The COVID pandemic has caused ample financial and social worry. Business owners started panicking around the end of February because of the impending death toll, lack of vaccine, low medical supplies, and subsequent economic panic. Locals are responding the way they do to hurricanes. When a Category 1 storm approaches the cities, people load up on ammunition to prepare for looters. They are doing the same for the current pandemic.
Opportunities and Challenges of Starting an eCommerce Website for Firearms
Optimum7 has approximately fifty clients who are firearm dealers. Thanks to the pandemic, the demand for firearms and ammunition has dramatically increased. And firsthand from clients, we saw what it’s like to scale. Clients who were shipping five hundred orders a day now have to ship two thousand orders within the same timeframe.
Operation-wise, web developers had issues and limitations. They got requests for many new types of functionality. Compliance-wise, they got requests from gun dealers. Ten thousand businesses in this industry will earn revenue over half a million dollars but lack online visibility.
Why would a local firearm dealer want to sell online?
They want to increase visibility and the potential reach with customers. Whether the gun stores are local or national, the majority of their consumers are buying online. With lockdown mandates, they’re not going into the stores. The dealers should be online because your consumer could potentially be a few states away.
Ship to FFL Functionality & FFL Lookup
Don’t forget that firearms dealers need to have a license to distribute and sell firearms. Register with the ATF and your local municipality. Then there is no limitation in terms of you being able to sell these guns online. From a compliance standpoint, however, you have to have certain functionalities for operational reasons. One is the FFL lookup and being able to ship to FFL.
How does that functionality work?
As an online firearms dealer, you need to ship an order to another firearm dealer that has a firearms license. These are known as federal firearms licensed dealers. The FFL functionality allows a consumer to find that dealer automatically, just by typing in their zip code. They can select the closest FFL dealers within their areas as a ship location. Before, consumers would have trouble buying firearms online while gun sellers couldn’t properly ship their products. The functionality has streamlined the whole process.
One of the biggest issues that web developers encountered in the past were federal firearms licensed dealers with an expired license. They would then not renew it, creating a logistical nightmare. If a business ships an order without checking, the buyer cannot receive their firearm. Then it needs to get shipped back.
You can learn more about Ship to FFL Functionality here.
Tools, Technologies, and Functionalities for Selling Guns Online Legally
Every state has different regulations. For example, in most states, you cannot ship a firearm with the ammo or buy them with the same cart. In California and other states, you can not ship ammo to a buyer but rather to an FFL. In every single state, you have to ship a firearm to a specific home.
From a functionality standpoint, on your eCommerce site, you have to be able to mark which products are firearms, ammo, or specific kinds of magazines, and use zip codes to identify which state you are shipping to identify the regulations that need to be followed. As a result, your website needs to be dynamic throughout the purchase process. Every online gun dealer needs to have this FFL functionality, but there are others that can become upsells.
What do other functionalities include?
Additional warranty and shipping insurance are great upsells that allow you to increase your average order value. Another is matching ammunition, magazines, and firearms as a cross-sell opportunity and curating the customer experience. The data that’s on the backend will help with that. Identify which products are what within your backend, so you can have this functionality displayed on the front.
Take this example. When a person buys an AK-47 rifle, you want to sell a warranty with that. The “Add to Cart” should say, “Purchase an unlimited warranty on this for three years.” Warranties are 90% profit and statistically, people don’t take advantage of them. That’s why they’re so popular and so profitable. Some clients also sell additional insurance on the shipping.
Inventory Management and Operations for Online Gun Brokers
Talk about the backend operations for inventory.
Clients sometimes have issues with equalizing inventory. They might be selling on different platforms on eBay, gun deal spots, their website, and local stores. Processing two thousand orders inventory-wise can prove to be a hassle so they need to prepare accordingly.
How are these processes optimized?
Web developers understand your backend operation from the shipping regulations. These include not being able to ship a firearm and ammunition within the same packaging. Understand what that means on your inventory management system, as well as if you’re selling on third-party marketplaces. Many gun dealers don’t just sell firearms, depending on their scope and size. They want to maximize their visibility and profits for all wares. Amazon, eBay, and Walmart can serve as additional marketplaces.
The sale of firearms, however, is restricted to those platforms. How are you now going to push non-firearm related products to those platforms while ensuring that a firearm doesn’t accidentally slip through the cracks? If that happens, Amazon will ban your account within five minutes. It could be an absolute nightmare, especially with fifty to one hundred thousand skews.
A good web developer understands your backend operation. They will build specific processes for a compliance standpoint. You can limit orders on the website. On the backend, however, you also have to validate that information. Ensure that FFL is accurate and maintain the FFL certificate on file. Update a database for federal firearms dealers, which many businesses lack. A firearm dealer needs to handle all of these details to run a multimillion-dollar operation.
If you’re looking for a hosted eCommerce solution, try BigCommerce. Shopify does not allow the sales of firearms on its platform. WooCommerce, Magento, OpenCart, and 3DCart are all open source solutions that you can look at. However, our recommendation is definitely BigCommerce.
If you would like a discount on your BigCommerce store, please reach out to us. Receive a 90-day trial and a free template on BigCommerce. The developers have been improving firearm websites for the past eight years and have honed their experience.
Start building your eCommerce firearm business today!