Technology is Changing What You Sell, How You Sell It

It can all have you feeling syptoms of “future shock.”

SHOT Business Editor Slaton L. White
SHOT Business Editor Slaton L. WhiteSlaton L. White

Firearm accessories are undergoing a massive change in design and structure. As contributing editor Michael R. Shea reports in this issue (page 20), “With the miniaturization of technology, everything has become ‘smart’ and digitally integrated, from the lights and thermostats in your home to the car in your garage—if you so choose. The shooting and hunting world long ago accepted electronic optics like red-dots and laser rangefinders, as well as laser sights and gun-mounted lights—but there is a new wave of digital shooting technology, and it’s breaking hard on the shores of long-range shooting.”

Every generation of sportsmen faces new technology that can make our experiences afield better. When I was a young editor at Field & Stream, I asked the executive editor, the late Peter Barrett, what was the most significant change he had seen in product development in his lifetime. “Dry feet,” he said. He happily embraced the improved boot designs that we all now take for granted.

We’ve come a long way since then, enduring along the way some gimcrack devices that hunters and shooters dismissed right out of the gate. But, in my time, the single most important technological change has been the adoption of GPS technology by the hunting and shooting community. It was originally rejected by seasoned outdoorsmen, who had learned to navigate remote terrain the hard way, by topo map and compass. Doing so required mastering compass declination, which to some was as mystifying as trying to comprehend chemical valences in a lab-science class.

But now, we’re truly moving into Buck Rogers territory. As Shea notes, “New technology will learn how to, say, read the wind downrange, or measure rifle performance, or compute holdover at ranges well beyond what a rifle and shooter are capable of hitting. It will be housed in standalone devices at first, then built into time-tested equipment, like binoculars, rifle stocks, and high-power second-focal-plane scopes.”

What does all this mean for retailers? It means you’re entering a brave new world, one ruled more and more by technology. The good news is that these are upsell products with good margins. At the same time, selling these new devices requires a thorough knowledge of how they work. So, be prepared to explain how they do so in detail. If you’re not comfortable with such technology, better find someone on your staff who is, because if you can’t explain it, you sure can’t sell it.