The New York–based startup behind the popular dog-toy and dog-treat subscription service BarkBox is an emerging player in the $86 billion pet industry. Bark produces more than 35 playful, pun-in-cheek products each month—a fiery-haired “Dognald” chew toy and “Playwatch” squirrels dressed as lifeguards among them—and sells them via subscription boxes, retailers including Target and Urban Outfitters, and on barkshop.com. Here are five ways Bark turned our doggie devotion into more than $200 million in revenue a year.
Pick the right pack
After cofounding Bark in 2012, CEO Matt Meeker, along with creative lead Henrik Werdelin and COO Carly Strife, built out a team that includes veterans of legacy toy makers such as Lego, Mattel, and Hasbro, plus stand-up comedians who know their way around pop culture. Together, they come up with toys that are both functional and whimsical.
Practice good social skills
Bark has more than 7.5 million followers across its social channels. The key to keeping people engaged: toys that are “anchored in the zeitgeist,” says Werdelin. So while your dog is gnawing on the company’s avocado toast plush toy (aka the Totally ‘Grammable Toast), you’re in on the action too, uploading pictures of your on-trend pup.
Listen to your critics
BarkBox has more than 600,000 subscribers and a 90% customer retention rate, thanks to a quick-thinking customer service team. If a customer reports that a dog doesn’t like a particular product, or mangles something too quickly, Bark sends a replacement and then customizes future shipments to fit the animal’s chewing profile.
Bury a few surprises
Some of the squeaky-toy squirrels in Bark’s lineup have hidden talents: They double as chatbots. Owners who text a number on the tag of the Officer Pupke plushie can help him solve a mystery; if they message Blanche, a bushy-tailed lunch lady, they receive a dog-friendly sloppy joe recipe.
Give them something to chew on
BarkBoxes are stocked with chews and treats, many of which the company makes in-house. With health-focused consumers including their pets in their wellness pursuits, this year Bark partnered with a company to sell cannabidiol-infused biscuits and tinctures to alleviate joint pain and anxiety. The first of these products sold out within a day.