Growth Opportunity

Understanding the Eight Major Consumer
Segments for the U.S. Firearms Market

BY ROB SOUTHWICK
& CODY LARRIMORE

Considering last year’s election and changing rates of firearm sales, the big question on our industry’s mind is: How do we maintain and grow sales? With the changing market, everyone will agree we need to focus product design and marketing efforts in new directions — such as the fast-growing women’s and urban self-protection markets, among many others.

But, who are these audiences and how can we approach them? Do we even know our traditional customers as well as we think we do? A quick review of packaging labels at any firearms retailer will show companies often try to define consumers by their specific firearm-related activity, such as waterfowl hunters, sporting clay enthusiasts and home- and self-defense users.

Through research we’ve found firearm owners who partake in the same activity don’t share the same motivations and purchase drivers. In short, a hunter isn’t always a hunter, and recreational shooters have a wide range of sometimes-conflicting motivations. Also, surprisingly, the firearm selected by many purchasers may not match its most frequent intended use. Therefore, brands might miss the mark if they decide to target consumers based on how they might use their new firearm.

Meeting Consumers’ Core Needs

To help the industry continue to grow, Southwick Associates partnered with NSSF and took an in-depth look at firearms owners — resulting in the industry’s first consumer segmentation report. Through primary research, we identified and described eight unique customer segments based on their core needs, motivations and purchase drivers: Protector, Urban Recruit, Guardian Gary, Hunter, Social Shooter, Debbie Defense, Skills Builder and Collector.
In the full 150-page report, we extracted a substantial amount of detail on each segment, including:

• Types of shooting activities pursued;
• Products and accessories purchased in the past 12 months;
• Firearms these customers want to buy in the next 5 years;
• Most important product features desired by each segment;
• Shopping habits and annual amount spent;
• Their path to purchase (i.e. media usage, pre-purchase research, etc.)

As the market becomes more saturated with brands, it’s harder to differentiate from the competition. By understanding the differences between each consumer segment, you can develop products and marketing communications to better tailor your message to consumers — thereby driving end users to your brand and products. As an example, Debbie Defense values quality and reliability: price is no object, while other segments desire everyday functionality and acceptable workmanship at a good value. Insights like this will help you understand who your customers are at a deeper level as well as identify new markets, products and marketing campaigns to encourage greater sales and growth.

For more information, visit www.southwickassociates.com/commercial/firearms-consumer-segmentation. There, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase the report, which has a complete breakdown of all eight consumer segments.

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