeing brands like Warby Parker – which was one of the first brands to bridge offline and online – and Bonobos [open shops]. When I started seeing digital brands go offline, it was an amazing experience.”

She adds: “I love physical retail experiences and I’m excited to explore that with the brand I’m working for now.”

Pop-up petcare

To date, that physical retail experience at Tails.com has involved temporary stores at the likes of Westfield London, Birmingham’s Bullring, and Sheffield’s Meadowhall shopping centre, but Cresswell is not ruling out more permanent spaces.

The brand has seen success at events like the Ideal Home Show, with face-to-face interactions supplementing the key customer acquisition strategy of Google and Facebook advertising.

“We’ve found people who come in through events actually stay with us at an above average rate,” Cresswell explains.

“When you’ve been introduced to a brand face to face, we feel it really makes a difference. We’ll definitely be doing more in this space – in the real world.”

Tech behind the team

Tails.com provides what it describes as a nutritional personalised food subscription service for dogs. Other animals are not yet catered for, but it is on the roadmap, especially now the company has employed its first chief commercial officer, Paolo Woods-Wyatt, who is tasked with driving growth and exploring new categories.

Cresswell says the personalised service offered to Tails.com customers is supported by a blend of data and veterinary science – and developer talent – based at the company’s Richmond headquarters and Hounslow factory in west London.

“We have factory technologists, digital technologists, data scientists, PHDs, and vets, who provide a lot of the science and dog knowledge that goes into the system,” she notes, adding that the in-house proprietary tech supports elements such as billing.

Cresswell says it is as important to keep developing the factory technology and science behind product development as it is to build the core digital customer-facing tech.

“On a product and engineering side it’s been important to find and meet the engineers where they are, so we’ve experimented a lot with identifying the online communities where engineers hang out and learning how to engage with them in that space.”

In terms of 2020, the number one priority remains “strong UK growth”, but Cresswell says the brand will “continue to explore connections between online and offline” and push further in Europe following the opening of a fully localised French operation in 2019.

Support for business growth both at home and abroad was promised by Nestle Purina Petcare at the time of its investment in 2018, and so far it is delivering on that vow, with circa 145,000 dogs being fed via Tails.com and annual revenue for the subscription service north of £20 million.

If you’d like to hear more from Tails.com and how they’re using data visit RetailEXPO 29-30 April. 

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