Every week, one online seller mails personalized gifts to more than 1,000 of its clients. Pet product company Chewy hopes the effort sets it apart from its competition. The mailbox surprise taps into people’s passion for their fur babies—and encourages customers to promote the company themselves.
In response to the pandemic, homebound humans are cyber-shopping in droves. Plus, many people added pandemic pets to the new stay-at-home lifestyle. According to one e-commerce data company, pet-related sales grew over 37% in the final months of last year.
Those factors made 2020 especially good for Chewy. The company pairs fast delivery like Amazon with the friendliness of a local pet store. Chewy’s sales soared from August to October. The company added five million new customers.
But long before COVID-19, Chewy hit upon a genius marketing concept: The company sends free (and unrequested) pet portraits to select customers. Surprise, it’s Fluffy in a frame!
The pet paintings quickly had customers panting. The company typically sends them to those with pet photos on their Chewy account or who have shared pics with a customer service agent. But there’s no way to purchase one from Chewy.
Eric Sheridan got creative. He begged for a portrait through the Twitter account of his Boston terrier. A Chewy representative messaged back: “My paws are crossed that we’ll be able to send you one.” It arrived six weeks later.
Danielle Schwartz didn’t ask for an oil painting of her cat, Stinky. Still, one arrived in the mail. She says, “I was shocked that they did something so personal.”
Not everyone is delighted to receive a mystery portrait. Some confused customers even send them back—likely expecting to be charged.
But many document the gift on social media. That gives Chewy free advertising—a trend the company noticed when it first started shipping them out.
The goal is for people to talk up Chewy to others, and to get a prime spot on shoppers’ social media walls—mini billboards for the company.
Chewy doesn’t disclose the portrait costs, but it appears the campaign is paying off.
Annesley Clark says her Chewy painting looks just like her pit bull mix, Willow. “I was beside myself,” she says. “It’s her exactly.” She couldn’t wait to show it off. The next day, she took it to a picnic and held up the artwork. “I said, ‘Look at this. It’s perfect.’” Her friends agreed.
The personal business approach certainly works with some customers, like Schwartz.
She now says, “I just want to buy everything from them.”