In this Q&A DTC Daily speaks to Jonathan Bensamoun, CEO and co-founder of pet tech business Fi. Fi is a direct-to-consumer business which has created a GPs and activity tracking dog collar, and here we find out why pet tech is such a booming market, the obstacles Fi has overcome so far, and how they have spread the word to the masses.
Can you explain why you decided to launch Fi, and why consumers are increasingly interested in pet-tech?
Gen X and Millennials are defining a new type of dog ownership by getting married later and delaying having kids, and opting for pet-parenting first. They develop a much stronger relationship with their pup than the family dog that was treated as an addition to the family, instead of a part of the family. Now, the dog is the first kid, the best buddy and sleeps in the bed, not outside in a dog house. The modern dog owner is looking for any way to improve the quality of life of their best friend – this includes using technology to know them better and keep them safe. There is no brand talking directly to this new dog owner. Traditional pet brands like PetCo and PetSmart feel dusty and outdated.
What have been the most effective ways of spreading the word about Fi so far?
Making the product beautiful and delighting our dog parents with their Fi experience. They can’t stop taking pictures of their dogs wearing the signature yellow collar or screen-shotting their latest walk recorded in the app. We built a Fi ranking of all the dogs wearing the collar (like a Leaderboard) – showing which Fi dogs are making the most steps by breed – and people are really competitive so they want they share that on social media. It spreads the word really quickly.
Why is pet-tech (and Fi in particular) well suited to sell via direct-to-consumer channels?
Modern consumers want solutions that are tailored to their specific needs, not just a general one-size-fits-all solution, so the traditional dog collar isn’t cutting it. When you’re in the same shoes as your customer, it’s just much more efficient to communicate directly. Since we are all dog owners, we understand the needs of other dog parents. More complex distribution channels create noise and make it more difficult to express what your brand and product really stands for, so DTC makes more sense for our brand.
What have been your biggest challenges to date and how have you overcome them?
Getting the word out was the biggest challenge. A lot of companies tried to build the “Apple watch for dogs” before us, but none of them really delivered on their promises. Either the battery life was really bad, the collars were bulky or ugly, or GPS tracking was very inaccurate. It’s hard to come to that category and tell customers “we successfully did it!” because there is skepticism built into the space. Over time, our customers who had tested and trusted Fi spread the word for us – so we have been able to overcome this skepticism and grow exponentially.
What does 2020 have in store for you? How will Fi continue to grow?
Right now, the average person in the US is at most 2.7 miles away from a Fi Collar. We want to bring that distance even closer, so 2020 is the year of growth for Fi. There are dogs wearing the Fi collar in every single state – from Hawaii to Alaska. We have an amazing community of dog owners who are incredibly passionate about our product, and we’re very excited to continue this growth and keep building products and creating amazing experiences for our Fi dog parents and their pups.