The Final Three Types of Firearms Customers Your Business Needs to Know – Part 2

From protectors to recreational shooters, make sure you’re targeting these critical customer segments.

Last week, Southwick Associates released Part 1 of this series on better understanding customer segments in the firearms industry. The series—based on a new 120-page report built from several major surveys – is specifically designed to help manufacturers and retailers get a more detailed look at the kind of Americans purchasing firearms today. 

“We are looking at what first made people aware that they want to buy,” says Southwick Associates Vice President Nancy Bacon. “What got them to buy a firearm? Whether it was an incident that personally happened to them or another reason, we want to know how they act throughout the purchasing process.” 

Bacon, a shooting industry veteran of more than three decades, says that every buyer’s reason for purchasing a firearm is different. And while the average customer based on statistics might be a 46-year-old white male, increasing numbers of female, Hispanic and African American buyers are creating more subtlety in the market. With nearly 20 million firearms sold in America last year, gun sales have been strong. However, considering recent sales slowdowns, a large percentage of buyers have after-purchase habits that leave room for manufacturers and retailers to create more regular customers.  

To better understand those buyers, let’s look at the remaining three types of firearm customers your business needs to understand right now. 

The Urban Defender 

In some ways, the Urban Defender is an opposite to the Skills Builders segment detailed last week. These customers want to be competent in their handling abilities and skillset; however, many of them have never been to a shooting range before deciding to purchase a firearm. In general, these customers live in communities where firearm ownership is less common. 

As such, acquiring the latest and greatest gear or heading to the range are significantly less important to them. Urban Defenders primarily feel unsafe in their environments and mistrustful of those they encounter on a regular basis. In general, that drives this segment to seek out lightweight, concealable weapons that enable them to rely on themselves and not others for personal protection. 

Urban Defenders feel increased pressure to purchase a firearm before sales are further restricted, but generally do not follow up their purchase with repeat sales of accessories. However, certain aftermarket additions to their initial purchase can improve your profit margins when selling to an Urban Defender. What add-ons are most popular with this segment? Which sales strategies can help you better understand their emotions and improve your relationship with them? Details are available in the complete report.  

Prepared for the Worst 

Perched midway between Urban Defenders and last week’s Family Guardians, this nuanced segment still accounts for around 20% of gun buyers in America. Unlike Urban Defenders, buyers who are prepared for the worst do not generally feel unsafe in their daily environment. They do, however, still feel a strong pull to develop shooting skills in order to build confidence and feel protected.  

While it may be tempting to drop this segment in a bucket with other protector segments, there are some key differences among these buyers that make them worthy of separate attention.  

“It’s about not only understanding your product mix, but also understanding what is important to each group during their buying cycle,” says Bacon. “How important is your brand in that whole mix of attributes that they are looking for? What is your store experience like and how can you better market to people to assist them in their decision?” 

Notably, customers who want to be prepared for the worst actively work to develop their shooting skills at the range and tend to have a significant amount of leisure time in which to do so. They may not possess the same passion for firearms that Skills Builders have, but they are intentional and detailed in developing competent firearm skills for their own protection. 

What percentage of these customers are married? Which geographic regions are they most prolific in? How old do they tend to be? These answers and more in the complete report available now from Southwick Associates. 

The Hunter 

39 million hunting licenses and permits were sold in America last year, making Hunters one of the most valuable segments in the market. Hunters comprise a smaller market share than some other segments, but they are very active customers. Long a bastion of firearms advocates and repeat customers, understanding the latest trends among hunters can provide a consistent stream of revenue to your business. 

It’s no secret that messages aimed at Hunter should differ significantly from customers in protection segments; but buying motivations even between Hunters and fellow recreational shooters like Skills Builders can also vary wildly.  

While home protection is still one of many motivating factors, the goals of this segment are more geared towards community-building. For some Hunters, bringing meat to the table is a primary motivation. Others seek out adventure and social interaction outdoors.  

Hunters typically grow up entrenched in social groups where gun ownership is encouraged, and support is there for pursuing their passion. However, trends over time have changed the way that this reliable group of customers consumes marketing messages and decides which purchases to make. Social support is often achieved in new ways for the latest generation of Hunters. 

Interestingly, Hunters are more active on slightly different social media networks than protection segments like Urban Defenders and Family Guardians. They also tend to frequent slightly different retailers than those segments. One-size-fits-all marketing approaches will not work. 

“This report was generated during two phases,” adds Bacon. “We not only wanted to understand why people purchased their most recent firearm, but we also went back out to look at the details. We found out what happened after the firearm purchase and to whom.” 

What primary motivations go into a Hunter’s decision to purchase a new firearm? What are the biggest influencing factors in that decision? What avenues should your business pursue to influence that purchase? The latest market insights on hunters are detailed in the full 120-page report from Southwick Associates.  

Order the Complete Report Now 

Learn more about the full consumer segmentation report from Southwick Associates. The report expands on recent motivations-based persona research conducted for the NSSF by explaining the process, or journey, consumers go through when first becoming aware of their need for a firearm—all the way through the post-purchase experience. Insights include the five segments found here and provide detailed looks at the awareness, research, purchase and post-purchase phases of the customer journey.  

Order the complete report to find out which social influences affect gun buyers the most, which social networks each segment leans most heavily on, which ethnicities comprise each segment and what kind of media outlets impact their buying decisions the most. To purchase the report, or to ask questions, contact Nancy Bacon.