I interviewed 100 Rover customers. Here’s what they had to say.
Rover vs dog walkers
Rover.com is a very large and popular UBER style app for dog walking. They pose a distinctly different experience to traditional independent dog walkers.
You might want to dismiss the following feedback but I wouldn’t. You might say my clients would never work with Rover but some would. Rover type apps have gained market share during the pandemic and require our attention.
What I did.
I posted ad’s on Facebook, Craig’s List, and other places online. The ad’s invited Rover pet parents for a thirty-minute “paid” phone call.
Biased, un-scientific but actual feedback.
Let’s make clear from the start that I am biased in this project. I was an independent dog walker myself and I consult for independent dog walkers. I am however sharing exact feedback that I was given on my 100 phone calls with Rover dog parents.
The point of this project is not to disparage Rover.com and their dog walkers and pet sitters. The point of the project is to learn how independent walkers and sitters can better compete against Rover.com.
I’m going to summarize the biggest takeaways for independent pet professionals. I’ll try to offer actions you can take as well.
In a single sentence here’s how I’d summarize Rover.com pet parent’s (who I spoke to) perception of independent pet prossionals. “Independent pet professionals are un-insured, don’t have a software app, and are not as well trained as Rover walkers and sitters.”
- Insurance. In my conversations, I was amazed to find how many Rover pet parents didn’t trust that independent pet professionals were insured. They 100% believe Rover.com dog walkers and sitters are insured.
Action step: Consider downloading a copy of your pet insurance certificate. You should be able to do this at your pet insurance holder’s website, or you might have a physical copy of it. Put a copy of your insurance policy on your website. Contact me if you need tips on how to do this. This might seem extreme but I’m confident you could get more customers doing this.
- The platform. Rover parents consistently stated they liked the Rover platform. They liked how it felt and they liked having a single place for all their needs (finding pet professionals, billing, scheduling, communication, resources.) There are some great pet software platforms but none that also combine a marketplace with it. SparkyGo hopes to change that. We will provide a place for pet parents to find independent pet professionals. Sign-up to be alerted when we launch.
- The wild west. An overall sentiment I found with Rover parents was that independent pet professionals operated in the wild west. There’s no supervision, official training and again they don’t know if we’re insured. On the flip-side Rover pet parents consistently believed their walkers were well trained based on reviews and trust in the Rover platform.
Independent pet professionals can’t compete with Rover’s marketing. Right? Maybe not…
Rover vs dog walkers for the minds of pet parents. There’s a battle of ideas going on between Rover style apps and independent pet professionals. Rover style apps spend tons on marketing their brands. Rover has a huge brand awareness. Taking Rover head-on seems impossible. But is it?
- There are more independent pet professionals than Rover walkers and sitters.
- Most independent pet professionals have websites. There’s a huge opportunity to promote common messages on our websites.
- Independent pet professionals work with animals more frequently and for longer periods of time.
- Independent pet services provide careers while Rover is seen as more of a gig.
- Independents don’t have a single place you can point at and say this is where you can find our pet services. They will though soon when SparkyGo launches.
When you dog walk for a company there is an owner and possibly a manager or walker who oversees you. You are screened before you’re hired. There’s often some form of training when it comes to dog safety. This peer expectation is missing on Uber-style apps.
Gig vs long-term
A big difference I find between Rover style apps and independents is peer expectations. As an independent, you get known in a neighborhood, a building, by neighbors, etc. When you work for Rover your gig is usually a few weeks. An independent might work with a client for months, if not years straight. Consistently walking in one area makes someone known, for better or worse. You develop a reputation. When you’re a gig walker there’s less chance you’ll get known.
We can compete
We can compete if we’re mindful of the market research above and if we do a better job countering their message. Simply saying we’re more professional than them t is not enough. Independents must get better at visually and verbally displaying why they are the better option. SparkyGo will be creating free marketing materials that you can all use in your businesses.
I see a changing landscape that bodes well for Rover style apps. When you combine COVID-19, with the gig economy, you have a new type of customer. A customer who is home more, or knows people who are home more. This means there will likely be more random schedules.
Now more than ever it’s important for independent pet professionals to connect and refer each other.
Customers love when a business they shop with is connected to local causes. Consider donating a portion of your dog walking business to a local animal charity like the Humane Society.