E-Commerce: Quick, Reactive, & Reliable


Image: Legit Outdoors Photography

This will sound familiar to many of you: spending hours researching, downloading, testing, repairing and trying to make your websites work. Add e-commerce sales into the mix, and you may already have a headache. It doesn’t need to be that bad.

If you still need to embrace the cyber side of sales, it’s high time to take action — and the process can be streamlined and simplified for your store and customers.

Why You Need An E-Commerce Site

E-commerce is a crucial component of a business strategy in today’s digital age. It can help drive sales, improve customer satisfaction and increase brand awareness. A more significant customer demographic with in-store and online sales will be reached. With a more extensive customer base, and if done correctly, the profit margin will also see a bump. Additionally, you’ll have 24/7 access to potential customers.

We’ve all experienced a sleepless night: Remember flipping through channels only to see infomercials or the shopping channel offering some “must-have” object? Night owls have taken to the interweb, and now, you can appear in their browser, selling to them any hour of the day.

Where To Start

Hopefully, your e-commerce is already established. If not, these tips will streamline the process.

First off, define your business needs and goals. For example, do you plan to sell firearms, accessories, classes, etc.? The process will help identify the resources needed when considering hosting and site management, which includes such things as a web developer, payment gateway, shipping provider or marketing platform.

Magnum Shooting Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., has worked with online sales for years. General Manager Dan Jaeger indicated the website makes the registration process for classes and memberships a breeze. Magnum streamlines the online registration and sign-up process, which has freed up staff from the phone back into the store. However, they also have numerous products listed online and need someone to manage them.

Store Resources

Creating a successful e-commerce platform will require dedication to the system. 

“Find the person(s) on your internal team who will be responsible for getting information on the website,” advised Glen Reich, VP of e-commerce for Kelly Brand Management, which specializes in retail, direct-to-consumer and e-commerce sales management.

“Most brands have somebody in logistics, in the warehouse, or maybe an administrative assistant or someone else,” he continued. “They become your account coordinators and then your digital marketing specialists.” (For our purposes, let’s call them “e-comm specialists.”)

For the e-comm specialist to be efficient in their position, an overview and training of your e-commerce platform must be provided to help them understand the process of managing sales. If they’re the one developing the site, they may learn as they go.

To ensure an e-comm specialist has the best tools for the job, start by listing their responsibilities. For example:

Marketing to attract customers 

Graphic design (to be used in listings and social media, email and online advertising)

Retaining customers

Managing inventory

Maintaining payment gateways and security

Overseeing (or maybe handling) shipping and delivery processes

Maintaining legal compliance in your state and beyond (including shipping laws and e-commerce laws)

Unless you find an easy-to-use platform, creating an e-commerce website may require specialized skills in web development. If you don’t have someone capable on staff, hiring developers or web designers to at least get you set up and trained can be cost-effective.

Finding The Best Fit

Matt Head, manager of Hi-Power Sports in Bloomfield, N.M., has a strong track record when it comes to delivering quality customer service, managing inventory and other responsibilities. 

When asked about the store’s e-commerce presence, Head shared the software used predates his involvement with the company and could be more user-friendly.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” he admitted. “I’m not the best with technology, but I’m trying.”

Since Head has titles other than e-comm specialist, he has little time to design the online sales site. He shared what works best for him in the interim.

“As of right now, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff through GunBroker.com,” he said. “Their site is much more user-friendly; it does what we want and GunBroker helps when it comes to interstate legalities.”

While Hi-Power has found an outlet where they can list firearms that are not hot-sellers in their market to make added sales, they’re not using it to list other accessories they carry in-store.

After having similar experiences to Hi-Power, Magnum outsourced its hosting to Gearfire, which provides point-of-sale and merchant services.

“They help us look very professional on e-commerce without much of our labor,” remarked Jaegar. “We would almost need a software programmer with our old service. Gearfire makes life easy and handles our website; it’s their point-of-sale, but it’s our bank account and authorization.”

Outsourcing certain functions, such as customer service or order fulfillment, can save time and allow you to focus on in-store business activities.

Using a third-party manager, Magnum has increased its online sales and freed its staff. When a customer makes a purchase, the order goes through Gearfire straight to the distributor. Most of the time, the orders are fulfilled directly, but there are times when some items have to be managed by someone in-store.

Use Third-Party Strengths

Like Gearfire, Kelly Brands can help ease the headaches of e-commerce by getting your site established and optimized for sales. When setting up products, the Kelly team pulls product reports of the top keywords.

“Then, they wordsmith the description to read so it will appeal to a human consumer,” explained Reich, “but it also speaks to the robot side, which is the algorithm that says, ‘this is an excellent product for you to show based on the number of keywords in this listing.’”

Next, Kelly’s determines the top graphics, imagery and trends, which can be added in to generate the highest conversion rate for a sale or provide an overall positive experience for the customer.

“Kelly has professionals who do this daily,” Reich shared. “They build those listings out rather than taking up an in-store employee’s time.”

Ensuring product descriptions and images are clear, detailed and attractive will create a positive experience, help customers make informed buying decisions and reduce the risk of returns.

Inclusive services, such as Kelly’s and Gearfire, will reduce your shop’s work in building a professional, cohesive, searchable online business.

Kelly Brands works with distributors to set up their products and will work with the retailer to connect the two. They can also help integrate items into the point-of-sale system. 

“Some hosting platforms, such as Shopify, are easier to work with than others,” Reich said. “When you have a retailer set up on Shopify, and vendors as well, that retailer can create an API credential and boom, pull all of your information over and they’re selling your stuff in no time; you’ve just expanded your demographic as a retailer.”

Identify What Works

There are several ways to streamline the e-commerce side of your business. 

“Find out what works for you,” advised both Reich and Jaegar. 

For a large store like Magnum, they’ve utilized technology to automate routine tasks such as order processing, inventory management and shipping. This automation creates a positive customer experience by assisting with prompt responses to customer inquiries while providing clear and helpful information.

To keep online sales and memberships running smoothly, encourage your e-comm specialist to continue learning and to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices. 

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