Many people regard pets as family members. So when a furry friend gets sick, it can cause owners serious worry and concern—a professional opinion is usually needed since animals are unable to tell us how they feel, yet such help can at times be inaccessible due to distance or cost.
Enter a new service by China’s on-demand delivery giant Meituan Dianping and Shenzhen-based pet clinic operator New Ruipeng Pet Healthcare Group.
The two companies have teamed up to launch free online consultations with professional veterinarians on Meituan’s delivery platform, they said in a joint press release on Wednesday. The option for this will show up when users search for pet stores and clinics on Meituan’s app and will be free for all users, a Meituan spokeswoman clarified.
The consultations will be part of a one-stop service for pets on Meituan’s platform, where pet owners will also be able to make vaccination appointments for their furry friends and purchase pet supplies all in one place, according to Meituan, which added that users can expect physical goods to be delivered in 30 minutes on average.
“The only way to improve pet owners’ experiences is to combine physical goods in the retail sector with pet care in the service sector,” Zeng Wei, a representative from Meituan’s instant delivery business, said in the statement. Zeng added that e-commerce platforms have become a major consumption channel for pet owners, with up to 43% of this demographic purchasing from online platforms.
Meituan is not the only tech giant rushing to offer services to pet owners, who are becoming a new breed of power purchasers in China.
A roaring market
In China, the number of households owning pets has increased from 69.3 million in 2013 to 99.8 million in 2018, up about 44% over the five years, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan. The industry was estimated to be worth RMB 172.2 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach RMB 472.3 billion by 2023, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.
Last month, e-payment giant Alipay launched its first ever insurance program for cats and dogs, using facial recognition technology to identify pets. Alipay is run by Ant Financial, an affiliate of South China Morning Post owner Alibaba Group Holding.
AI company Megvii announced last year that it was working on differentiating dogs by their nose prints and had achieved 95% accuracy, while Lufax, an online finance platform backed by China’s largest insurer Ping An, introduced its own pet insurance plan last year.
In line with other pet-centric tech services, Meituan’s new service will feature personalized profiles for pets, which the company said will provide pet owners with more tailored and accurate services to match their individual needs.
Hillhouse Capital-backed New Ruipeng operates more than 1,300 pet clinics across the country and provides services for pets including grooming and online diagnosis, according to its website.
The pet clinic operator plans to raise funds at a valuation of about USD 3 billion ahead of its planned initial public offering, and has approached potential investors including gaming giant Tencent Holdings, according to Bloomberg.
This article was originally published by the South China Morning Post.