First-Time Firearms Buyers Segmentation

By Rob Southwick & Ben Scuderi

One size does not fit all, and not every first-time firearm buyer is the same. Increasing the number of firearm consumers depends on knowing the various types of people interested in shooting products and services. Once a company fully understands its potential new customers’ interests, desires and preferences, it’s possible to: 

Refine communication and advertising initiatives;

Improve new product development efforts, while better defining product mix;

Merchandise products at retail to facilitate shopping and faster decision-making.

A consumer segmentation analysis identifies the distinct parts (or segments) of the market. Here, we’ll employ a needs-based segmentation, where each segment shares a common set of motivations for wanting to buy a product. The segment is not defined by what the customer looks like, or how he/she plans to use a new firearm. For example, some consumers want premium quality and unquestionable precision — and price is no object. Other consumers desire everyday functionality and acceptable workmanship all at a good value. By understanding why consumers consider buying firearms — and their reasons favoring specific firearms — companies can improve their products, marketing and customer interactions.

On behalf of the NSSF, Southwick Associates recently identified the eight consumer segments who make up the nearly 25 million Americans who don’t own a firearm but are very interested in doing so. (Editor’s Note: Percentages are the size of the segment, relative to the total population of all potential first-time firearm buyers in the U.S.)

1. The Aspiring Hunter (9%): This is a young segment, frequently participating in outdoor activities such as fishing, camping and mountain biking. They’re the most likely to purchase a long-gun such as a traditional rifle, and desire specialized features for hunting. This segment is largely male and is the least ethnically diverse segment identified here.

2. Fun Fanatic (11%): Fun Fanatics tend to live in suburban areas, and want to purchase a firearm to have fun target shooting — either with friends and family, or alone. Of the eight first-time buyer segments, they’re the most likely group to purchase an MSR. They’re not price conscious; instead, they tend to focus on how enjoyable a firearm is.

3. Learner (14%): This group is not particularly interested in hunting or target shooting. Rather, they’re curious to learn more about firearms, and view firearm use as an exciting new skill to develop. This segment does their research: Brand reputation is a very important consideration for them. Learners are the most likely segment to purchase a handgun in the next 5 years.

4. Anxious Buyer (22%): At the time this research was conducted, this segment was the largest of potential buyers. The Anxious Buyer is interested in one thing: purchasing a firearm before sales are restricted further. This group contains more females than males, and is mainly interested in personal protection. Concealable, low-weight handguns, and MSRs are popular among this segment.

5. Aspiring Target Shooter (15%): As the name implies, this segment wants to purchase a firearm to go recreational shooting. They’re searching for a versatile firearm at a low price. However, quality and reliability are essential to these potential buyers. This group is likely to respond to marketing that shows new shooters participating in the sport, allowing them to envision themselves doing the same.

6. Unprepared Protector (10%): Unprepared Protectors are the least likely to live in an urban environment and are interested in keeping their rural homestead safe. Not as interested in the fun or social aspects of shooting, this group is all about safety. Highlight the effectiveness of firearms for home protection when marketing to this group.

7. Unarmed Aaron (11%): This largely male segment is focused on owning a firearm for personal protection away from the home. They’re heavily influenced by professional recommendations, and look for special features when considering a firearm. With this group, focus on the need for self-protection, as well as the sense of confidence firearm ownership can instill.

8. Weaponless Wendy (8%): Lastly, this all-female segment is also mainly concerned with protection away from the home. This group is levelheaded, protective and likely to be single. She’s interested in being able to protect herself by carrying a concealable, low weight and easy-to-use firearm.

Consumer segmentation studies are best interpreted as describing the overall mix of consumers’ motivations and needs as they exist today, and not as a permanent classification for any individual consumer. Consumer segmentation studies bring clarity to a complex market and provide a starting point for companies to further explore new business opportunities, improve marketing efforts and develop a meaningful long-term bond with their consumers.

To explore more consumer segmentation research, gain access to detailed market reports or request custom research to help your business grow, please contact Southwick Associates VP Nancy Bacon (nancy@nullsouthwickassociates.com), or visit www.southwickassociates.com.

Editor’s Note: The “First Time Firearms Buyers Segmentation” report is derived from results collected in late 2015 and early 2016. Southwick officials estimate these figures are comparable to today’s market, with a decline in the panic-buying segment experiencing the most significant shift. The recent battles developing at the federal and state levels, however, could result in the Anxious Buyer segment becoming more active in the market.

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