The right to bear arms is laid out clearly in the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. And for someone to bear arms, they must have a way to acquire them. While there are plenty of brick and mortar gun stores throughout the US, the rise of the internet has paved the way for a new way to buy and sell guns — online gun stores, also known as firearms e-commerce.
Starting a firearms e-commerce entity is a great way to grow your existing firearms business or start a new one.. But it also comes with many challenges along the way that you’ll want to know about before getting started. When it comes to online gun store setup and other e-commerce solutions for firearms companies, digital marketing for gun shops is going to be the differentiating factor between success and failure.
Use this digital gun shop guide to get your firearms e-commerce journey started the right way!
Introduction to the Online Firearms Landscape
If you’ve been on the fence about starting an online gun shop, rest assured that now is the right time to take the plunge. Here are some points to put the online firearms landscape into perspective:
- Gun ownership is high: Some studies are showing that nearly half of US households report owning at least one gun. Gun ownership also contributes over 60 billion dollars of economic activity in the US, and those numbers are expected to keep rising. With these stats in mind, it’s clear that now is the time to start getting a piece of that action for yourself.
- US regulations are comparatively light: Another factor to consider is that firearms online sales regulations are quite relaxed in the United States compared to other countries, which means there is less of a barrier to entry than you might think. While it may seem like the opinion toward guns is starting to shift when you watch the news, guns are still extremely popular in the United States, and their manufacture and sale is going to stay strong.
- Online shopping is at an all time high: There are over 5 billion internet users today, generating over 5.7 trillion dollars in revenue worldwide from online shopping purchases. This number had been steadily increasing for many years and was brought to its highest levels ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more people continue to shop online, you can expect online gun stores to continue growing and staying profitable, as well — if operated and marketed correctly.
As you can see, the landscape for gun shops is like a wide open range of opportunity, and now’s the perfect time to get started!
Understanding Local, State, and Federal Regulations
Before diving too deep into the topic of online firearms sale, it’s important to first know about the regulations you’ll be facing. The fact is that there are complex regulations that will guide many of your processes, including the types of firearms and accessories you can sell, where you can sell them, and to whom you can sell them. Buyers and sellers alike must have an understanding of these regulations to set expectations properly.
There are three types of regulations to balance — local, state, and federal. Here’s a brief breakdown of each:
- Local regulations: Local ordinances affect much smaller areas than state and federal ones, and therefore, can vary greatly even within a single state. Cities and counties may have their own regulations and restrictions on top of other local ordinances, so it’s important to understand the exact situation where you intend to sell. Restrictions can affect the types of firearms and accessories sold, how long one might wait to receive their firearm, storage and transportation requirements, where you can or cannot open a business, and more.
- State regulations: One step higher than local regulations is the state level. State laws play a pivotal role in shaping the country’s firearms regulations. They can deal with topics such as waiting periods, background check requirements, concealed carry permits, and more. Know the specific laws of your state and any state you intend to sell firearms, ammunition, or accessories to.
- Federal regulations: There have been many federal laws passed that have far-reaching effects on the buying and selling of firearms and related gear throughout the US. These laws set the foundational requirements for bans, background checks, gun sales licensing online, and more. Anyone looking to buy or sell a firearm must have a confident knowledge of the federal regulations that affect them.
By understanding the specific regulations that affect you, you’ll be able to safely and effectively sell your products through your firearms e-commerce business.
Choosing the Right E-Commerce Platform for Firearms
When starting a firearms e-commerce business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is which platform you’ll be using. There are a variety of website-building and hosting solutions out there, but not all of them are going to be firearm-friendly. In fact, the vast majority of the most popular website builders will be anti-gun, so you’ll have to dig a little deeper past your standard Wix, Shopify, and other household names.
What you need is a gun store e-commerce platform that makes it easy to sell firearms and firearm accessories according to all lawful regulations and restrictions. Some other characteristics to look for include ease of use, the presence of all the specific features you’re looking for, great reviews, and overall reliability and stability once your site is launched.
Here are some firearm-friendly e-commerce platforms to consider and research further:
- Make Ready Arms
- Sell Gun Online (SGO)
If you’re unsure which platform to use, you can reach out for a consultation with a professional marketing agency that understands the firearms industry, like The Coutts Agency. We’d be happy to recommend the right platform for your firearms-ecommerce company’s needs!
Implementing Age and Background Check Verification Tools
Despite the incredible convenience of online gun sales, proper processes still apply. This means you need to make sure you have all the right tools at your disposal to implement background checks when necessary and ensure the individuals buying guns and other items from your site are of the appropriate age.
