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2020 Hunting or Firearm E-commerce Website

5 “Must-Do’s” Before Starting a Hunting or Firearms E-commerce Website 2022

By Firearms and Hunting

Firearms, hunting and shooting brands have awakened to the fact that a strong e-commerce component is critical to doing business in the future—especially now that COVID-19 has changed consumer buying habits for good

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  1. How to build your ecommerce website for your buyer persona
  2. The importance of preparing your product library
  3. Identify product fulfillment methods
  4. Security issues
  5. Should you consider an enterprise solution?

With more retail outlets closing, disruption within distribution, some large firearms and hunting brands are bypassing distribution and dealers and going straight to the customer. The manufacturer/dealer relationship is still vital to most brands, and will remain so for the foreseeable future — but the trends are getting harder and harder to ignore because of customer behavior changes.    

Here are some interesting statistics according to Fortunly:

  • More than 80% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout on mobile devices.
  • American consumers spent around $8.9 billion on online shopping during Black Friday 2021.
  • eCommerce sales are expected to surpass $735 billion by 2023.
  • It is estimated that 95% of all purchases will be made online by 2040.
  • eCommerce businesses lose more than $75 billion per year because of bad customer service.
  • eCommerce sales are expected to reach $7.3 trillion on a global scale by 2025.
  • Around 80% of US customers said that free shipping would make them more likely to make an online purchase
  • Credit cards are the most popular payment method for shopping online, followed by electronic wallets and debit cards.

In this post, I want to give you five critical “must-dos” (before you consider how to generate traffic) if you’re evaluating a new e-commerce website initiative that will help you organize your team, save time and make it easier and faster to implement your new e-commerce-based website if you are a manufacturer or retailer. 

1. Build your e-commerce website for your buyer persona

Before you get to the part of what you want your website to look like, nothing will bring your web team more clarity and focus than understanding your buyer persona.
You most likely have a good idea of who your customer is—but taking the time to understand what they want from your website will make all the difference. Seek to understand what their wants, needs, problems, behaviors, and questions are.

Create a web experience based on them and use story to create clear messaging.  This will ultimately make for higher sales and less abandoned carts.

2. Prepare your product image library

firearms ecommerce product image

Photograph products on a clean white background.

The second step is establishing your product library. If you’re a large manufacturer, you may have over 2000 SKU’s that are jumbled into a hundred different sizes, on gray backgrounds, outdated, or that show your product in a less than ideal format. Since this aspect of the project can take the longest, you can save a lot of time by starting now.
Start by creating a shot list:

  • What products need to be reshot?
  • Which product images can be reused?
  • Locate a lifestyle photographer
  • Have the photographer provide the raw sizes and cropped images set to 1000 x 1000 pixels for use on the website

Sort all these on a spreadsheet so the photographer can easily sort and organize when it comes time to shoot your products. Make sure you place all your products on a white background. Placing products on a clean white background allows your product to be the hero and creates a clear understanding in your customers mind without any unnecessary background clutter.

3. Identify how you’re going to fulfill orders

With over 20,000 (Source: CNS) laws on the books—determining how you want to fulfill orders that comply with federal, state and local laws is the next consideration and if you’re a firearm manufacturer. Below are five considerations.

1. Utilize a third-party cart.
Ruger, for example, utilizes the GearFire and Gallery of Guns.com to sell its products online. All you need to do is apply for membership with your FFL and set up an account. This can also be done through your distributor. This allows your products to be embedded in hundreds if not thousands of online gun store websites and outdoor specialty retailers and takes the hassle out of you (or your staff) having to deal with running your online store. The downfall is you rely on their somewhat antiquated looking shopping cart that doesn’t align with your website’s look and feel.

2. Ship direct to customer via an FFL
Daniel Defense’s website is an example of how to set up a shopping cart where the product is shipped directly to an FFL of your customer’s choosing. They will enter their local FFLs address, notify them that your firearm is being shipped to them, and the FFL will handle all the paperwork. This all happens after the purchase. There are hundreds of shopping cart software solutions on the internet from WooCommerce and Magento to name a few. Choose the software that best suits your needs and one that you feel is easiest to use. I recommend WooCommerce as it is used by over 21% of all shopping carts on the web if you’re doing a custom install with WordPress. 

