In a cooperative industry project, CBA will provide Christian stores the ability to sell products online with in-store customer pick-up. The "Get It Local Today" program, scheduled to launch this year, offers retailers without advanced online capabilities a way to show store inventory and sell or reserve the product online for customers' in-store pick-up.
Using technology pioneered by the Covenant Group, the project enables publishers, suppliers and authors to refer their website visitors to buy from local Christian stores for immediate pick-up or to order online for drop-shipping. This gives publishers and suppliers an alternative to refer website buyers to Christian stores, not only to Amazon or big-box retailers.
Supplier-website referrals can be directed to specific Get It Local Today product pages for purchase through any local Christian store listed on the website.
CBA's store-locator site, christianstores.org, also will refer store searches and website visits to local stores for purchase. The site was recently relaunched with consumer-oriented content focusing on consumer needs. It offers personality profiles and interviews, new product releases, independent product reviews, best-seller lists and more. The Get It Local Today e-commerce engine will power the site.
The website repurposes content from CBA's Christian MARKET monthly magazine and other media in a content-marketing strategy to be part of consumers' new "purchasing journeys" to find resources, solve life problems and learn about new Christian content.
Christianstores.org includes a "Life Helps" topical listing to recommend best-selling resources for life issues, such as grief, marriage and addictions. The list is used with permission from Books That Change Lives, CLC Publications. Eventually these "retailer-recommended" listings will link to individual pages for local purchase.
An added retailer feature is the use of "post-sale credit" technology from The Parable Group. This will enable participating retailers to redeem sale and promotional credits in an automated way from publishers and suppliers for products sold on Get It Local Today.
Retailers earn most of the margin on products sold through the website, giving them financial incentives to participate.
"We want to create a way for the entire industry to connect to customers and bring them into Christian stores," said CBA President Curtis Riskey. "Store traffic will never be the way it once was because of the Internet and e-commerce, but brick-and-mortar retailers still have the advantage if they can connect to customers the way they are shopping today."
Connecting individual store inventory for specific products on the website is critical. "This is essential," Riskey said, pointing to iQmetrix research that says consumers are 73 percent more likely to visit a store if they can see in-store inventory online.
"The research also reported that 75 percent of consumers expect online ordering to also offer in-store pick-up," Riskey said. He said participating retailers should enroll in CBA's free CROSS:SCAN data-reporting service to automate inventory reporting. CROSS:SCAN inventory data will be fed to the site so customers can see individual on-hand inventory and have confidence product will be in the store when they get there.
Chuck Wallington, head of the Covenant Group and president of Christian Supply in Spartanburg, South Carolina, said the project could not happen without the cooperation and collaboration from numerous industry partners.
"It's more important now than ever before in our industry's history for us to work together across the industry-retailer to retailer, and retailer to supplier-to leverage the assets we have together for the benefit of both our industry and the future effective distribution of the products we all cherish," Wallington said.
The website will list all Christian stores for which CBA has complete records, but stores with reported in-stock inventory will be listed with priority highlighting. Stores without inventory may be listed, but the selection will be grayed out because inventory status is unknown.
The site also will be a good source for frontline product knowledge on new releases with information, reviews and editorial highlights.
"All of retailing is going through challenging times, even though research shows that 85 percent of retail sales will still be through brick-and-mortar stores through the foreseeable future," Riskey said. "Being able to provide a compelling in-store experience plus offering the convenience and speed of ordering online are a winning combination in the new retailing world."