Hope Channel Store Sales Strategies

Goals

To provide insight into the digital and physical products, as well as sales strategies, that will help grow volume sales for Hope Channel's online store. An ideal response will include the following components:
  • Christian product (physical or digital) market size
  • Data (volume sales or top-selling products) from Christian bookstores or websites
  • Product sales data from existing Christian media ministries
  • Seasonality of Christian product sales
  • Strategies and best practices for social media-driven products (a lower priority than the previous pieces of information)

Early Findings

Data Availability

  • There appears to be some quantitative and qualitative information available to address the request, though product-specific sales data (especially measured by volume) was somewhat sparse. Qualitative perspectives (e.g., industry leaders discussing upcoming new products) or rankings (e.g., book rankings) appeared to be somewhat more accessible.
  • Information availability was higher for physical products than digital products.

Christian Products Market

  • In a 2021 review of Christian retailing, Christian-focused marketing agency, the Parable Group, found that bibles represented 8% of volume sales (23% of sales revenue) in 2020. Note: the full report is available with registration from the Parable group.
  • The Christian retail market is led by books (35% share).
  • Bibles, followed by church supplies, experienced the largest growth in 2020. Homeschooling materials grew 68% due to the pandemic.
  • Stationary and cards, gifts, music/DVDs, and books experienced modest declines in 2020.
  • Book categories experiencing the most growth included devotionals, Bible study, and fiction.
  • Book categories experiencing a decline in 2020 sales include Christian living, pastoral books, and women's books.
  • From a pre-pandemic perspective, the 2020 report from the Parable Group found that Books and Bibles were the top-selling categories for Christian retailers, cards and church sales supplies increased through 2019, Jonathan Cahn (fiction) and Sarah Young (nonfiction) were the authors with the most market share, and home improvement and self-help were trending categories.

Christian Bookstores and Websites

  • In a 2020 report by the Christian Retail Association, 54% of Christian bookstores (several of which have an online presence) reported a decline in sales in 2020, while 22% reported an increase.
  • Top-selling products included bibles, face masks, and fellowship cups.
  • New products introduced in 2020 that are more likely to continue to be sold in 2021 include masks and hand sanitizer, and to a lesser extent lotion and beauty products, puzzles and games, adult coloring books, and children's products. Very few stores said they would continue to sell candy, fellowship cups, and anointing oil.
  • In this 2021 Christian Retailing report, leading gift manufacturers noted that the way consumers shop and what they prioritize ("comfort and convenience") changed during the pandemic, with categories including wall decor, tabletop decor, candles, coffee mugs, and drinkware experiencing sales growth during this period.
  • New 2021 product launches cited by some specific Christian-focused gift retailers include motherhood and pregnancy journals, prayer cards, and chocolates (along with more targeted gift retailers offering Scripture jewelry or pet-focused Christian products).
  • More generally, industry experts cited personalized products, customized products, and an emphasis on local as key trends for Christian products. Products with a message of "hope" and pet products were noted as those which have seen increased demand.
  • The Christian Retailing publication also highlights leading Christian books as of January 2021, which includes "Elijah Bible Study Book" (Lifeway Church Resources) and "Forgiving What You Can't Forget" (Lysa TerKeurst).
  • Top global online Christian bookstores include Christianbook.com, Family Christian Store, Gospel Lighthouse, Koorong, and Lifeway. Koorong is noted as a site that offers easy navigation. Most of these stores offer a wide range of products, including books, DVDs, and gifts (such as pillows, wall art, drinkware, and kids' books).

Christian Media Ministries

  • Christian Broadcasting Network (the second-largest Christian media ministry, according to MinistryWatch) offers a wide range of products including books, CDs, DVDs, gifts (focused on "gifts with a cause"), kids' products, and CBN "Exclusives." They also feature products highlighted on their "700 Club" series that are sold through Amazon (and through which they earn an affiliate commission that supports the ministry).

Seasonality

  • The holiday season (8 weeks between November 1 and December 24, 2020) is a key sales period for Christian bookstores. The Parable Group noted a 4.7% increase in same-store sales for independent Christian stores compared to the same period in 2019.

Online Sales Strategies

  • The Parable Group, along with Christian Retailing, highlights Facebook Live events as a key means of connecting with a target audience and driving sales.
  • Additional strategies to drive sales include e-mail marketing and social media marketing, used by an increasing number of Christian bookstores during the pandemic.
  • Offering local gift baskets and working with shopping services (such as Instacart) are also highlighted as suggested strategies for Christian retailers.
  • The Daily Grace Co., a Christian products retailer, notes that making their products easier to share on Instagram drove their following from 2,500 to 30,000 in one year. The company's website also features a giveaway (12 free bible study classes) when a visitor subscribes to their newsletter.

Summary

  • In this first hour, we focused on assessing information availability for each portion of the request.
  • We were able to identify several reports that highlighted recent category and product sales trends for Christian retailers, along with qualitative perspectives and quantitative data to help identify potential products for future development.
  • We also identified top Christian media ministries (and reviewed one of the online stores) and top online Christian bookstores to provide insight into the product mix, website design, and retail communication strategies. Further research focusing on these websites, including their product mix, website design, and communication will be a useful means of understanding how other Christian retail stores/websites are operating.
  • We found some limited information around seasonality, which indicates the end-of-year holiday period as key for Christian sales.
  • When we were able to provide sales information by volume, we did so.
  • Much of the information in the first hour of research is US-based, but "top" companies were sourced globally. Since a geographic focus was not provided, we recommend continuing to maintain a global focus, though many resources may be US-based as in early research.
  • Finally, we were able to identify some strategies recommended and used by Christian retailers to increase customer engagement and sales.
  • Recommendations for further research are provided below and are based on the availability of information as found in early research.


Research proposal:

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