Helping Dealers

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 2004-03-01 Print this article Print

Gun buyers want more than just information. They want a relationship. So Remington Arms went online and triggered more response than anticipated.

Helping Dealers

Buying a gun remains a tactile and emotional experience. "Handling the gun is important, and guys are loyal to what they grew up with," says Tom Hein, a salesman at Midwestern Shooting Supply in Lomira, Wis. But better information on the specifics can help sway the purchase decision. "If you can see it, caliber it, say, 'This is what I'm looking for'—that makes a difference," Hein says.

But getting customers in the door is still paramount. Remington had never had a comprehensive list of its dealers, but the database it began building in 1999 today contains listings for about 11,000 of them, and the company uses the Web site to send potential gun buyers their way. Using software from RightNow, a maker of products for customer-relationship management, Remington built a dealer-locator program that last year conducted 240,000 online searches, with 97% successfully locating a dealer within 50 miles.

At Green Top Sporting Goods in Glen Allen, Va., Pat Hopkins sees a small but growing number of well-prepared customers referred from the Web site, sometimes with model number in hand. Green Top is among the first retailers to have an online storefront of its own customized by Remington free of charge."We've been pleasantly surprised with the business we get from it," says Hopkins, who could not precisely quantify that business.

"Gun owners are like stereo guys," says Hopkins, a vice president at the 25,000-square-foot, green-roofed store, which is one of the largest firearms retailers in the country, with about 3,000 rifles, shotguns and handguns in stock. "Once they know what they're looking for, there are still a lot of things we have to ask: 'Do you want a wood stock or a synthetic stock?' '.30-06 or .710 caliber?' It's a great help to us not to have to wend our way through all the questions. It saves us a whole lot of time," he says.

Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.

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