The firearms industry has come a long way since its inception. It is no longer limited to hunters, security personnel, and civilians looking for protection. Gun collectors and enthusiasts have taken over and reshaped the gun industry entirely.
These gun enthusiasts don't settle for a standard product catalog with a limited number of guns. They access, scan, and compare a plethora of firearms before purchasing one. The firearm purchase isn't just about safeguarding yourself anymore. In the past few years, it has become more about acquiring the fanciest gun in the market.
The heightened demand for guns has led to a growing wave of individuals wanting to get into the firearms business. Now, selling firearms online may seem trivial. However, setting up an eCommerce store around guns and ammunition is relatively rigid and complex. The various laws and regulations make it difficult to start selling guns instantly.
The firearms market had shown rapid growth in the last five to six years. Hence, it was only a matter of time till people started investing in the guns and ammunition business. However, you'd need to first familiarise yourself with all the finer details of setting up a gun-friendly eCommerce store.
How to Get Started With Gun-friendly eCommerce?
Even though the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear firearms, the process to own and sell one is not as easy. The strict legislative regulation carefully curates this industry, especially the eCommerce side of things. However, there is scope in eCommerce since, in two decades, it is quite likely that consumers will make all gun purchases online.
The regulations and policies around the sale of guns on the internet vary from state to state. There are several Federal laws and then various specific state laws that oversee the firearms industry. Ensure that your business is licensed correctly beforehand. The company selling firearms needs to be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). You would need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) - fill out ATF Form 7 to acquire the same. Check the eligibility for a firearms license and chances of getting it approved.
The charges applicable on an FFL license are around $20 to $200, depending on your business type. The terms for FFL differ from state to state and depend on the kind of FFL. The ATF will approve or, depending on the circumstances, deny an application within 60 days. The period begins when a "properly executed application" is received at the Federal Firearms Licensing Center.
You do need a separate federal firearms license for different locations. However, individual facilities solely to store firearms are not required to be covered by a separate license. The records maintained at the licensed premises must reflect all the guns stored in all the storage facilities.
Furthermore, a person needs to obtain a new license if an existing firearms business is moved to a new location. The licensee must apply for an amended license (ATF Form 5300.38) in not less than 30 days before moving. An amended license must be obtained before starting a business at the new location. Once the new permit is obtained, the person may no longer conduct business at the former business premises.
Manufacturers holding a license of ammunition do not have the right to manufacture firearms. Until they obtain a firearms manufacturer's license. Also, a person who engages in manufacturing firearms and importing firearms needs to have separate permission to cover each business type. Manufacturers are also required to report the production of weapons. For this, they'd need to complete the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report (ATF F 5300.11) every year.
Manufacturers may also want to partner with a distributor to access unknown territories. If you wish to sell directly, you'd need to coordinate with a local licensed firearms dealer. When the customer places an order for firearms, it gets shipped directly to the customer or a local FFL dealer close to the customer's address.
Before placing an order, the customer needs to render all necessary information on the website. Before purchasing or acquiring a firearm, the buyer must present a valid Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC). Once the order is placed, it is shipped to the local FFL dealer. The local dealer will then conduct a background check on the buyer. The customer needs to pay a small fee to the local FFL dealer. Visit the ATF website to get all the necessary information.
Why Sell Guns Online?
There are a ton of challenges that come with selling firearms online. The compliance with firearm control measures that govern various jurisdictions makes it difficult for merchants to set up a store online. Yet, merchants know very well that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Selling online means merchants will get to display rich, captivating multimedia content around their firearms. Create a picture gallery to showcase high-resolution pics of the various weapons and equipment in your inventory. Also, create breathtaking videos of items in your inventory.
Superior customer service is a great chance to impress and retain customers. A lot of the buyers are keen but don't know much about gun policies. A proactive and dynamic customer support team will update all the vital information to the buyer. An online store helps to be active and responsive 24/7, 365 days.
Your online store could even ensure full FFL management with monthly auto-updates. As per this, the FFL dealer data is automatically maintained and updated for accurate information. Not only this, but your buyers could even quickly locate an FFL dealer with an FFL Finder feature within a preset radius.
Merchants on their online store will have the ability to leave the price changes on auto mode. Any price changes of the items from the vendors are automatically updated on the website. There is no need to rely on manual processes for tracking and updating rates.
Your online store will also recommend similar products. Cross-selling and upselling would become so much easier. Recommend products based on what's in the cart, product page, browsing, past purchases, etc. to your customers and make firearms online shopping easier.
Product comparison makes it easy to draw parallels between two or more products with ease. Social and email shares make it easy for customers to spread the word and boast about their purchases. Customers could also create wishlists and forward the same. If an out of stock product comes back in stock, the owner could send notifications to buyers.Any firearms eCommerce website is equipped with extensive filtering options. Also, the search functionalities make it easier for the customer to arrive at the product sooner. The advanced search functionalities are capable of distinguishing between various similar products with different names. Partial searches refine the results they see. As such, the search results are far more accurate.