2022 UPDATE: I do not recommend signing up with any third-party solutions like Miva, Wix, GoDaddy, and especially Shopify, who as of (August 16, 2018) has banned Franklin Armory from using their platform. When building on these networks, you are essentially handing over your lawful online business that puts you at risk because these providers can shut you down at anytime—sometimes without warning.

firearms ecommerce diagram

 

3. Dealer only
Springfield Armory, Benelli and Beretta only sell through their dealer network—some use a hybrid (dealer and third-party cart). You can purchase other accessories on their websites, but to purchase a firearm you are redirected to a dealer locator.

4. What States should I NOT ship to?
Some manufacturers do not ship to New York, Illinois or Hawaii. Other states have magazine restrictions like Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and California. The anti-gun laws in these States are very confusing and can leave you open to a lawsuit. It’s better to not even take the risk unless you have a good attorney advise you on your options.

5. What shipping provider should I use?
The shipping of firearms seems to constantly change. The main rule of thumb is to always ship to an authorized FFL—never to a personal residence. Below is the latest information from GunBroker.com. If you have any questions, it’s always wise to check with your attorney, USPS, UPS or FEDEX representative.

  • US Mail – unlicensed persons:
    • Unlicensed persons can ship a rifle or shotgun by US Mail.
    • Unlicensed persons cannot ship a handgun by US Mail. Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person (for example, short-barreled shotguns and short-barreled rifles) are defined as handguns.
    • Postal regulations allow the Post Office to open your package for inspection.
    • Ammunition cannot be shipped by US Mail.

    You can search the US Post Office Postal Explorer site for specific USPS regulations regarding firearms and ammunition (Hazardous, Restricted and Perishable Matter).

    US Mail – licensed persons:

    • Licensed persons can ship rifles, shotguns, or handguns by US Mail. In fact, we suggest you use the USPS, as it is now the most cost-effective way to ship a handgun.
    • To ship a rifle or shotgun, you need only inform the Post Office the package contains a firearm.
    • A licensed manufacturer, dealer, or importer can ship a handgun via the US Post Office if the licensed dealer fills out a US Post Office Form PS 1508 and files it with the local Post Office branch where the handgun is to be shipped.

    You can search the US Post Office Postal Explorer site for specific USPS regulations.

    FedEx (Updated September 17, 2022):


    UPS (Updated July 11, 2022)
    :

6. Flat rate or box size?
The easiest and most hassle-free way to ship your products is by weight. You can set-up different weight tiers of pricing for all of your products. However, if you’re in a segment that is highly competitive and $5-$10 is a factor in getting the sale, then be prepared to discount your shipping.

4. Get the security issues out of the way

The next “must-do” is security and encryption. Everyone who sells online must take precautions for their customer’s data. And with every website now a target for hackers, it’s more important than ever.

1. Payment Processor or Gateway
To take payments online, you first need a payment processor. Authorize.Net acts as the middleman in between you and your merchant bank account that securely transfers funds from your customers’ credit card to your account. During this process, Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and Discover—whatever credit cards you accept on your site all take a percentage of the sale, usually 1.5-2%. Your bank may also charge a percentage as well. Be sure to configure these fees into your product costs.

2. A Secure Socket Layer or SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and your customer’s browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. You can purchase an SSL through a number of providers like Symantec, Thawte, or RapidSSL. Your host provider will need to install it for you. Before purchasing an SSL, make sure to ask your host provider what kind of server software they use for example, Apache, Oracle, IBM or others.

3. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy pages are essential in protecting your site from users who may encounter problems. These important legal pages on your website ensure your business is protected from any fraudulent behavior from users. Read here for more information and some horror stories. Always get an attorney to look over your T&C and PP before launch. 

4. Secure and Speedy Hosting is usually the last component considered when building your e-commerce website. But beware, there are many services out there who sell you on services and packages you don’t need and who guarantee speed and security but fail to deliver. One #2A friendly company that we recommend is WP Engine. WP Engine provides you with a secure and fast platform to run your WordPress website. For many years, we have enjoyed little to no downtime, fast speeds and literally no hacks. With Google now ranking websites based on speed, WP Engine remains a good choice for the hunting and firearms industry.

  • Content Delivery Network
  • Included SSL
  • Content Page Performance
  • Fast 24/7 Support
  • Staging Server
  • 24/7/365 Backup

Pick A Plan

5. Consider an Enterprise Solution

For enterprise manufacturers, it may be time to connect your CRM, ERP, and WMS and eCommerce altogether. Companies like NetSuite, Sage, SAP and other software companies serve larger companies with large global inventories with complex supply chains. These software solutions allow you to manage your inventories in greater detail and with greater efficiency. If you’re a large manufacturer, taking the time to explore these solutions may be what you need rather than a simple shopping cart. A SAP or NetSuite implementation can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If that seems like overkill, there are other low to mid-market solutions like Magento Enterprise that can be connected to your back-office operations and warehouse that tracks inventory, shipping, and accounting.