Reliable age verification systems will ensure firearms don’t fall into the hands of people who are under the legal age threshold. Therefore, you should implement a multi-layered approach that ensures no one is able to slip through the cracks. One solid way to accomplish this is by requiring the submission of valid government-issued identification. Then, you can reference that submission with public databases to ensure the buyer is indeed of the legal buying age.
You can also place an age gate on the website. This ensures that only people who are of legal firearms-buying age have access to your online gun shop.
Background checks are crucial for ensuring your online gun store abides by all federal, state, and local laws regarding the legal purchase of firearms. You can partner with a third-party background check provider to accomplish this efficiently or use an integrated system that checks local, state, and federal databases to help facilitate the legal sale of firearms from your site.
Your online gun shop exists to support the 2nd Amendment and help law-abiding citizens protect themselves every day. But you must balance that level of accessibility with accountability by implementing both of the above safeguards. That way, your firearms e-commerce site can stay active and profitable.
Secure Payment Gateways and Data Protection Measures
People want to feel confident when they shop online that their personal data is going to be secure. This is especially true when it comes to a brand new online shopping platform. If your online gun shop is new to the scene, you’ll need to take extra measures to ensure the personal data of your buyers is safe and that their payments are processed safely, securely, and efficiently. Here are two topics to help you get started.
- Encryption: The data you gather on your site should be encrypted. That way, if a cybercriminal were to try to hack into your data, they would be unable to read it without your unique encryption key. Ensure all payment gateways on your site encrypt the data they collect.
- Compliance: With many federal, state, and local laws to stay accountable to, maintaining secure payment gateways and data-gathering methods is a must. You need to be able to prove that the transactions on your site were lawful. Having secure payment gateways aids in this process by ensuring the person who says they’re buying the gun is actually the one doing the buying.
Building a Trustworthy Brand: Importance of Transparency
One of the best online firearms store tips you can heed is to stay transparent with your target audience at every level of the lead funnel. If people are meeting you for the first time on your social media channels, they need to see that you’re being open and honest about your brand to move further toward the sale. If someone is about to click “place order,” they want to feel confident that you’re going to keep up your end of the transaction as you promised you would.
Transparency is key for all of this. Be open about your licenses and permits. Provide a comprehensive “About Us” section on your website so people know who you are — the people behind the business. Have a clear, easy-to-use return policy and provide customer service solutions to field questions or complaints. This all plays into building a trustworthy brand that your target audience can feel confident interacting with and buying from.
Inventory Management: Stocking and Cataloging Products
Picture this — someone is looking for a niche product on your online firearms store. They’re browsing deep into your subsections, and finally, they find it! They quickly add it to their cart and go through the processes of buying it. They’re excited to finally get their hands on this product that they’ve been looking for. No other online shop had it in stock!
Turns out, neither do you. You get the notification for the purchase, check your inventory, and realize that your website’s inventory has not been updated. Now it’s time to begin the painful process of reaching out to the customer and explaining to them what happened…
Don’t let this be you. It’s important to keep clear, organized records of your sales and inventory so that everything your website says you have in stock, you actually have on hand.
Find the solution that works for you to keep track of inventory, whether it’s an integrated software, your own record-keeping, or both. Remember, though — it’s easy to make mistakes, regardless of how hard you try. Put a system in place that reduces the chance of error so you can better serve your customers.
On the flip side, make sure you update your catalog to include new items, as well. If you feel like a new item in your inventory that you expected to be popular is not selling, chances are high that it might not be visible on the customer’s side of your online store yet!
Shipping and Delivery: Partnering With Licensed Dealers
The final piece in the puzzle when starting a firearm e-commerce site is to establish reliable shipping and delivery partnerships. Here’s how you to get started:
- Research shipping dealers that have experience handling firearms. Make sure they have all the necessary licenses to comply with all regulations.
- Verify their credentials so you can prioritize the best shipping and delivery solutions. Look for companies that have tracking solutions to help elevate your services to your customers.
- Establish clear protocols and make sure the shipping and delivery companies you partner with can satisfy them.
Start a Firearms E-Commerce Site the Right Way With The Coutts Agency!
If you’d like to partner with an agency to help you get started, we’d love to be that agency for you. Our Team lives and breathes firearms, and we are passionate about helping businesses branch out into the online space to sell firearms. Fill out the form below, and let’s get started!