The shipping policies for firearms change constantly. Various shipping providers have different rules for licensed and unlicensed merchants that are looking to ship firearms. It's always best to check with a representative of USPS, UPS, or FedEx.
When it comes to USPS, an unlicensed person can ship a shotgun or rifle by US Mail but can't do the same for handguns. As per the postal regulations, anyone can open such a package for inspection. Also, customers can't ship ammunition via US mail. On the other hand, licensed individuals can ship rifles, shotguns, or handguns.
FedEx will transport and deliver firearms (excluding handguns) between territories in the US via FedEx Priority Overnight service. FedEx Ground will accept shipments of ammunition and will ship the same as hazardous goods. FedEx requires firearm shipments to include a Direct Signature. Customers cannot place firearms shipments in a FedEx Express Drop Box; they must be presented for shipment at a FedEx location. The person tendering the shipment will need to notify that the package contains a firearm.
UPS will accept handgun shipments by next day air only for intra-state deliveries, whereas rifles and shotguns are shipped by UPS ground service. Customers may ship firearms only through UPS Scheduled Pickup Account or through UPS Customer Center. Guns are not accepted for shipment via UPS Drop Boxes or UPS On-Call Pickup. Customers aren't allowed to drop off Firearms at the UPS Store locations or at any UPS Access Point. For shipping handguns, you must verbally notify the UPS driver or Customer Center clerk.
Dropshipping is when the seller does not stock the goods that it sells. When a business sells a product using the dropshipping model, it passes on the sales order to a third party supplier, who then ships it directly to the customer.
An order placed on the eCommerce store is directly forwarded to a given distributor or manufacturer. In essence, the selling merchant doesn't own any inventory. Instead, the seller purchases inventory as needed from a third party to fulfill orders.
The distributor then delivers it straight to the end user's FFL Dealer or to the user's home address but decided by the following conditions.
- Firearm, Class III NFA, or Suppressor – Dispatched only to the FFL Dealer
- Anything Else (Parts and Tools) – Dispatched directly to the customer's shipping/home address
- Some brands can only DropShip certain items (magazines but not firearms)
Benefits of Dropshipping Firearms
Companies don't need to fret about wasted inventory anymore. Overstocking a particular product and not realizing any sale will result in massive losses. You no longer need to invest in up-front stock anymore.
Easy to get started, as brands don't need to deal with the overhead expenses arising from warehousing costs and other storage expenses. Besides, not having to worry about tracking inventory, packing, shipping orders, and handling returns.
Relying on dropshipping and holding very little inventory helps you to offer significant discounts to your eager customers. Since you are not responsible for storage, you save a lot and pass along some of these savings to your consumers.Lastly, you can test the products before committing to purchasing a considerable quantity. Gauge the response from the consumers for a particular product before investing heavily in it. Not having to pre-purchase means you can also offer a wide array of products.
Suitable Themes for Your Gun Store
High-quality and captivating themes are necessary to engage and retain customers on your firearm's site. The longer time spent on the site will increase the likelihood of conversions. An increase in conversions will automatically elevate the revenue. So, there is practically no reason to ignore mesmerizing themes.
Choose a hybrid theme, a stock theme already sitting on the platform's marketplace, or customize a theme to reflect your business's true identity. Either way, the template in question should be fully responsive, multifunctional, have fast loading times, an efficient UX design, and be unique enough to impress your customers.
Look out for mega menus, in-built SEO optimization capabilities, and Ajax to reduce the server load. Besides this, invest in product carousels, product sliders, fancy parallax effects, and blogging capabilities. Furthermore, opt for slideshow options, great flexibility, advanced search, sorting options, and improved performance.
Ultimately, your online gun store can't do without a trendy design and user-friendly interface. The icons, graphics, banners, and other visual imagery and multimedia will create the perfect user experience to retain and convert the customers. Get started and create a stylish and trendy gun website.
Payment Solutions for your Gun Store
Due to the high-risk nature of gun trade, there is a greater-than-normal legal requirement for the sale of firearms online. You can't simply set up an online store and start selling through PayPal. Most payment processors disallow payment processing with regards to firearms.
You could be running a legit operation, have an established track record, as well as a plethora of happy customers; even then, a payment provider may reject you. You could also get suddenly barred by the service provider that you've partnered with for years because of changing policies and practices.
Many firearms dealers report drastic boosts in gun show sales. Hence, if you decide to sell at gun shows and exhibitions, it's vital to have mobile services available. A mobile solution helps you to run your business anywhere and anytime seamlessly. Merchants can accept payments via card swipe, EMV chip, or contactless payment methods.
Since guns, gun parts, and firearm accessories are so strongly regulated, you'll need to work with a high-risk payment processor. High-risk payment processors will accept the additional risk involved and provide payment processing for merchants looking to start a firearm's store online.
Banks can even freeze or terminate your account without even serving a notice, effectively stopping your ability to conduct business. Not only that, they might even lock your funds or hold a large amount in reserve and refuse to release it. Plus, in high-risk industries, the processing rates will be higher, and you'll be subject to longer contract terms, with early termination fees.