In conclusion, when considering your next e-commerce store, it’s important to identify who your buyer persona is, get a good product image library created, identify what kind of shopping cart setup you want, make sure you have the right security components in place to take payments securely and if you’re an enterprise manufacturer, consider a larger solution to more efficiently run your operations.

By taking into consideration these five “must-dos,” you’ll have what you need to engage a web development firm and make your website project go much faster.

 


firearms ecommerce website planner

FREE DOWNLOAD: Website Design Planner for the Hunting, Outdoor and Firearms Industry

A time-saving guide on how to plan an effective website that meets your online business and branding goals.
In this planning guide, we help you and your team think through the critical points of the website design process that helps you form a specifications document to obtain accurate pricing.

Download by filling out this form: 


firearm hunting customer review marketing

How to Get Online Firearm Customer Reviews That Boost Your Business

By Firearms Marketing

 

It’s not hard to figure out that online reviews are essential to building and maintaining a firearm, hunting or outdoor business these days. After all, we all use our phones, search engines, and social media profiles to look up new businesses and products every day.

Customer trust in businesses is fading. HubSpot Research found that customers trust recommendations from friends and family over any type of online marketing and advertising your brand can create. And in the absence of trusted recommendations, according to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews are much as personal recommendations—the single most trustworthy and credible source of “advertising” out there. (Source: Hubspot)

This fact puts an exclamation point on the notion that you need to establish a robust digital footprint and keep the positive feedback flowing.

What many marketers and business owners want is a way to speed this process up and make it less time-consuming. So today I want to share some quick and easy tips you can use to get the online reviews you need to boost your bottom line in the real world. Here’s how you can get started…

 

Make Your Brand Review-Worthy

Before we get into the online marketing component of things, it’s worth pointing out that the best thing you can do to get more and better online reviews is to build a great product and create a brand that cuts through the clutter. Make sure your team is well-trained, and your products or services represent good value for the money. Do that, and many of your customers will feel compelled to leave positive reviews for you just because they’ve had a good experience.

 

Complete Your Online Profiles

You can’t accumulate dozens or hundreds of positive online reviews if buyers don’t have a place to leave them. In addition to issuing a space for reviews on your website, it’s crucial that you have an existing presence on Yelp (Dealers and Instructors), Facebook, and glowing reviews on YouTube, Full30.com, industry blogs, and publisher sites. Having completed accounts with photos and contact details makes your business easier to find while encouraging customer feedback at the same time.

 

Double Check the Pertinent Details

Although you may be primarily concerned with accumulating reviews online, you should know that all of these profiles serve a secondary purpose, as well. Google will often scan online business listings to verify things like location and contact details. That makes it very important that all of your different profiles be consistent from one entry to the next. In search results, your ratings will also show up in the results that will further build trust with your prospects.

firearm customer review ammo

Get Some Social Buzz Going

The outdoor and firearms community is not shy about sharing and interacting on social media—encourage them to add their comments, reviews, and experiences on your Facebook page or your website directly. Not only will their friends and contacts be able to see their comments, but you may see your reviews multiply—as groups of acquaintances and people in their network get in on the act to share their stories and opinions. Don’t be afraid to engage—and make sure to be available on Messenger, online chat or set up a chatbot.

Automate the Process

Setting up your accounts and getting those first few reviews is the hardest part of the process, but the work isn’t finished once a few buyers say good things about your business. The key is to keep your profiles up to date and encourage even more positive feedback. That gets a lot easier when you have the right tools.

Several services can automate this process. We utilize workflows within Klaviyo to ask for reviews 14 days after our client’s customers purchase from them. Other options include Rivet Works or Podium that gives you the capability to ask for reviews via text over mobile.

You can also set up free Google alerts or purchase social listening software like Mention to help you stay on top of negative reviews and leverage the positive ones to drive engagement and online sales.

In conclusion, if you’ve been missing out on the tremendous upside presented by online reviews and other cost-effective web strategies, now is the perfect time to implement them.

Contact Us Today

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Marketing + Strategy
Josh helps brands in the outdoor, tech, marine and firearm industries who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and grow in the digital era of marketing.

Firearm Lifecycle Marketing

Use Lifecycle Marketing to Boost Your Firearm E-commerce Revenue

By Firearms Marketing

Growth is hard—and expensive. The companies you see growing quickly, have a lot of money and usually have a really cool product. Does this describe you? 

