Exceed Customer Expectations With Product Advancements, Online Presence.
Everyone has a different idea about what makes a product “high-tech.” Opinions range from “different and unique,” to “something coming from the military.” Regardless of how each retailer defines high-tech, one thing is clear: Customers are eager to buy technology-based products.
“Our industry is traditional in that some of the technology we use every day is quite old,” said Tim Greve, marketing and operations manager for Northwest Armory in Portland, Ore. “Different approaches to that technology — whether that’s materials or products — can be considered high-tech. A lot of the advancements in MSRs can be included in that. MSR accessories are probably where we’re seeing the most advancement in technology.”
Chad Sprague, manager at Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz., said many of the products considered high-tech started out as products for law enforcement or the military.
“Some things that have been used by law enforcement and the military for years are becoming available to the civilian market,” he said
Mike Faw, media relations manager for Crimson Trace, said laser technology continues to advance.
“Green diodes are not as small as the red ones, and they’re still being developed,” he said. “One example is our Rail Master Pro. Recent CNC-machining technology has allowed us to make a unit the size of a matchbox. It has the battery, computer, diode and controls in this little box; it’s only in recent years we’ve been able to machine something so small.”
Advances in technology can take place on products as simple as a multi-tool. One example is the MultiTasker, which MultiTasker Tools describes as “The Pocket Toolbox For Your AR.”
“That tool has jumped to the next level beyond the Leatherman and others like it,” Greve said.
High-tech can also mean a product is constructed with new materials.
“A company called Rail Scales is doing accessories in G-10 material, which usually has been used in knives,” Greve said.
The Crimson Trace CT LaserGuard for this Ruger LCP 380 features
instant activation and a class IIIa Diode Laser.
Optics are also high-tech driven.
“We’re seeing illuminated reticles from all the quality manufacturers, when 10 years ago that was pretty much unheard of,” Greve said.
Sprague also pointed to continuing advances in optics technology.
“Some scopes and binoculars have built-in rangefinders,” he said. “That means less gear for hunters to carry. In addition, some manufacturers are building scopes so the turret has the yardage correction built into it. It takes out the guesswork for a more accurate shot.”
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Sprague said materials and processes from the military market are trickling down to civilian products.
“Manufacturers are making guns that are more accurate, reliable and lightweight than in the past,” he said. “The accuracy of guns coming out of the factory is better than it’s ever been.”
“Think about the effect polymer has had on the entire industry over the last 20 years,” he said. “We have people in the industry who have never known a time without polymer pistols, but it wasn’t that long ago that people were skeptical about them. Polymer has revolutionized the firearms business.”
Part of the impetus behind these changes in technology is the customers themselves.
“Gun customers have always been interested in items that are new and exciting,” Greve said. “They respect tradition, but in terms of product, if something is new they want to see it, touch it and try it.”
Faw said the demand for products in the concealed carry market also is driving product development.
“For instance, we had a lot of requests for a light and laser,” he said. “So we worked on it, and now the Rail Master Pro has the light and laser combined.”
New technology is not just about product.
“Our industry is utilizing the Internet for conveying information about products and for online sales,” he said. “I think the way the NRA is using the Internet to relate to the younger generations is brilliant. I wish more of the industry would embrace this viewpoint.”
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Retailers are using online technologies to reach out to customers as well.
“We traditionally have tried to be aggressive in the marketplace in terms of advertising and marketing,” Greve said. “We’r trying to utilize all the social media channels to reach our customers. For instance, a customer recently saw we had a high-end gun via Instagram and we ended up selling him two guns for a total of $5,000. Social media has become a way of reaching out to customers across the country that we wouldn’t otherwise have; social media is becoming more and more important.”
Using social media is allowing Northwest Armory to do what Greve calls “younging up” their customer base, and to be more relevant to potential customers who follow the trends.
“Social media is helping us to be fresh and innovative in the way we market,” Greve said. “I come from a non-firearms retail background, and I’m trying to bring some insights from other industries into this one.” The store is also reaching out to women and non-traditional customers through social media.
For the average shooter, this is a really exciting time in terms of technological advances.
“We’re seeing more innovation and more choices for reasonable amounts of money,” he said. “All these technologies and new materials have brought prices down on quality products quite a bit, which is a great thing for the shooter.”
New forms of information technology are also making it easier for customers to learn about products they’re interested in.
“We’re more accessible as an industry to the consumer,” Greve said. “Customers are able to get more information and do more research, and be more comfortable about particular products before they walk in the door of a gun store.”
Greve said there’s a “threshold resistance” for new shooters — meaning they don’t want to feel like they’re being looked down upon or don’t know what they’re doing while visiting a store.
“Information technology allows these customers to become more comfortable about the products they’re looking for,” he said
How much these new technologies affect the average gun store depends on how open the retailer is to embracing trends and looking at his business in a new and unique way.
“This is an opportunity for stores that are a bit more forward-thinking to be big business and market well, and be better overall,” Greve said.
“The move toward high-tech means more sales for well-prepared and well-stocked gun stores,” Faw said. “Consumers are aware of high-tech products and they go into stores looking for them. Stores that are able to think ahead and stock these products are better able to make sales. And if they have something on-hand and the customer isn’t aware of it, it’s an opportunity to educate the customer and then make a sale.”
BY CAROLEE ANITA BOYLES
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