With growing industry competition and a fluctuating economy, it’s tougher than ever for FFL’s to gain new customers, bring in more sales, and set themselves up for long-term growth. Fortunately, we’ve put together some helpful development strategies that are proven to reduce business costs, improve your bottom line, and drive overall success within your retail FFL operation.
1) Harness proven hardware & software solutions
Implementing the right hardware and software solutions into your FFL can be one of the most beneficial decisions you can make from a cost cutting and revenue generating standpoint. However, two of the biggest mistakes businesses make is rushing into choosing solutions without doing their proper due diligence, and making decisions solely based on price in that moment, without considering how that option might affect them in the future. So, how can you make sure you’re choosing the right software and hardware solutions for your business? Here’s an easy 5-steps strategy to success:
Look at the “Big Picture” and Create a Simple Plan
Review your current processes, understand what your limitations are, identify areas of improvement, and ask yourself what you’re ideally wanting to achieve long-term. Next, take it a step further and talk to other professionals in your industry about what they’re using. Even better, attend trade shows like NSSF Range-Retailer Business Expo, Shot Show, and others to talk to vendors directly. Lastly, create a plan of action that addresses the following points:
- Who will be handling the evaluation process? Identifying 1-2 people who are best able to devote the time to assessing your business’ needs and evaluating possible solutions is crucial.
- What is your budget? While cost is something every business needs to keep in mind, consider the cost of limitations in your current process. If it’s taking you too long to complete tasks, or, worse yet, customer satisfaction is being impacted, investment in more advanced solutions can truly help you reconcile those issues. It’s important to look beyond the price tag, as tough as that may be, and instead think about the impact (both positively and negatively) the software and/or hardware solutions selected will have on your overall business operation.
- What is your timeline? Consider the time required to get new software and hardware solutions implemented, as well as training employees on how to use it.
- Who will be the final decision maker? Identify the individual responsible for making the final decision at the end of the selection process.
Prioritize The Needs of Your Business
There are a lot of hardware and software options available within the FFL industry. From singular solutions such as payment processing to a full-suite retail management system that can run your entire operation, it’s important to determine what is Essential, Conditional, and Nice to Have. Once you have this list, you’ll be better able to make informed decisions as you move into the next steps.
Create a Vendor Short List
After doing your initial research to determine the solutions that are best for your business, establish a shortlist of vendors to start the evaluation process. Create a list of requirements to convey to the salespeople as you’re demoing their products.
Validate Your Short List
At this point, you might be comparing just two or three solutions. You’ll now want to consider the following questions:
- What is the level of support they offer?
- What training options are available?
- How do they handle updates to their products, what is the frequency and cost (if any)?
- How reputable is the company?
- Do their products meet my budget requirements?
- Is it easy to use and will it allow for simplistic, scalable growth?
Make the Decision
Once you have identified the hardware and/or software solutions that will both meet the requirements of your FFL in the moment, but also set you up for long-term growth, it’s time to make the final selection decision(s).
2) Stand out from the competition
It can’t be stated enough how important it is to think outside the box and differentiate your FFL from the rest. Competing on price simply isn’t enough, nor is it sustainable. Start by doing your research into your competitors, including the big box retailers. See what they offer, what they don’t offer, what their strengths and weaknesses are as it relates to products, promotions, marketing efforts, and customer service. Once you identify gaps in the market, put a plan in place to fill those holes with effective improvements. Likewise, speak to your customers and ask them bluntly how else you can better serve their needs.
3) Make the effort to truly understand customer behavior
To put it simply, the more you know about the behavior of your customer base, the more successful you’ll be. This step does in fact tie into steps 1, as well, because incorporating analytical software into your operation that allows you to monitor consumer sales data can help you in several ways:
- You can be more proficient in managing inventory by eliminating out-of-stocks and overstocks, saving you money and boosting profits at the same time.
- If you’re able to better control inventory (especially as it relates to popular items) and more effectively serve the desires of customers, you’ll quickly gain a favorable reputation and prominent status, setting you apart from your FFL competitors.
4) Increase your physical and digital inventory
It’s safe to say that the more selection of inventory you have, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make a sale, as consumers have very specific needs. So, expanding your inventory and maintaining it the best you can is critical. However, the key is to do it intelligently. Too often, retailers will make blind purchasing decisions, resulting in items sitting on the shelf for several months, if not years, ultimately tying up their money. This underscores the importance of utilizing analytical software to make more informed decisions, as mentioned in Step 3.
Another, equally important, and more cost-effective way to increase your selection of inventory is digitally. What does that mean? Simply put, you can quickly and easily increase your inventory by the thousands with items you never have to stock, nor purchase. This is achievable by utilizing an eCommerce website that’s capable of streaming distributor inventory. And yes, this is a game-changing solution!
5) Make the most of your floor space
Analyzing your current use of physical space to maximize your merchandising efforts is massively important. Utilize the tactics of the big retail and grocery store chains to help. Did you know that the natural behavior of people when they enter a store is to drift to the right? It’s true! They’ll then go NASCAR on you and follow a loose counterclockwise pattern to navigate your store. With that said, here are some very simplistic, yet effective tips incorporate which will help you make more sales:
- Think about which products have that ‘cool factor’ and put a display right near the front door. This is perfect for accessories, which have the highest markups.
- Continue the above strategy with other products, such as sale items in a rightward (counterclockwise) position, as people make their biologically-induced right turn.
- Utilize the power of your pallets! Example: did you just receive that large shipment of 9MM? Good! Now, don’t make the mistake of taking the cases off the pallet and putting each box behind the glass counter. Instead, wheel it right out to the floor in a prominent position, throw some simple signage on top and allow customers to buy that ammo either individually or by the case! Everyone loves a good ‘deal pile’.
- Move your inventory around. Complacency can cost you! The more you can make customers walk, the more of your store they can see, and the likeliness of them making additional purchases is increased.
- Put complementary products together.
- Display higher-margin items at eye level.
- A well-lit store which makes it easier for customers to read important details on packaging can go a long way.
6) Stay ATF compliant
This is an easy one that should go without saying, but we’ll mention it anyway! You can’t grow your business if you’re dealing with ATF violations and penalties. This again underscores the importance of Step 1 and utilizing the right type of software to run your operation. One of the easiest ways to maintain ATF compliant is by utilizing an electronic bound book rather than paper. It simply allows you to operate safely and without worry as you focus on growing your business.
7) Focus on providing quality customer service
It’s a concept every business owner should know. Satisfied customers will increase sales through referrals and repeat purchases. Providing quality customer service allows you to obtain a solid reputation, which grants you the ability to charge higher prices, thus equating to higher revenue and a healthier bottom line. Doing all you can to serve the needs of your customers and building a friendly rapport is critical to the success of your FFL. If you want to take it a step further, you can incorporate a loyalty program, allowing you to better connect with your customers and increase repeat purchasing even further.
Interested in any of the software solutions mentioned here? Whether you are an FFL who only desires a singular solution or a full-suite retail management system, Gearfire offers the most cost effective and ROI-generating products that are designed specifically the shooting sports and sportfishing industries. From eCommerce websites ready to live-stream distributor inventory to credit card processing with no firearms restrictions, as well as an industry-specific consumer financing solution, and even a multi-faceted Point of Sale system that incorporates retail analytics, Gearfire has your FFL covered!