Encouraging Growth In The Shooting Sports
BY Rob Southwick & Cody Larrimore
Very few people will enjoy the same recreational activities across their entire lives. Even those committed to a general activity (like target shooting or hunting) won’t participate in the same way over their lifetime. Think of your own activities — do you hunt the same game using the same type of firearm now compared to when you first began? Unlike those of us employed in the hunting and shooting industry — with regular reminders and established access to ranges or land — consumers often drift away from the shooting sports altogether, spending their limited time and funds on new activities like kayaking, recreational vehicles and other perfectly fine hobbies.
While much is being said about recruiting new consumers, recruitment successes are often matched by losses of current customers to new activities outside our industry. Therefore, it’s just as important we work to maintain our current crop of consumers. We must actively encourage current customers to try new forms of target shooting and hunting before their attention is captured by another interest.
In an effort to help industry members better understand how to improve customer retention efforts, NSSF (with the help of Southwick Associates) examined current shooting sports participants’ interests in other types of shooting sports and identified how to best help them try, or cross over to new forms of hunting and shooting.
“Crossover participation can provide a substantial economic boost to the industry and we should all do our part to encourage current participants to try something new in 2018,” observed Jim Curcuruto, NSSF director of research and market development.
Results from this endeavor reveal the industry has significant opportunities to grow. Target shooters and hunters are interested in branching into new forms of hunting and shooting, and are open to encouragement and support from individuals and the community in general. Through an online survey, active hunters and shooters (defined as those who have participated at least once in the past three years) expressed their levels of interest in 20 different types of hunting and shooting activities and types of firearms. These activities range from target shooting with semi-auto handguns to waterfowl hunting to shotgun sports. Reasons why they haven’t tried activities of interest are documented, as well as types of support friends and the greater shooting sports community can offer to help them try a new form of shooting sports.
For example, one activity garnering the most interest is target shooting with a modern sporting rifle (MSR). However, access presents a significant problem. Finding a local range offering MSR shooting and rentals can be a roadblock for newcomers. Among current recreational users of firearms who want to try an MSR for the first time, less than one-fourth of respondents indicated not having enough time, being too expensive or not knowing how to start as barriers to participation.
How can the broader recreational and conservation community help? Efforts centered around convenient and safe places to shoot that offer fun, unique experiences will help inspire target shooters and hunters to try an MSR as well as other types of firearms or hunting. Consider these general approaches:
Easy Access: Plug mobile apps and online tools like www.wheretoshoot.org to help people find local shooting ranges, make reservations, rent equipment, etc. In addition, create beginner apps or voice-activated assistants to answer common first-time questions such as where to rent equipment locally, how to properly and safely use a firearm, plus advanced level apps to help perfect their skills. Promote these online tools through social media and your store’s website.
Be Simplistic/Convenient: Publicize how the activity can fit in a customer’s busy schedule (i.e., a “way to spend time with friends”), and position as a simple, very easy-to-do activity.
Social Encouragement: Hunting and shooting are social activities. Very few will go alone or try it if they don’t see their friends or others like them participating. Highlight these activities using non-professionals’ hunting and shooting videos, photos and stories through social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube), blogs, magazines and through television programs.
Promote “First Touch” Experiences: Collaborate with cross-industry retailers, organizations and manufacturers to create events or experiences for current customers. Events don’t need to involve live fire. Electronic simulators can grab attention at many venues, and combined with local access information, can help convert customers.
This new NSSF report is available for free at www.nssf.org/research and www.southwickassociates.com.