Avoiding Pitfalls In E-Commerce


Image: PureSolution / Adobe Stock

There’s no question: e-commerce (online shopping) is here to stay — according to Kathleen Owen, VP of marketing for Bravo Store Systems. 

Although sales at the counter are a storefront dealer’s bread and butter, what advantages present themselves to those retailers with an e-commerce presence?

“E-commerce is an economical way to reach entirely new audiences and customer bases, to promote your brand and then, obviously, sell your product,” Owen explains. “It’s also a fantastic way for retailers to expand their reach into new markets, promote their brand and products and really compete with the big-box retailers.”

Owen says not only are larger retailers using e-commerce, individuals who run a business out of their homes are, too. Business owners need a place to put their inventory online, promote it via social channels and drive traffic to their marketplace so customers can browse and buy online.

Bravo Store Systems is an all-in-one software provider for specialty retailers including pawnshops, gun stores, buy/sell stores and secondhand retailers. It recently released a 2023 ROI report, which has significant implications.

Comparing Bravo customers who don’t use e-commerce to those who do, the report revealed e-commerce customers experienced:

• 288 more firearm transactions throughout the year;

• Nearly $100,000 in online sales throughout the year;

• An average e-commerce sale of $195;

• Decrease in inventory balance (customers not using e-commerce saw a $71,000 increase in inventory carrying cost).

“The bottom line is, if you don’t offer e-commerce and your competitors do, you’re going to lose out. That’s all there is to it,” Owen states.

Omni-Commerce Solution

One of the unique things Bravo does is its point of sale enables omni-commerce — meaning you can operate a brick-and-mortar, an online store and mobile commerce all through one centralized system. This allows retailers to offer a seamless customer and employee experience across all channels. Consumers can download mobile apps for free and shop a store’s inventory on the app, rather than going online on their mobile phone to browse.

Bravo’s point-of-sale software offers automatic e-commerce for the retailer. With one click of a button, all inventory is listed on four online marketplaces simultaneously — including pictures, pricing, description, condition rating and shipping details. This is done with no duplicate or manual entry. If an item sells online, employees are immediately notified and can take the item off the showroom floor. If an item sells in-store, Bravo automatically removes the online listing so someone cannot buy the same product. 

“We make it very easy to sell online so there’s no manual work, duplicate entry or double selling. It makes it easy for a mom-and-pop store to start e-commerce tomorrow,” contends Owen.

“Bravo Store Systems isn’t the only provider that does this, but retailers need to be looking for software providers who can help manage e-commerce automatically so they’re not taking on the burden of manual work,” Owen continued. “This is what makes e-commerce scalable for small businesses and allows them to do it well.”

Lessons From An Online-Only Merchant

Michael Forcier, owner of Midnightsunguns.com in Wasilla, Alaska, runs a solely online store. He’s been in business for a little over a year and uses WooCommerce. 

“It works with WordPress; it’s a very easy e-commerce platform to work with. There are plenty of different plug-ins to help you do just about anything you want with your e-commerce site,” he shared.

Forcier likes the ability to easily customize his theme and says it is designed around the firearms industry store, so it works very well.

When asked how business is going for him since he’s all online, he paused.

“Well, I’ll tell you it was slow in the beginning, for sure. There are a lot of things people don’t realize about an online business, and SEO is one of them,” he said. “If you don’t have a strong SEO base you’re not going to go anywhere or do anything because you’re an online business. If someone searches for ‘gun stores near me’ they won’t find you if you don’t have the right information included.” 

Forcier has heard about issues in the e-commerce world. 

“There are a couple of companies out there that offer turnkey websites for firearms sellers, and they have limited SEO — so you see a lot of people complaining about those. Sellers start with them, and they quickly switch after a short time because, as I said, if a customer can’t find you through an online search, then you’re not going to go anywhere,” he said. “So, it’s a long process to build SEO, especially when you’re doing it yourself and you don’t have a company doing it for you.”

His advice to others thinking about adding e-commerce is to use the WordPress theme, do your research and don’t pick the first thing you see.

“Check out what options you have and do what you can afford and what you think is going to be best for your business,” he concluded.

Insights From A Storefront Dealer

John Hutchison, owner of Free State Gun Company in Basehor, Kan., currently uses a couple of different e-commerce providers.

“I can certainly tell people what not to do,” he half-jokes. 

One e-commerce system is through their website builder, Wix (which he does not recommend as he says it is not 2A-friendly), while the other is more of a drop-ship service that connects to distributors such as Davidson’s.

When asked how both systems are working for him, Hutchison responded, “Not very well. We’re actually swapping over to Bravo Store Systems and will be going live with them shortly.”

Hutchison goes on to detail issues with previous companies he has used. The first one they dropped within the first month of use. They didn’t get the services they were sold, and felt misled about the integration of the system.

“By the time it was done, we ended up having several software programs we had to pay for individually, and half of them didn’t incorporate very well into the system. So, we had to ditch that,” he recalled.

According to Hutchison, the other system wasn’t any better. 

“It was just as bad. There are a lot of bad ones out there. They probably work for other companies just fine, but for our needs what we were told versus what the reality was were two different things and it didn’t fit our platforms and how we wanted everything to work.”

When asked if the e-commerce aspect brings in much business, Hutchison’s response mirrored Forcier’s perspective.

“You still have to push out a massive amount of money in marketing and social media to even drive people to your website in general. A lot of companies will tell you they’re going to get customers and contacts and views on your website, but they don’t,” he said. “So, you’re basically only paying them for service to integrate the distributors into your website for drop shipping. Other than that, there’s nothing else going to help you grow your business.”

Hutchison decided to switch to Bravo Systems after learning about them and talking to other dealers utilizing them.

“What a lot of the other providers lacked was the training and ease of use for our employees. Bravo Systems has a YouTube channel of around 300 videos with little clips of how to do normal day-to-day operations. The training on it is very user-friendly,” he stated. “We haven’t gone live yet with Bravo, but so far, the confidence level is very high.”

Bottom Line

Whether your business is small, large, online-only or a combination, the best way to know what to do (or what not to do) is to talk to others in the industry. This will get you started on the right track to grow your business through a productive e-commerce experience. 

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