Accepting many cards can widen your reach to buyers who have higher limits on specific cards or get cashback rewards. Consider diversifying your payment options. Accept American Express, VISA, MasterCard, and Discover. If any of them bans gun sales, you'll have other options available. Also, shield your revenue from excessive chargebacks and credit card fraud to ensure your business's longevity.
Choose a gun-friendly processor that specializes in high-risk businesses. Look for a brand that works specifically in the gun industry and has other firearms dealers in their portfolio. A provider with industry knowledge is always better suited to handle your specific needs. Start with someone that already knows about all the details of the firearms industry.
Here are some of the standard and most reliable payment solutions for gun store owners, Plug'nPay, Authorize.net, HPCI, Parkings, Credova, Maverick Bankcard, and Fortpoint Payments. Use any one of these to accept payments and fulfill orders. If you were to rely on anything that doesn't permit firearms sales, you'll risk endangering your eCommerce site.
eCommerce Platform for Your Gun Store
Finalizing an eCommerce platform is quite risky. Signing up with any third-party SaaS-based proprietary solutions could potentially jeopardize your eCommerce store.
Not all eCommerce platforms allow the sale of firearms. Most eCommerce platforms refuse to support online stores that promote guns, accessories, or ammunition. However, there are quite a few platforms like Magento, WooCommerce, 3dCart, and Zen Cart that allow merchants to sell firearms and ammunition without resistance.
Your eCommerce platform for selling gun accessories and ammunition will need several in-built features. 3dCart platform is known to offer robust SEO capabilities, and age verification options to ensure your customers are of legal age. The ability to leave reviews and give feedback is also essential and readily available on 3dCart and Magento.
Then, you'd also need the ability to restrict sales and shipping to states where your products aren't allowed to be sold online. Both 3dCart and Magento Commerce come equipped with this feature. Furthermore, you'd need the best blogging features to create informative content. WooCommerce, alongside WordPress, is known to address this with ease.
Marketing Your Firearms Business
Facebook and Instagram prohibit the promotion of websites selling firearms and ammunition. And Google, which owns YouTube, has also banned ads around weapons and ammunition. Thus, gun merchants cannot use Facebook Advertising and Google AdWords for marketing their firearms store.
1. Social Media
Explore social media marketing to improve brand visibility. You may not be allowed to sell through social channels yet. However, nothing stops you from promoting your products on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. Sales are strictly off-limits for firearms merchants.Don't even think about setting up a store in their marketplace. Start a page and upload eye-catching multimedia content from your product catalog. Captivating images and immersive videos can prove to be more impactful in the long run. Even let customers upload their purchases - this helps build engagement and trust.
2. Search Engine Optimization
With Google banning ads around firearms, gun merchants may need to opt for search engine optimization to improve awareness and traffic to their site. SEO is economical and quite useful in the long run. Capitalize on the organic searches happening around guns.
Accurate SEO will improve your ranking on Search Engines; this will then position you higher than your competitors. A higher position will result in more visibility, increased credibility, and, therefore, higher Click-Through Rates. If the footfall to your website increases, expect the conversion rate also to rise immediately.
Make your site mobile-friendly, improve internal linking, backlinking, URL structure, meta, sitemap, loading speed, minify images, fix schema and other parameters that affect the user experience. Organize, restructure, and optimize the website to strengthen your SEO.
Informative content, fuelled by correctly done SEO, will go a long way in building your reputation. The content will also educate your consumers about your products and your company. Your eCommerce website will need relevant content centered on various products. Feature FAQs, tutorials, tips, blogs, demos, and more.Each product page will also require high volume, crystal clear messaging to convey your product's usefulness. A spec sheet is also mandatory to share all the critical attributes of the guns. Create a detailed content repository around every item in your inventory. Use keyword tools to identify opportunities for content development.
4. Email Marketing
Start an email campaign - craft emails or newsletters and forward them to existing customers on your database or even to new customers. Inform them about new product launches, give discounts, promotions, or update them about the gun industry.
Gun enthusiasts are keen to know more about the firearms industry and continuously look forward to ongoing trends and regulatory changes. Email is the best way to educate them and keep them in the loop. Make sure to include some CTA buttons in your emails that'll get them to interact or at least land on your website.
Segment emails according to your customer's interests and tailor them to fit their needs, to give them some value from these emails. Take into account purchase history, last visited pages, products in the cart, geography, demographic and other characteristics before drafting an email. Also, automate a welcome campaign for all new users.
5. Influencer Marketing
You'd have customers, semi-relevant YouTubers, or other Instagram stars that are impressed by your gun collection, delivery, customer support, or anything else. This group will be more than happy to endorse your brand. Some may charge a hefty fee for plugging your products, but others will do it just for the love of your brand.Encouraging and positive word of mouth from a trustworthy individual will undoubtedly create more credibility for your brand. By collaborating with such famous people on social channels, you build more momentum around your brand. Every marketing leader in the gun industry will consider influencers to improve their reach and inflate their brand.