Tuesday morning’s Future of the Industry (FOI) breakfast continued on from the Sunday’s Worship Him themes. But FOI also highlighted CBA’s new emphasis on big, shared data for the Christian retail industry.
Following a musical set by Curt Anderson at the keyboard, CBA President Curtis Riskey introduced the topic of the FOI discussion.
“There isn’t an industry with a more powerful and important message,” the former Christian retailer declared. Focused on the future, Riskey prayed to the “God of new beginnings.”
The new chairman of CBA Service Corp. and chairman of the Roush Foundation, Eddie Roush invited his business partner, Kurt Ruf, and Clyde Rivers, a U.S. citizen who is an honorary ambassador at large for the nation of Burundi, into a living room setting, asking attendees to listen to their “private conversation.”
Roush talked of the Christian products industry as lacking “tools, vision and even the resources” to expand, noting how big the world market is. He asked Rivers if it would even be possible to pair a retail store in the U.S. with a city or region elsewhere to meet the needs of the internationals there. Rivers answered in the affirmative, saying it is possible to “re-store a nation.”
Roush cautioned against a close alignment with American politics and governments, which, he said, “turns off people, including Millennials.”
Rivers shared what life is like in Burundi and how open the people are to Christianity. Christian music is played in the airport he travels to and can be heard in restaurants as well.
Roush said the industry needs to “clean up our act” to be ready for this “global play.”
To do that, Ruf noted the importance of tailoring customer communication, to “differentiate and personalize.” Ruf observed that “the old spray-and-pray days are over” and that the industry must use data as a tool to target customers in a mobile society. Ruf spoke of isolating consumer prospects that align with key values such as “small town sensibility” and the need to continuously clean the data to be sure it is accurate.
Rivers believes that governments are willing to share data “if we can help them meet their needs.” He’s believes reaching the global market is possible.
“Jesus wants to set the narrative for every community in the world,” Rivers said.
Roush said the way forward is about “spreading the Jesus narrative,” not an American-style gospel. He also thinks Americans will benefit from global partnerships that pair particular stores with regions of the world to meet their needs for resources, even older products, and to hear from them as well.
“Who are the voices in those countries who have something to say back here?” Roush said.
Marilyn Hood, who with her husband, Frank, recently closed their Sweet Spirit store, have been coming to CBA for over 30 years. The FOI discussion gave Hood “a real sense of hope” for the future of Christian retail.
“I’m excited about the future of the industry even though we’re transitioning out of it,” Hood said. “If we were starting today, I would be so excited about having a little city in some other country where we would maybe give a little portion of our income, that we would be maybe taking a mission trip with our customers or even through our church or whatever to go visit that little country and get that sisterhood bonding.”
Becky Gorczyca, executive director of the Association of Logos Bookstores, believes that Logos Bookstores are “customer centric” rather than “product centric,” another topic in the FOI discussion.
“Our joy is matching up the need of the customer with the product and helping those people walk closer to the Lord because of the relationship with us, whether it be conversation or product, and also with the product that has prayerfully been developed by authors and publishers,” Gorczyca said. “I think there’s a very big network that the Lord has put together to take His people where they are and expose them to things that are going to help them to grow. He uses authors, He uses publishers, He uses bookstores, He uses staff people, He uses marketing, He uses catalogs, all these kinds of things the Lord uses to reach His people to bring them closer to Him and to grow them. I am very privileged, as all the local stores are, to be part of that plan. And may we be here for many years, and we plan to be, in order to be part of His plan.”
The Logos association had its annual conference just before Unite.
“We at the Logos Bookstores are optimistic and encouraged about the future,” she said. “The theme for our conference this year was based on Micah 6:8, What would the Lord require of us but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. That is the path that we are going to take, and we think the future is bright if we follow the Lord and walk humbly where He wants us to go. We’re going to continue to reach out to our customers on an individual and relational basis. We’re going to continue to meet customers where they are and often that means that it’s not in our physical stores, but it’s outside of the four walls of our stores. We have been doing that consistently for years, and we’ve decided to ramp that up. We are happy about the future and are looking forward to it.”