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New York (June 17, 2013) — While advancements in digital technology and increased popularity of social networking have made their mark on and offline social interaction in recent years, it seems some Americans have more faith in a pet to help their social life. Indeed, according to new research from Mintel, almost half (47%) of pet owners believe owning a pet is better for your social life than social networking sites.

But it seems there is still a place for digital marketing and social media when it comes to the nation’s pet owners. Some 16% of pet owners claim to be interested in technologies that can enhance relationships with their pet and over one in ten (12%) say that they use social media to learn about pet-related products and services. Meanwhile, 28% of respondents in Mintel’s research claim to receive online or promotional discounts for pet related products and 17% say that they would like to receive pet-related promotions that they can redeem using their phone.

social media and pets infographics

“Whereas the pet shop owner used to be the prime touch point to find out how best to care for their pet, social media has become the new way for pet owners to explore and share experiences around their pet,” notes Gabi Lieberman, social media analyst at Mintel. “Further, as people take a more renewed interest in their own diets, we’re seeing them pass along their own concerns about food ingredients, creating a market for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan pet foods.”

And it is Millennial consumers who are most engaged with pet related technology. Today, 17% of Millennial pet owners have a pet-related app on their smartphone or tablet, a figure that falls to 9% for all pet owners. Additionally, 27% of that generation would like to receive promotions and coupons for pet care products that can be redeemed via their phone and one in four (26%) are interested in technologies and innovations that foster a stronger pet-owner relationship.

“Millennials particularly tend to welcome the idea of integrating technology with their pet relationship experiences, especially as people seek to gain celebrity status not just for themselves, but for their pets as well. While this push toward making pets celebrities has further pushed the power away from the brands and into the hands of consumers, brands are finding creative ways to integrate these Internet celebrities into their own marketing campaigns as a way to extend their reach,” Gabi Lieberman continues.

Moreover, Mintel research found that pet owners would rather spend their leisure time taking care of their pets instead of watching TV or surfing online, as just 7% said they would rather zone out in front of the TV or spend time online instead of with their pet, while only 6% would prefer to own the latest electronic device over their pet.

“Brands are becoming very creative with their social media campaigns, using gimmicks like dogs on skateboards, celebrity endorsements and online cat awards to attract the attention of pet owners. It’s one of the few categories where brands aren’t actually marketing to the end user, and they’re tapping into something very personal for people, so they have to be creative, and social media really allows them to do that,” Gabi Lieberman concludes.