Store is pivot for connection, communication.

The authors of a leading study on retail changes say products in and of themselves will not drive retail going forward, nor will traditional retail financial metrics. Michael Dart and Robin Lewis, authors of Retail’s Seismic Shift, say that the new point of entry for retailers and brands now is about “providing the product in the most convenient manner at the right time wherever the consumer is located with the right experience.”

It’s not shelf driven, but driven by communication, availability, access, and experience—and the store is a pivot point for how it all happens. One Christian storeowner is well on her way to meeting these new retailing expectations with her smartphone and dynamic social-media strategies.

Lorraine Valk of Parable of St. Joseph (St. Joseph, Michigan) started working on Facebook about 10 years ago at the urging of industry friends. She doesn’t really like computers, she says, but realized she had to take some steps toward this new way of business.


“You can’t change the customer, so you have to change yourself and how you do business,” Valk says. “I have friends from the industry who have gone out of business because they didn’t change quickly enough.”

Valk has found success in targeting store advertising to reach specific audiences for specific events.

She takes product orders however they come in, by text, email, her order-online-and-pick-up-in-store web service, Facebook message, phone, or whatever. If she’s talking with someone away from the store and they ask if she can get an item, she whips out her smartphone and messages herself or takes a picture of the text to capture the information. She either follows up later or sends it to the store for fulfillment.

Five years ago, it was no phones up front. Now, staff members need phones close by to communicate and respond to customers, Valk says.

“The smartphone has saved my life,” she laughs. “When you’re willing to take orders however they come, you have to have an organized system so orders don’t fall through the cracks.”

Her trial-and-error process over the years got her started. Then she began tweaking her systems to adapt to her skills and personality, and now she adjusts from what she has done to make it better. She encourages others to take the same approach if they want to start using the technology or improve their processes. UNITE 2018 also is offering help in this area.


Making the shift in her store involved delegating work that they are good at to others and keeping duties that she is good at for her. This strategy allows her to be herself and use her strengths. All her team members are cross-trained on key skills, such as the Bible, selling and service, engraving, etc., but they each have a focus for downtime, such as returns, shipping and receiving, displays, and so forth.

She could hire a professional social media person, but she was concerned it might take away the personal touch an owner brings. “Some things you can’t delegate,” she says.

Parable of St. Joseph’s “palette painting” event offered photos of people having fun to post on social media.

“People aren’t using Facebook to be sold stuff,” she adds. “They’re looking for something fun.” Her store’s “palette painting” event offered photos of people having fun to post, for example.

She agrees with those who say Facebook ads don’t work as expected because the personal connection outshines ads. She does advertise on Facebook periodically, but she customizes her ads to a very narrow audience. For the painting event, she focused her ad audience selections to women ages 30 to 45 who like to go to church and like arts and crafts. “Target the right people so you don’t waste ad money,” she advises.

Because she was raised in the industry, Valk has seen changes over the years. “I guess I’m young enough to embrace that you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over, but I also know that no one thing will save your store from upcoming changes.”

She tries to be balanced in adopting new ways and is constantly looking for what works because customers are more quickly shifting needs and expectations. It’s constant adjustments, one- or two-degree changes to stay on course.

“You don’t get 90 degrees out overnight,” she says. “Just keep thinking and keep solving your customers’ problems.”

UNITE 2018

This year’s UNITE 2018 will feature comprehensive instruction on using Facebook and social media, including free memes, video, and even retailer videos with authors and artists at convention.

A social media lounge at convention will feature practitioners to help retailers update their Facebook pages while at UNITE 2018.

Valk also is leading an inventory management workshop at UNITE 2018.

Get details and register at

—Eric Grimm