Everybody is selling everything online nowadays. No matter what industry you are in, you probably have plans to set up an eCommerce store to do the same. And that’s if you are not doing so already. Having eCommerce industry experience is going to be essential.
While selling t-shirts and socks with cat patterns online may be a hobby or low-risk endeavor, some companies have big plans for getting a cut of today’s eCommerce boom. Beyond revenue goals, online retail for some products come with strict regulations and require specialized industry experience to navigate. Tactical products (guns, gun parts, suppressors, law enforcement products, ammunition) are a prime example. The market size, estimated by revenue, of the Online Gun & Ammunition Sales industry, is estimated to be $1.9 billion in 2021. Buyers of guns and gun accessories like to shop online for the same reasons anyone likes to: convenience, access to large product catalogs, ease of product comparison, and customer reviews to help them find the right product.
When you start looking for an agency that can build your tactical eCommerce website, you’ll notice that most eCommerce agencies fall short. Some have no idea how this business works or are outright afraid of the industry.
One of our owners is a military veteran with years of experience with firearms and understands the complexities of taking this vertical online and how to make it successful. That experience gives us insider knowledge and capabilities that other agencies can’t just pull out of their back pocket. For instance, not everybody knows what the alphabet soup of acronyms like FFL, ITAR, NFA, ATF, HAZMAT, F1, and F4 mean. And believe us, you won’t enjoy explaining these terms to someone who has never heard them before.
So, if you’re in the tactical space, this type of experience is crucial for developing your website, but how exactly?
The following are four key aspects of developing your website on which relevant industry experience would have a massive impact:
In most industries, choosing an eCommerce platform mainly comes down to your budget and how fast you expect your business to grow in the next few years. It’s almost like buying a new pair of shoes (will they fit, stay in style, cut last?)… but a lot more expensive.
For the tactical industry—where laws and public sentiment are always evolving—you’ll want to use an open-source platform like Magento. This will give you the kind of flexibility you need to future-proof your site, utilizing your eCommerce industry experience. And that is something that any agency with tactical industry experience would know. Not all platforms are right for all types of eCommerce retailers.
Platform restrictions exist and need to be considered. Shopify is notorious for allowing businesses to invest and build on their platform, then changing their Acceptable Use Policy and giving retailers a hard deadline to migrate off. Shopify has banned the sale of firearms and ammunition on its platform. Salesforce’s new policy bans customers that sell a range of firearms and some firearm parts like “magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds” and “multi-burst” trigger devices. When you’re not working with an eCommerce agency that is always up-to-date with the latest industry news, you may spend your time worrying about whether your eCommerce site can stay online next month instead of running your business.
The tactical industry has a truckload of regulations for how you can and can’t sell your products online. Working with an eCommerce agency that understands these regulations inside out isn’t preferred, it’s a must. When that’s not the case, you’re looking at license loss, fines, jail time… the kind of stuff you’d want to avoid.
A challenge with selling tactical products online is that regulations and restrictions vary from state to state. A hefty fine of $250,00 awaits those that sell firearms without a license from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives). For example, there are different magazine round restrictions for different states, you can’t sell guns and silencers directly to consumers online, ammunition is considered a hazardous material, some states ban certain gun accessories, and the list goes on.
Working with an agency without tactical industry experience and hoping that they’ll be able to quickly get up to speed on your business processes is setting yourself up for failure.
After an eCommerce agency helps you figure out the best way to sell your tactical products online, payment processing is next. Just like everything else in the tactical industry, there are strict guidelines for processing online payments for businesses considered “high-risk”. Setting up an online store to sell products in the tactical space is a lot easier than setting up the processing for actually making the sale. Being in a high-risk industry means that you will have limited choices when it comes to credit card processing services, but finding a merchant account is a must.
While some payment options aren’t available for tactical industry goods at all, others have some pretty strange and unpredictable restrictions that’ll leave you scratching your head in confusion.
For example, while you can accept PayPal payments when selling certain knives online, PayPal won’t process payments for knives with blades over a specific length or any knife resembling a pocket knife with a blade that can be released automatically or by using a trigger. To ensure your online store can offer PayPal as a payment option during checkout, you need to familiarize yourself with their Acceptable Use Policy. If uncertain, work with your eCommerce agency to develop checkout rules that ensure you are not in violation of these use policies.
When you’re selling high-dollar products in the tactical space, it’s to your advantage to offer a buy now pay later (BNPL) financing solution. A BNPL financing option makes online shopping attractive for customers, specifically those who impulse buy or want your product “right now”, by allowing them to pay over time with low or interest-free installments. But, knowing which financing services will work with high-risk merchants is key. For example, Klarna has restrictions on financing for guns and gun accessories yet Credova Financing supports firearm and shooting sports financing for those customers who enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, and much more.
While shipping most “normal products” is mainly about putting stuff in a box and sending it to the customer’s address, that’s not the case with products in the tactical space. And when your website is selling a variety of these products, your eCommerce agency must understand your unique shipping restrictions and build your website system accordingly.
For example, guns and suppressors can’t be shipped directly to consumers. They must be shipped to a licensed FFL dealer, and from there, the consumer can receive their items once all transfer paperwork and processing has been completed.
So, when one of your customers orders a gun, a silencer, a bumper sticker, and a t-shirt from your website how do you handle fulfillment of that order?. If your eCommerce agency has tactical eCommerce industry experience, they’ll understand your requirements and implement split shipping functionality that ensures you fulfill all orders in compliance with the Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide”‘ (ATF P 5300.4)- definitely a good thing.
Veterinarians are doctors. They just have a different specialty. And just like you won’t let a veterinary surgeon operate on you to save a few bucks, you shouldn’t let an eCommerce agency without tactical eCommerce experience develop your tactical website.
The consequences of not getting it “quite right” for a tactical eCommerce website are too great to be ignored. We’re talking fines, losing your license, and even jail time here.
In addition to helping you avoid these consequences, an eCommerce agency with relevant experience will make the process of developing your website much easier. They’re already familiar with how the industry works- you won’t have to go through the hassle of explaining every detail related to your business to someone who has no eCommerce industry experience.