Hi @ForumSentinel, @HAWK thanks for the intro.
What i think and experience: people prefer buying than been sold-to. This means that in order to convert members to buyers you have to do a lot of background work on understanding their interests, matching them to product categories and then work on building “experiences” (stories, content, activations, WoM etc) that will act as “purchasing incentives”.
I should never forget also that purchasing decisions involve a lot of sentiment BUT before sentiment there must exist “data”, info, that will allow the conversation to go on and sentiment to grow.
So, use your members that buy to drive-in more members to buy! @ArielleShnaidman implies it on her 1st paragraph. You also need help, resources, people. You’ve plenty as i understand in your community, waiting for “the meaning of being there” )
Try for example using product “fanatics” (amateur users with deep knowledge on specific products) and give them educative opps to stand out of the crowd.
I also understand you’re having an aged member base which is not so active. Try stirring it up a little by adding a fb (or other sm of relevance) community that will drive more traffic to the forum and the e-shop. We are working this direction on a project here in Greece (a feline lovers’ community), result is pretty promising for the time being!
Hope some of the above will help you. Good Luck and would be glad to hear good news.
ps a good e-mail list is a must, use any trick on the book to build it!