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PetSmart unleashes round-the-clock veterinary support via pet wellness app

In a reflection of the rapidly expanding telehealth sector, PetSmart is rolling out a new mobile application allowing users to instantly connect with a veterinarian regarding their pets? health issues, receive answers to first aid questions and locate nearby clinics in case of emergency.

The retail chain?s new askPETMD app offers mobile-savvy pet owners a plethora of wellness-related content that may prove useful in the event of an emergency. Mobile?s constant connectivity enables individuals to leverage plenty of resources for health concerns, a feat that will likely resonate well with animal lovers requiring immediate assistance for their pet.

?We know that our customers spend most of their time on mobile devices,? said Brent Cooke, vice president of loyalty, CRM and consumer insights at PetSmart, Inc. ?People are continually on the go and want to stay connected, and of course, we want to make sure we are providing our customers with the information they need in a channel that's convenient for them. 

?The mobile channel has been a trend for years and continues to expand in popularity and use.?

Help for furry friends
Pet owners can now download the askPETMD app for their Android or iOS devices, courtesy of Pet360, a division of PetSmart. Using the app, consumers can receive aid for immediate critical circumstances, as well as answers to general questions regarding animal health and wellness.

For example, if an individual is on a hike with his or her dog, which unexpectedly gets a cut, he or she can open the app and type in ?dog cuts and bruises? to access information on how to administer on-the-spot first aid. He or she may also want to use the vet locator feature to find a nearby clinic.

Consumers can enable their smartphones? location settings or input a ZIP code to select a veterinarian.

The askPETMD app provides content for a variety of household pets, including dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, guinea pigs and hamsters. If a user cannot find an answer to his or her question within the available mobile resources, a qualified veterinarian will respond to it within 24 hours.

Pet owners can also use the app to create a profile for their furry family member by uploading a photo, name, species, age, weight, gender and breed. Other available in-app actions include adding a specific vet as an emergency contact ? enabling speed-dialing ? and searching askPETMD?s content via popular topics such as general care, diet and behavior.

More than 8,000 articles currently searchable within the app answer over 750 of the most popular inquiries submitted by pet owners.

?We asked our customers what they wanted and two of the biggest learnings were: ?Partner with me when I need guidance? and ?Help me in a pinch, wherever, whenever,?? Mr. Cooke said. ?We know being a pet parent is an around-the-clock job. 

?The mission of the askPETMD app is to provide pet parents with peace of mind that a vet-qualified answer is available whenever and wherever they need assistance. Delivering this via a mobile device just seemed a strong match for our customers.?

Catering to mobile lifestyles
PetSmart opted to roll out the informative platform after realizing that many pet parents seek on-the-go, round-the-clock access to live support as well as quick answers to health-related questions. AskPETMD also offers information on specialty pets such as fish and reptiles, which many other apps neglect to include.

PetSmart has employed a stronger mobile focus in many of its recent marketing initiatives, proving its dedication to reaching time-strapped pet owners on their most ubiquitous personal device.

Earlier this year, the retail chain created a consistent stream of sales for puppy products through a mobile-optimized hub that provided information and collections following the surge of holiday pet adoptions (see story).

PetSmart is also likely to increase its digital footprint ? as well as audience outreach ? by paving the way for pet marketers in the telehealth sector. A slew of major retailers are now attempting to offer consumers easier ways of connecting with licensed health professionals via mobile devices.

In 2015, Walgreens brought its suite of telehealth services to mobile users in 20 new states as part of a significant expansion, in addition to rolling out the loyalty-boosted Walgreens Connect app for measuring glucose and blood pressure levels (see story).

Pet-related telehealth could become a lucrative opportunity for marketers seeking to promote their animal wellness products and boost brand awareness while providing owners with a helpful service.

?The customer response to date has been overwhelmingly positive and our customers are finding the app extremely helpful,? Mr. Cooke said. ?We have 4.6 stars on the Google Play store and 5 stars on the Apple App Store. 

?We have heard from many pet parents that the advice they are getting from our vet network is extremely valuable.?