In America, as much as 47% of all households have a dog, and up to 37% have a cat. Despite this, only 2% of all Americans have any form of pet insurance. Not because they don’t love their pet. Not because their pet doesn’t get sick. Not even because they can’t afford it: on average, pet insurance costs $32 a month for a dog, and $22 a month for a cat. It’s because most people don’t even know pet insurance exists, and if they do, the options confuse them.
Anthony Dubbaneh, the CEO of Nuzzle (not Nuzzel), has come up a Trojan Horse to get pet owners signed up for pet insurance. He has created a smart collar tag for dogs and cats that let owners keep track of their pet’s location and activity levels through an accompanying smartphone app. Which, as it happens, also makes it easy to sign up for pet insurance with just a tap. And his design collaborators at Ammunition liken it to the iPod of pet insurance.
The Nuzzle is a water-resistant collar tag containing a cellular GPS radio and some simple sensors, which allow you to keep tabs on your pet through the day. By setting up a geofence perimeter around your house, Nuzzle will alert you if your dog jumps your fence or your cat gets out of the house. In addition, Nuzzle will record your pet’s activity levels, so if your dog or cat’s energy levels dip, you can be aware of it, and consider taking your pet to the vet.
The Nuzzle even contains temperature monitoring (useful if your pet is overheating) or impact detection (if, god forbid, your dog or cat gets hit by a car). While the Nuzzle unit itself is rather nondescript, it was designed with some smart considerations, like easily-swappable batteries, and the ability to be attached to any pet collar, not just the one it ships with.
All of the Nuzzle’s core functionality is available for just $149, and unlike other pet tracking devices, there’s no monthly fees… unless you sign up for pet insurance through the accompanying app. Which Nuzzle hopes you will, choosing a monthly plan starting at $15 a month for cats, and $25 a month for dogs. But why try to sell pet insurance through a wearable? Isn’t that counterintuitive?
Dubbaneh doesn’t think so. “The biggest reason why so few people have pet insurance is awareness,” he says. “Fundamentally, pet insurance is marketed through direct mail, so it looks like just another piece of junk mail when it shows up in people’s lives.” What is needed is a way to market pet insurance in a way that’s unique and compelling. Nuzzle is an attempt to use a beautiful, useful product as a way to start a conversation about pet insurance with consumers.
There’s also a good business reason for using a wearable as an insurance selling point, which Ammunition partner Matt Rolandson admits is part of the reason his design firm was so interested in working on the Nuzzle. “There’s plenty of wearables, trackers, and IoT devices out there searching for a recurring revenue relationship, without a lot of success,” he says. Weirdly enough, what appealed to Ammunition about the Nuzzle was its similarity to the original iPod and its umbilical link to the iTunes music store ecosystem. “It’s just absolutely genius to use a beautiful physical object as a way to attract people to an ongoing customer relationship,” he tells me.
Nuzzle, then, doesn’t just aspire to be a wearable for felines and pooches. It wants to be the iPod to the iTunes of pet insurance. And, while it’s at it, it wants to save some pet’s lives. “At the end of the day, the relationship between a person and their pet is one of the strongest ones they have in life,” says Dubbaneh. “It breaks my heart that so many people feel they can’t afford to preserve that relationship in an emergency, just because they don’t have enough money in their bank account.”