The technological revolution of the last 25 years has had a profound impact on the animal welfare industry. Things we now take for granted, like websites that display our organizations’ services and adoptable pets, pet-search databases such as Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com, more robust and easy to use animal sheltering software solutions, and the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, have combined to revolutionize the marketing of adoptable pets. Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and KickStarter have made it easier to both raise funds for specific animals with compelling stories and to launch entirely new projects.
What new capabilities can those of us who want to help more companion animals look forward to over the next ten years? David Meyer, CEO and co-founder of Adopt-a-Pet.com, answers this question in a new series of blog posts, “Something to look forward to.”
Something to look forward to: Pet database advancements to better market shelter pets
It’s been over 25 years since the founding of Petfinder.com. Since then, Petfinder.com, Adopt-a-Pet.com and a number of other smaller pet search websites have changed the way many people go about searching for a pet. With coming advancements in technology, these types of pet search tools are only going to get better over the next few years.
Here are a few exciting advancements that we look forward to, and more importantly, will help take your lifesaving to the next level:
Big data for better marketing
If your organization uses pet search sites, you’ll soon be able to leverage the latest advances in data science to gain a better understanding of the online habits and needs of people seeking pets, and use that information to better market adoptable pets to those people based on the adopter’s specific needs. For example, people seeking pets could be targeted with ads they find useful in their ongoing search, or content designed to prompt them to adopt.
Look-alike data modeling will also allow those organizations to use their knowledge of the online habits of actual adopters to target ads and content to people who fit a similar online profile, but who may not yet be seeking pets for their home. This will also increase the likelihood of those people ultimately adopting a pet.
Better online pet search
Pet search databases will continue to refine how they connect people with pets. Those services will likely use machine learning, bringing “artificial intelligence” to bear to learn the needs of the adopter who is using their website. They will be able to increasingly customize the individual adopter website experience and increase the chances of an adoption. Smart image searches powered by deep learning algorithms (think Facebook image search adapted for animals) may come into use, and there will be more sophisticated use of videos of steadily increasing quality that will attract attention to homeless pets. All this will lead to new and better ways to integrate with social media platforms. Moreover, more people will find and make use of those online searches as more people begin their pet search online, from ever-improving, ubiquitous mobile devices.
Better information on adoptable animals
Research has shown more pet seekers would be open to adoption if more (and trusted) information was available about adoptable pets. The more information a shelter or rescue can know about a pet, the better that websites like Adopt-a-Pet.com and Petfinder.com can allow pet seekers to customize and narrow their searches.
This would allow someone seeking a dog who is “good with kids,” for example, to more easily see all the great pets who meet that criteria. Having more information about adoptable pets can create a new attitude about shelter pets, changing the impression that shelter pets are “of an unknown quality” into a view that getting a pet from a shelter with some known history and details about their personality that is more well developed, is better than getting a puppy who does not have a history at all, and may have or develop unknown personality traits.
A shift toward fostering as the main way to house shelter pets will help generate this kind of useful data, and shelter management software that is easily accessed via mobile devices by kennel staff, volunteers and fosters as pets’ personalities become better known, will also help make this data available to the pet search websites and to the public.
Stay tuned for the next post in David Meyer’s series, which will explore new advancements in virtual reality and how you can use them to save more lives.