Q&A: Sara Barstow - GM, B2B Market Services, Vetsource 10/15/2021
Vetsource is a pet health company that provides innovative pharmacy, technology, and business services for over 15 years. It aims to focus on building the best for those who care for pets. This includes connecting multiple constituents in a differentiated way including veterinarians, manufacturers, retailers, pharmacies, and pet parents, all of whom have an important role in contributing to higher quality pet care.
Built on a foundation of strong culture plus technical and pharmacy expertise, its services include routing pet parent prescription requests to their veterinarians, fulfillment of medications and therapeutic diets, and more. The company's approach brings these stakeholders together in partnership to reduce friction for all parties, streamline the pet parent experience, and maximize the care of the pet.
Founded in 2006 to help veterinary practices compete in the online marketplace, Vetsource expanded in 2012 servicing B2B partners, in 2018 with the acquisition of VetSuccess, and again in 2020 by acquiring Vet2Pet. Comprised of more than 500 employees, Vetsource is headquartered in Portland, Ore., with additional offices in Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Toronto.
ECRM spoke with Sara Barstow, GM, B2B Market Services for Vetsource about the company, its services, and how its partnering with retailers to fulfill the needs of today's pet parents. Vetsource is participating in the upcoming Pet Program.
ECRM: How has pet pharmacy usage grown among consumers, particularly with the boom in pet adoption during the past 18 months?
Packaged Facts reported that 23% of households added a new pet in 2020. That’s a lot of people and pets going through adjustments to new needs. As we saw across all industries, orders shipped to home went through the roof. Much of this change from physical to digital shopping behaviors is likely to stick. For example, Packaged Facts also reported that 90% of customers who switched to buying heartworm prevention online plan to continue. As of the end of 2020, 20% of all heartworm prevention is now purchased online. We also know that pet parents are looking for convenience and are interested in buying their pet’s needs from places they trust and already shop at frequently.
In addition, with more people working from home due to COVID, pet parents became even more in touch with their pets, driving increased awareness of their pet’s health and behaviors. This had them seeking ways to get advice and treatment for these new family members, especially given there was reduced access to traditional veterinary care.
ECRM: What are some of the common issues addressed via pet pharmaceuticals?
The most common category of pet pharmaceuticals is parasiticides, which treat and prevent fleas, ticks, heartworm, and intestinal parasites. Additional high areas of concern are around pain, which often shows itself in things like a reluctance to walk or limping, and allergies, which cause excessive itching and scratching. From there, issues can range from diarrhea, vomiting, and frequent accidents to anxiety or weight concerns, to name a few. Many of these conditions may have associated medications that are needed, but also therapeutic veterinary diets, which require a prescription from the veterinarian, as well as over-the-counter products.
ECRM: How does Vetsource work with veterinarians and the pet owners these veterinarians service?
As pet parent shopping preferences evolved and products became widely available, we created our service to make it easier for everyone involved to help pet parents get the prescriptions or therapeutic diets their pets need. We feel we are uniquely positioned due to our core capabilities — and more importantly, our deep commitment to the role of veterinarians in pet health.
Caring for pets is more complicated than accommodating what the pet parents may want. While respecting pet parents’ shopping choices is important, we feel it is imperative that veterinarians are at the core of the medical decisions and have a full picture of a pet’s therapy regimen in order to provide the best advice and care.
To make this work, it needs to work for the veterinarians too so all parties are benefiting. For example, rather than relying strictly on faxes, our efficient and digitized process reduces errors and provides full visibility to veterinarians on the ongoing treatment compliance — so they don’t have to rely strictly on faxes. A streamlined process for veterinarians speeds up prescription turnaround, providing a superior experience for both pet parents and veterinarians. We only work with partners that are aligned with our approach and partner with veterinarians in unique ways.
ECRM: From the perspective of the pet owner, how does Vetsource work?
For the pet parent, it is a simple process. They shop for prescription medications or therapeutic diets at their partner of choice. During checkout, the pet parent selects their veterinarian and completes the order request. From there, Vetsource seamlessly connects with their veterinarian to collect the required prescription information. Once their request is approved by their veterinarian, the product is shipped and Vetsource keeps their vet informed. Pet parents have the option to set up their medications to be placed on autoship which helps to make sure the pet is consistently treated leading to better care.
ECRM: What are some of the benefits for retailers working with Vetsource?
At the highest level, it is our combination of pet pharmacy and technical expertise and our strong relationships with veterinarians and manufacturers.
In addition to other benefits covered in earlier questions, we have a robust and flexible platform as well as a software development team that can support multiple implementation options including a fully integrated pet parent experience into the retailer’s current shopping site. We also provide integrated wraparound services like comprehensive pet parent and veterinarian customer support, telehealth capabilities, and data and analytics, making us a great place to partner for multiple needs.
ECRM: How do you market Vetsource services on behalf of retailer partners?
As a retail partner of Vetsource, we work on your behalf with product manufacturers to secure marketing funds and partner closely with you on the best ways to merchandise these categories. In addition, with veterinary practices we facilitate the partnership and act as a conduit for additional veterinary opportunities, such as facilitating commissions for nutrition recommendations.
ECRM: Are there any technical criteria a retailer must meet before working with Vetsource?
Depending on the technical capabilities of the retailer, we have two main options:
1. You can fully integrate the prescription services into your eCommerce site for a seamless pet parent experience. We’ll collaborate with your team on best practices and ways to unlock differentiated opportunities with customizable APIs supporting any number of client engagement journeys.
2. Whether due to concerns about speed to market or technical limitations, some partners need a solution that minimizes the internal requirements to get started. Instead of integrating into your shopping experience, we can provide a separate, partner-branded online store to facilitate prescriptions that can be linked from their main site.
ECRM: What are some of the retailers you currently work with, and how are you working with them?
Some of our current partners include Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, Amazon, and Petflow. Our partnerships and solutions are flexible based on their business needs. We have many layers of services that can be provided ad hoc or closely integrated, depending on a partner’s desired business strategy and outcomes.
Some partners, like a human pharmacy, may want to only take advantage of our routing services to connect with veterinarians for prescription validation, while others would want to take advantage of our fulfillment solutions. We also have deep levels of integration that allow our retailers to extend pharmacy offerings as a part of programs and overall health care initiatives.
ECRM: Where do you see the future of pet pharmacies headed?
Pet parents’ shopping behaviors will continue to evolve, whether from internal preferences or external pressures like COVID-19. Pets are increasingly important members of the family and owners are looking to shop for their health and wellness needs in places that are most convenient. Pet pharmacies will need to continue to adapt to those changing needs while keeping pet health and those that care for them as a focus throughout the experience.
Editor's note: This Q&A is a sponsored post
Nice to see Vetsource connecting the veterinarians to the retailers, on behalf of our pets. This gives the pet parent access to our pet's records at the vet and provides access to things like prescription diets and prescriptions through our favorite retailers (online) and better coordination of services. Pet Rx at Target or Walgreens, Amazing!