Did someone feed the dog? This question gets asked in my home at least a dozen times a week. It’s enough of a pain point that we’ve tried a chart, the Amazon Alexa Dog Feeder Skill and jerry-rigging a motion sensor combined with texting capabilities from IFTTT to track if the dog has indeed been fed. But none of these options are perfect.
Enter YaDoggie, which aims to build a subscription pet food business around a connected dog food scoop. Founder Sol Lipman had the same issue my family did, and to solve it he envisioned a Bluetooth food scoop that would track if the dog has been fed and how much. But YaDoggie isn’t just a pet food startup. It’s an example of how the internet of things can change how we determine what to pay for goods.
But building such a device is expensive (the company estimates it will sell for $40 to $50 later this year) and Lipman decided it made more sense to solve the problem of knowing if the dog has been fed with providing dog food as a service. With a connected scoop, he’d know when and how much a dog is fed. From there, he could extrapolate when to send more food. So he got into making dog food.
Thus YaDoggie went from a hardware product to dog food delivered as a service. As far as dog food goes, I spend about $2.83 per pound buying a 12-pound bag on a pricey premium brand for my 18-pound mutt. The cost of the YaDoggie food is $3.29 per pound for a 14-pound bag, but that also includes delivery and free poop-scooping bags.
The quality of the food is similar based on the ingredient lists. What I’d be paying extra for is freedom from thinking about feeding my dog and buying food. Is that tradeoff worth it? The closest I could come without YaDoggie would be a subscribe and save option from Amazon plus a Dash button dedicated to my dog food (or the Dash wand). But then I lose the automation of it being ordered on its own and the benefit of knowing if anyone fed the dog.
As a consumer what I’m noticing as products become more connected is that weighing the costs and value associated with services or products disguised as services is becoming more complicated. For another example of this, check out the comments in our story this week about Chamberlain charging for its IFTTT integration.
There’s also an emerging theme around the value of connected products and what it costs to make them. Look at the backlash from Tesla’s seemingly helpful decision to add battery range to cars ahead of Hurricane Irma. Customers who purchased a car that was able to travel roughly 210 miles on a single charge got an over-the-air update that boosted their capacity to 249 miles on a single charge.
That boost was something buyers of the higher-cost cars spent $8,500 more per vehicle for. But it was simply a software-based distinction. Consumers looked at that and cried foul because the pricing Tesla charged for the car that could go further didn’t reflect a physical limitation driven by cost, but an economic limitation imposed with a few lines of code.
The very value of the things we buy is shifting from something linked to cost to make a good or deliver a service, to the perceived value that service or good provides.
Beforehand you could look at a dog food and say that it’s worth a bit more because the quality of ingredients is higher. Now you can also weigh the value of the convenience associated with stocking the food or even scooping it out every day for your pet.
Whether it’s dog food or a Tesla, in a connected, service-based world consumers will see a pricing revolution.