AutoPets uses Onica and AWS to Empower Pet Owners
Onica is an APN Premier Consulting Partner
AutoPets enhanced its Magento e-commerce shop and connected product experiences using advanced AWS and Magento technology. AutoPets manufactures innovative products to make life with pets easier and more enjoyable. The company also uses Amazon Pay to make buying simpler for its customers and leverages AWS IoT Core as the foundation of its connected product experience.
Making Life Better for Pets and Easier for Pet Parents
AutoPets is dedicated to enriching the lives of pets and solving problems for pet owners. The company does this by developing highly functional, connected products to make pet care more enjoyable. Its flagship product Litter-Robot is a self-cleaning, automatic cat litter box. Litter-Robot is a market leader, selling over 350,000 units worldwide by delivering a seamless experience that frees cat owners from scooping. Building innovative and convenient digital experiences using Amazon Web Services (AWS) has enabled AutoPets to continually add value for customers and maintain its market leadership position as it entered the IoT space with its mobile app features.
The company’s focus has always been on using innovative engineering and high-quality manufacturing to deliver a product that is effective, attractive, and easy to use. “As we look to the future, we are investing in continual product improvement, not only on our physical products, but the way customers purchase and use them,” says Jacob Zuppke, Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at AutoPets. “In today’s world, that means digital innovation in the form of seamless e-commerce and IoT capabilities.” A key part of this effort is the company’s use of AWS and Amazon services such as Amazon Pay integrated into its Magento e-commerce and product experience.
AutoPets has built its success on a strong direct-to-consumer brand and e-commerce experience. “Our product has a large footprint and doesn’t lend itself to a traditional retail purchase environment,” says Zuppke. “Furthermore, it is a premium product that usually requires significant consideration and research from consumers before they buy. In other words, it’s not an impulse in-store purchase. That’s why we have found our most successful strategy in creating our own shopping destination through our direct-to-consumer e-commerce approach.”
When building out this capability, the company chose the Magento platform due to broad third-party integrations, customizability, performance, and ability to support unique and novel consumer experiences. This has allowed the company to achieve strong results, such as increasing mobile revenue from 20 percent in 2015 to over 50 percent in 2020—a significant achievement for an expensive product.
One of the pillars of the seamless e-commerce experience that AutoPets offers is Amazon Pay, which provides fast and easy checkout built on years of Amazon innovation. Buyers can purchase using their existing Amazon accounts, with no need to navigate to a separate site to complete payment.
“Amazon Pay delivers a familiar checkout experience across desktop, mobile, and voice—making it easy for customers to purchase AutoPets products from anywhere,” says Zuppke. “It is the only payment method we offer in our mini cart, which is a compact display, accessible from any page, of products in the user’s cart.” After adding Amazon Pay to its Magento site—which was a very easy and fast process—it quickly became AutoPets’ top payment method, used by over 25 percent of customers. Furthermore, because AutoPets doesn’t sell on Amazon.com, Amazon Pay allows Amazon.com customers to order on the site with its Amazon A-Z guarantee, making them feel good about the purchase at Litter-Robot.com.
Connected Products for Pet Health and Happiness
Even more important than the initial purchase is the ongoing connected product experience, incorporating both IoT connectivity and the user app. “We started with IoT in 2015 when there really weren’t any full-breadth managed services for consumer products on the market,” recalls Zuppke. “We built a homegrown IoT stack, but ultimately it was unable to deliver the scale and reliability we needed. Furthermore, we spent too much time and money managing this system rather than delivering more features to our customers.”
The company decided to re-platform IoT and app functionality to AWS. Partnering with Onica, an APN Premier Consulting Partner, the company adopted AWS IoT Core and a range of related technologies to gain a highly scalable solution with minimal management needs. “With the AWS IoT stack explicitly designed to help product-focused companies like ours, it was the clear winner,” says Zuppke. “AWS is a true innovator in infrastructure and cloud services, so we can focus on the insights, features, and controls we deliver through our applications—the things that add value directly to our customers.”
The IoT backend captures and processes data, while the mobile app uses that data to provide customers with insights into their pet’s behavior and health, giving cat owners peace of mind. The AWS IoT Core ingests data using Amazon Kinesis streams for buffering, assisted by AWS Lambda for serverless processing. Amazon DynamoDB handles persistent storage. AutoPets has maintained the ability to serve older devices using its legacy solution hosted in Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), while the current generation of Litter-Robot IoT relies entirely on serverless computing. The mobile app uses an API hosted on AWS to access data.
With the power of data, owners can better manage the health and happiness of their pets. “In my household, the Litter-Robot played a role in helping to save my cat’s life,” recounts Zuppke. “The Litter-Robot app notified me of a high rate of cycling that turned out to be the result of a serious UTI, which can be a life-threatening infection. The vet was astounded that we were able to catch it so early. We are investing in data sciences to bolster our ability to deliver these kinds of powerful insights to pet owners.”
Putting the Focus on Insights and Innovation
Migrating to AWS has improved scalability and reliability of the AutoPets platform while enabling faster delivery of product improvements. AWS also helps AutoPets and its engineers innovate faster, focusing on product features rather than infrastructure. Currently, the company is working on Alexa voice controls to add even more options for product owners to get the most from their purchase.
“AWS is much more reliable than our old system and allows for more innovation and customization,” notes Zuppke. “As we continue to innovate on behalf of pet parents, we are building our future on AWS because it is the most cutting-edge cloud provider by far.”
AutoPets, the inventor, manufacturer, and retailer of the Litter-Robot, is an international leader in developing highly functional pet products that make pet care easier and more enjoyable. Launched in 1999 by founder and president Brad Baxter, the Litter-Robot has sold more than 350,000 units. AutoPets is based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and has more than 100 employees dedicated to improving the future of pet care.
Published June 2020