When you think about ecommerce—the first thing most people think about is generating a sale. It’s all about the money, right? But what if I told you there’s more to it than that, and your thinking is too linear, and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table by not taking the process further.

In this post, taken from a recent webinar by Austin Brawner, of Brand Growth Experts for Klaviyo—you’ll learn three assertions about how to boost revenue through your e-commerce store via lifecycle marketing.

What is Lifecycle Marketing?

Lifecycle marketing is creating a managed communications or contact strategy to prioritize and integrate the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences to support prospects and customers on their path-to-purchase using techniques such as persuasive personalized messaging and re-marketing. (Source: SmartInsights)

 

Firearm ecommerce Marketing

Source: SmartInsights

What is Klaviyo?
Klaviyo is a marketing automation platform that helps e-commerce marketers get better results from data-driven marketing. In data-driven marketing, the main objective is to use data to get the right message to the right person at the right time. The best way for a firearm, hunting, and outdoor companies to do so (right now) is by email marketing.

 

Klaviyo Firearm Email Marekting

Assertion #1
The fastest way to grow is to outspend and out-convert your competition.

Right now web traffic is a commodity. You can go and cut a check to any industry digital media outlet, Google or Facebook (non-FFL items) to buy traffic. If you can spend $10 where your competitor can only spend $5, you win that customer. And if you can out-convert your competition, this means you are getting more of that traffic and more customers—which means more market share.

Assertion #2
Email marketing (when done correctly) virtually guarantees that you can outspend your competition. To spend more, you need to be able to either convert better or net a greater Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

To explain this, let’s look at the Cost of Acquisition Payback Model.

What is CAC and Why Should You Care?

To put it simply – CAC is the total cost of sales and marketing efforts that are needed to acquire a customer. It is one of the defining factors in whether your company has a viable business model that can yield profits by keeping acquisition costs low as you scale. (Source: ProftWell)

CAC Model Lifecycle Marketing

The Cost of Acquisition Payback Model says that it will cost you money to get a customer (red), but after that customer purchases from you, you begin to break even and start to make that money back—over time. The goal is to move those customers into the (green) through repeat purchases. And the best way to do that is through email. The reason? Email creates more repeat purchases which are more profitable. According to the Direct Marketing Association, it yields an estimated 4,300 percent ROI. Every dollar spent on email marketing offers a return of $44, says ExactTarget.

If you have customers, that are interested in what you’re doing and you’ve won them over with your brand and products, email (right now) is the best way to continue to market to them. In the table below, you can see how one company was able to double purchases—the second order is almost 4x more valuable than the first.

Firearm CAC

Source: Brand Growth Experts

But one of the hardest parts of e-commerce is turning a 1x customer into a repeat buyer. Customer churn is expensive, time-consuming, and taxing. Once you have your customer, you must work hard to keep them engaged.

Repeat business is the key from going to ‘feast or famine’ to stable, predictable revenue—like a SAAS company.

In a second example (below), when compared to Pay Per Click, you can see from this data, the difference between email and paid search, even when the order amounts are the same (250), the profit margin between email and paid is substantial. PPC obviously won’t apply to FFL items—but for scopes, holsters, safes, and other kinds of hunting, outdoor or firearm gear—this can be substantial savings.

 

Firearms PPC vs Email Marketing

Source: Brand Growth Experts

 

Assertion #3
The best way to implement email marketing is via a handful of proven lifecycle marketing campaigns.

Lifecycle Marketing

When a customer comes to your site, the customer is usually fairly excited and may end up purchasing more than one product from you. But over time, they become less engaged and will need more incentives and better offers to entice them to buy. So your goal as a marketer is to decrease friction with better offers. It’s also smart at this point to augment your email marketing efforts with content or inbound marketing to build/sustain your customer base and influence customer loyalty. 

The lifecycle dictates how to market: right offer, right segment, right time.

Conclusion: Master lifecycle marketing, master growth.

Email marketing combined with lifecycle marketing is one of the most powerful tools available to firearm, outdoor and hunting marketers—yet few have implemented it. Investing in a robust email marketing program that is wrapped into lifecycle marketing not only can generate revenue but build your brand and create customers for life.

Interested in seeing how your e-commerce store can be improved?

Contact Us Today!

