Military 1st marketing manager Lukas Duszynski talks to Ollie Harvey about the growth of online retail in the past ten years
As more business is conducted online – in an ever-evolving retail world – companies such as Amazon and eBay are reaping the rewards of trading on the net. While field sports retailers are traditionally bricks-and-mortar businesses, some buck the trend and distribute exclusively online.
Established in 2008 – two years before Instagram was launched – Military 1st had a finger on the pulse of e-trading. As an online retailer specialising in outdoor and combat clothing and tactical equipment, Military 1st have continued to grow their range of products and include some of the world’s best-known outdoor brands.
With over a decade of experience now under their utility belts, Lukas Duszynski, marketing manager of Military 1st explains: “Our story began over ten years ago when Michael Grzybowski set up the business. He knew several brands offering military apparel and outdoor gear and recognised its potential.
“Fast forward to today and we have the website with products from nearly 60 labels, delivering to customers in the UK, Ireland, Europe, the United States and Australia alike.”
Promising market leading names at excellent prices, along with the fastest possible delivery and the highest level of customer service, Military 1st orders are handled with care and attention, carefully packed and dispatched the very same day to ensure the best possible shopping experience. Lukas adds: “We run several departments and, as they closely cooperate, all are equally important to ensure that the store is running smoothly.
“Our warehouse is run by a competent crew tasked with picking, packing and sending out ordered goods, accepting and organising deliveries from our manufacturers, and general operation of the depot.
“Then we have the Customer Service team who is the first line of communication for our clients. They are responsible for answering customers’ queries and requests received via email, chat, social media and phone calls, and also processing orders, returns, exchanges and refunds.
“Last but not least, we have a group of people who deal with the technical side of the business, which includes adding new products to our websites, updating information on existing products, running promotions, sending out advertisements and so on.
“Our experienced team is dedicated to helping customers with their orders from the beginning til the very end. We are always happy to answer all questions regarding any items and delivery, as the customer satisfaction and exceptional after sales care is our priority,” says Lukas.
As well as providing stellar customer care – a characteristic often missing with online retailers – Military 1st also benefit from the convenience that online trading presents. Lukas explains: “For the customers, we are ‘open’ 24/7, and they can shop from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection – anytime and anywhere.
“Besides, as an online store we can offer a wider variety of goods than traditional businesses. We’re giving our customers instant access to more than 10,000 items and the possibility to search for products, and compare prices and details. Our website is easy to navigate, with accurate high-quality images as well as detailed descriptions.
“The check-out process is safe and straightforward; we accept both cards and PayPal payments. Finally we deliver directly to the customers door, fast and free of charge regardless of the price and size of the order.”
With such ease of use it is no wonder that people increasingly use the internet to browse and shop. Bricks-and-mortar retailers often resent the low-overheads online retailers have, and the knock-on effect this has on pricing. However Lukas emphasises that the attitudes of target markets play an important part.
“All retailers depend on their customers attitudes. Many simply don’t want to travel, pay the parking fee, queue up and so on, only to find out the product they’re after isn’t there.
“This is where online retailers step in. In most cases, we do offer much lower prices too, but remember the price of the product in part reflects the costs of running a business. When a big chunk of your income goes towards your rent and bills, it’s not the online retailers that need to take the blame.
“There are also certain things we can’t beat the bricks-and-mortar businesses on. Some customers look out for personal shopping experience and feel online stores can’t give them that.
“All in all, the market is a competitive place – but when you consider that right now only about 30 per cent of small businesses are using the internet to sell their products, it seems there is a place for both physical and virtual stores to co-exist successfully.”
However as more and more small firms in the firearms trade make the move to online sales, it is becoming increasingly important for current traders to offer something unique.
“We’ve already mentioned our vast assortment and the ease of finding and ordering the right product,” remarks Lukas. “Futhermore, each package will generally be dispatched on the same or next business day, as soon as the payment in cleared.
“We offer free Standard delivery and paid tracked Expedited 1-2 days delivery. Though in the case of the UK, most orders reach the customers in less than 24 hours from the moment of purchase. Free deliveries are also enjoyed by customers in Ireland, the United States and Australia.
“Also, we want our customers to be completely satisfied with each product. They can’t try and test it before purchasing, so if something isn’t right, it can be easily returned (for free in the UK) within 60 days of receipt.”
Although Military 1st have noted the success of trade events such as the British Shooting Show and The Game Fair they have decided to focus solely on increasing their online presence and building awareness of the brand.
Despite exhibitions offering an insight to industry trends, such as increasing popularity for a European style of clothing in the UK, Military 1st also claim to have advantages over established brands such as Harkila, Seeland and Deerhunter.
Lukas says: “Clothing is personal choice, and various factors determine what clothes we choose to wear. When visiting our website, our existing and future customers can choose from a variety of styles, those more traditional represented by Jack Pyke, and contemporary such as Helikon, Pentagon and Wisport.
Regardless of fashion, all these companies are known to understand the needs of shooting enthusiasts fully, and this has been confirmed during our conversations with the fans of the sport who use their products daily.
“We are receiving a lot of positive feedback from customers who bought products from Helikon, Pentagon and Wisport,” adds Lukas. “These fast-growing companies are definitely worth a closer look as they are continually developing their range of shooting related products.”
And as their portfolio continues to grow, so too does the company, as Lukas explains. “We plan to reach even more customers by launching our new websites for the French, Italian, Spanish and German markets and increasing our online presence by dedicating more time to our social media platforms.
“We will hopefully introduce our new blog soon, so we can engage with our customers even more. We’d like to thank GTN readers, our friends, fans and customers, for all the trust and support they have given us over the years,” concludes Lukas.
Visit www.military1st.co.uk to see more