Stephen Wurth: Retail Tech Meets Pet Tech

As Senior Manager, Category Experience Design at Purina, Stephen Wurth helps Purina and its retailer partners keep the pet category experientially and technologically innovative. With his industrial design background, he brings a design thinking lens to his work. Stephen answered our questions on how pet tech and retail tech converge in his work.


As Senior Manager, Category Experience Design at Purina, Stephen Wurth helps Purina and its retailer partners keep the pet category experientially and technologically innovative. With his industrial design background, he brings a design thinking lens to his work. Stephen answered our questions on how pet tech and retail tech converge in his work.

Describe Pet Technology and what you do.

“Pet technology” is all about making life easier with pets or solving problems using technology. In my job at Purina, my team dreams up new ideas to make it easier to shop for your pet.

How diverse and inclusive is the Pet Tech Ecosystem?

I’ve seen amazing diversity and inclusion in the pet tech space. The differences in racial and ethnic, socioeconomic, geographic, and academic/professional backgrounds are impressive on their own when it comes to tech entrepreneurs, but what’s even more powerful is the diversity of thinking and the collaboration and inclusion being demonstrated across the world to solve pet owner pain points.

What are the opportunities in the Pet Tech Ecosystem?

I’ll touch on 3 key areas: Advancements in pet technology are unlocking new ways to rethink traditional business models. For example, LuluPet is a smart litter box that helps diagnose health problems by analyzing the litter/waste.


This diagnostic data can be connected to consumer or vet platforms that recommend products or services to address an issue or proactively manage health. The data (not litter or even the box) in this case becomes the key value proposition and could be a transformational way to drive commerce across the pet ecosystem.

Balancing human & machine is another area: It’s easy to get enamored with cutting-edge technology, but it’s important to consider the role of humans in the pet ecosystem as well.

For example, if drones will deliver my pet’s products in the future, why would I go to the store? Maybe the role of a traditional “store” becomes a place to socially connect with other pet owners or learn from expert pet advisors (the employees) on how to better care for my pet.

There could be a coffee bar, happy hours… you get the point. The most fundamental truth about humans is we all desire belongingness and connection…and this can be a gateway to driving expanded (non-tech) value across the pet ecosystem.

Finally, delivering hyper-personalization: The entire pet-ecosystem will be stronger the more we can deliver relevant, more personalized recommendations and experiences for pet owners. The more we can understand the needs and challenges facing pet owners will allow for more relevant solution development.

I’m not talking about Facebook banner ads that pop up because an algorithm picked up a search term, I am talking about meaningful connection through data capture and authentic relationships built between businesses and pet owners. If we can build deep empathy for customers and use their insight and data in thoughtful ways, the pet eco-system will only continue to grow and thrive.

Where and by whom is the most promising work pet tech being done?

Everywhere. But here are 3 companies I currently admire:
DOGSPOT provides smart dog houses outside of storefronts, so your dog has a safe and comfortable place to stay while you’re inside. The houses are heated and air-conditioned for comfort and have a camera connected to the app so you can check in and have peace of mind while you’re shopping, etc. They are providing a solution for pet owners that want to go everywhere with their pet but are limited by non-pet friendly destinations.

CHEWY is an online pet retailer acquired by PetSmart in 2017. While they offer wide variety of pet products at competitive pricing, they have really cracked the code on the human/tech balance. They use their e-platform to capture pet/owner data then provide relevant solutions and offers that keep customers coming back. But the real magic is their customer service. Just Google “Chewy Customer Service Stories” and you’ll get the idea.

FETCHFIND offers expert-backed pet care education and resources that help businesses and pet owners learn more about pet health, wellness, and behavior. Their platform helps pet owners make more confident, informed choices and helps businesses equip their employees with knowledge to create stronger bonds with their pet customers. What I love most about FetchFind is they are focused on strengthening relationships between businesses, pet owners, and pets which is at the very core of pet care.

What do you do to keep your batteries charged?

I’m a ‘serial networker’ and absolutely love engaging with new people who think differently and help make me better. I still love to make stuff so you can often find me in my shop woodworking or building things. I believe in ‘life/work’ balance (not the other way around) and my wife (Jenny) and I enjoy unleashing our inner child with our 5-year-old (Landon) and 2-year-old (Stella).


Mentioned in this Article

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Dan Reus is a writer, connector, speaker, seer of potential and facilitator of innovation and change. He consults with clients aspiring to realize their innovation potential as the founder and chief instigator of Openly Disruptive, and is a proud St. Louisian. Follow him on Twitter at @DanReus.

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