Podcasts   //   August 26, 2021

‘We are fortunate to have a subscription model’: Bark CEO Manish Joneja on capitalizing on the pandemic pet adoption boom

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People hunkered down during the pandemic, and many adopted pets.

According to the dog toy and accessories brand Bark, that’s led to an increase in demand. During its latest quarterly earnings report, the company reported that subscription shipments shot up 52.4% year-over-year, hitting 3.6 million. And revenue grew 57% year-over-year, coming to $117.6 million.

According to CEO Manish Joneja, the plan is to grow and expand. Joneja joined the Modern Retail Podcast and spoke about the last year and his big plans for the brand — which went public via a SPAC in June.

Joneja is relatively new to Bark, which first launched in 2011. He was brought on as CEO in September of 2020, coming from Amazon. “What brought me to Bark is what I shared: my love for dogs,” Joneja said. “The market right now serves you as a transactional commerce.”

Bark, conversely, is built more on building a relationship. “The foundation of Bark is built on high-level personalization with high-touch service,” he said.

The focus is on expanding into new areas — such as food and dental care — as well as acquiring more customers. For now, Bark will remain focused on dogs. “We want to make sure we serve the 63 million households [that currently own dogs],” he said. “That’s a tremendous opportunity — you want to get that right first.”

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Bark’s data-focused approach
“The foundation of Bark is built on high-level personalization with high-touch service. We use the data and then we have our ‘happy’ team [Bark’s customer service department] that builds a relationship along with you. And if you go online, you will see what I’m talking about in terms of interactions and the customer obsession the team has. We have sophisticated machine learning that we built over almost a decade… Those conversations, those emails, those messages [have] created this feedback loop. So we can tailor [new products] not just to toys, but also food health and wellness.”

The pandemic pet boom
“People turn to their pets for emotional support — even putting the pet’s needs above their own. While early in the pandemic, we saw some cancellations from customers who had been impacted by the pandemic — whether it was job loss, pay cuts, illnesses — but we’ve worked with our customers to do, let’s say, alternate months of services or a smaller box, so we can actually serve their dogs in a format that they could afford… The customer service team went above and beyond to extreme lengths to work with those customers that are impacted — I am super proud of that. Now, on the flip-side, we’ve been able to serve so many new customers who adopted dogs during the pandemic.”

‘The core of our business’
“[Subscriptions are] the core of our business. We are fortunate to have a subscription model where… LTV [and] CAC is something that we really focus on — which is how much money is spent to acquire a customer and how much the lifetime value is. And that’s been coming at about five or six. And when you think about future growth, more subscriptions coming in — food is a subscription, [dental service] Bright is a subscription. Now we’re looking at customers coming in and adding more subscriptions to the business and the [bottom] line.”