Online vs in-store: ABC survey bookmarks customer preferences

Despite increasing online sales, the majority of surveyed members value having Adventist book shops to visit.

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Results from a 2023 Australia-wide survey of more than 500 Adventists about their interactions with the Adventist Book Centres (ABC) have revealed key insights into customer satisfaction, highlighting preferences between online and in-store shopping and areas for improvement.

Staff friendliness and knowledge were among the highest scores across all stores when it came to customer’s in-store experiences, however product availability was a significant reported frustration.

Australian ABC webstore coordinator Scott Wegener explained that disruptions in the past few years have posed challenges in product availability and delivery. “From paper shortages to product scarcities to unprecedented international shipping delays—each have played a part in slowing the arrival of books in store. We thank everyone for their patience and can report supplies are slowly starting to arrive in a more timely and reliable manner again,” said Mr Wegener.

The survey revealed that in addition to the 20 per cent of ABC customers now buying via, twice as many customers were researching products on the ABC webstore before coming into a store to make the purchase, meaning the online store is now involved in up to 60 per cent of purchases. Despite the website’s growing usage, about 60 per cent of customers agreed they would be greatly inconvenienced if the ABC’s ever became an online-only store.

The most expressed reason for customers not buying online was because they wanted to hold and look through the product, while many others said they had no option but to buy online due to distance.

“The survey showed about half of our customers live more than 50km from their nearest store”, said Mr Wegener. “This drives us to provide even more comprehensive product overviews to assist in distant-purchase decision-making. We have recently started adding the table of contents of books, inside images, video previews, customer reviews and soon will be adding first chapter previews for customers wanting to get a feel for the product from afar.”

The most common request for improvement to the webstore was a call for a bigger range. According to Mr Wegener, the online store currently offers more than 5000 products but is looking into expanding to 10,000 in the next year.

Only 35 per cent of responders knew of the free shipping offer for online orders over $A150, and 50 per cent liked the concept of having a national loyalty program, which, according to Mr Wegener, the ABC’s are working to implement as soon as practical.

According to the survey, new Adventist products were most commonly discovered via the Bookshelf catalogue by Signs Publishing, distributed in Adventist Record each month, while second was the ABC’s fortnightly email newsletter, of which half of responders were already subscribed and shared their favourite features as being the specials and ”what’s new” highlights.

“Interestingly, the biggest influence on purchases was not any of our marketing but word of mouth”, says Mr Wegener. “You’re an influencer amongst your friends. So, help us spread the Word and tell your friends what Christian read you’re currently enjoying so they too can be inspired!” 

Asking which book formats most interested customers, 80 per cent still liked the traditional paperback with 25 per cent and 30 per cent showing interest in audiobooks and eBooks, particularly the younger generation.

“We’re grateful for the overwhelming support and honest feedback the surveyed shared and are now working on addressing any highlighted opportunities to improve. We’d really like to thank our customers for their support of our church’s resourcing ministry, which operates in a challenging book retailer world. We pray that the resources we do our best to economically source and supply, are helping to grow your connection to Jesus, improve your health and family life, and enable you to share material with those in the community who are yet to comprehend God’s love for them.”

View detailed results and graphs from the survey at

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