 

Enhance your Firearm Digital Marketing


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the tech, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

 

firearm hunting web design ecommerce sales

3 Secrets to Reducing Your Firearm Website’s Bounce Rate

By Firearms and Hunting

Do you know what your bounce rate is? A bounce rate is like having a hole in your boat. By not plugging it, you’re leaking potential revenue—and lots of it.

For example, if you look at your Google Analytics, and it says you’re getting 10,000 visits per month (which is a great amount of traffic), but your bounce rate is 60%—this means you only have 6,000 visitors—not so great. Bounce rate could be the one metric in your firearm or hunting brand’s digital marketing program that is holding you back from reaching your online sales goals.

When considering inbound marketing or any other kind of digital marketing program, it is necessary before any content is created to build an “inbound-ready website.” Since inbound is a long-term strategy that builds traffic, contacts, and customers over time, a firm and fast digital foundation (your website) is mission critical for success.

The web is a highly fast, get in and get out kind of medium. By making your visitors wait for more than 3 seconds, you’re leaving a lot of revenue on the table.

firearm hunting website design performance

Below are three critical considerations to reduce your firearm or hunting brand website’s bounce rate.

1. Site speed

The first place to start is to determine where your website is now and what to fix. Check out these four tools to determine your website’s speed
:

If your website takes 3 seconds to load, it’s time to raise some red flags and make the necessary changes quickly. 

The first step is to look for large images. Every image should be around 50K or lower. The smaller your images are, the faster your site will load. Video should be compressed if you’re embedding it.

The second step is to minimize scripts and combine CSS files or move javascript (the code that makes your site come alive) to the bottom of the website. This tells browsers to load the content above the “fold” (content you see in your browser’s window) first.

The third step is server speed.
A lot of us spend little to nothing on a quality web host. GoDaddy, WordPress Engine, Rackspace and others provide a reliable service, however when every second counts— and you’re serious about moving the needle on ROI, a dedicated server or a CDN should be considered.

What’s the difference between a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and a Dedicated Server?

Content Delivery Networks serve content across a network of “edge” servers putting your website in closer proximity to your visitors no matter where they are in the world. This makes download speeds faster because data doesn’t need to travel across a shared network. CDNs like Cloudflare or Amazon are fairly inexpensive and can be implemented relatively quickly. CDN’s are a must for companies who have (or are interested) in acquiring international customers. For a more technical explanation on CDNs, please see this resource.

CDN

Source: GT Metrix

A Dedicated Server gives you the same type of computing power of a new 2.4 GHz 8GB Mac laptop—except it’s deployed over the internet. This means instead of sharing your hosting with hundreds or perhaps thousands of other websites—you have one server dedicated to your site alone. A Dedicated Server will boost your website’s speed exponentially. In a recent test, we were able to get a 5 – 12-second savings (over mobile and desktop) from moving to a dedicated server versus a shared server. Dedicated hosting is worth it especially if you’re running an e-commerce store and every sale counts.

2. Use engaging images and CTAs

A mantra I’ve tried to live by when it comes to web design is “don’t let my website visitor think.” This means that when a visitor hits your site for the first time, they are in “learning or search mode” and it’s up to you to think for them by matching their question, curiosity or interest with the solution your product offers. Provide the information to them in a quick and engaging way; then define the path you want them to take to achieve your goal: share, like, signup, contact or purchase. Use CTAs to direct their actions. 

3. Engaging modules

Quality photography and video is a must in the firearms and hunting industry because of its experiential nature—but what works even better is something that is interactive that helps users learn about your product and that moves them further down the sales process. Rifle builders, tabbed or accordion modules, interactive content, surveys, etc. can keep visitors engaged for a longer period and keeps them coming back.

Google uses site speed, and there is indications that bounce rate (Source: Search Engine Land) as a ranking factor. So if you’re in a competitive segment of the industry and need a boost from your search engine marketing efforts, a dedicated server, CDN or both will make your website faster and move you up in rankings. 

By focusing on the above measures, you won’t be left wondering what’s wrong with your conversion funnels and can be free to concentrate on optimizing other areas of your digital marketing without the nagging suspicion that your website is holding you back.

 

 

firearms-growth-driven-design

Free Download:
Introduction to Growth-Driven Web Design

Is your website performing at its peak, or has it been sitting idle for 2-3 years? Was your last website redesign over-budget, out of scope and delivered late?

In this ebook, Luke Summerfield explains a different approach to website design that will help you save cost, launch faster and create a more effective sales and marketing tool that will grow leads, customers, and sales online.

[easyembed field=”CTA”]

 


Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands in the hunting, outdoor and firearms industry who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.