The Importance of Storytelling in eCommerce

June 16, 2022

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If I were to point out the top ten buzzwords I have heard in my career, “storytelling” would have to be on the list. It’s constantly talked about, and whenever that happens, it’s almost as if a word loses its meaning, even when it can actually bring plenty of benefits to your business – and yes, especially in eCommerce. 

Have you heard about the Significant Objects project? In 2009, the organizers bought a number of items from thrift shops and garage sales for no more than a few dollars per item and had writers write fictional stories behind these objects before uploading them to eBay. They wanted to see whether “narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones”. 

The results? They sold $128.74 worth of these objects for $3,612.51! Now, that’s a hefty margin that would convince just about anyone how necessary storytelling is. 

And if not that, the age we’re living in and the fact that practically every business invests in storytelling should do the job.

Person reading a magazine leaning on a desk

We Live in the Age of Storytelling

Let me ask you a question: how many interactions with brands do you have daily? How many emails do you receive, and how many ads do you see?

My guess is way too many. Just today, for this article, I counted that every third post I’ve seen on Instagram was a sponsored post, I’ve received over 15 emails from brands, and I’ve had enough before I even opened Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin.  

In fact, we know that every day, consumers process over 100k digital words, and every day, they see around 5k marketing messages. And when the internet is that saturated, it’s extremely easy to get lost. 

So, how do you make sure you and your business stand out in the noise? How do you captivate your target customer’s attention? Well, with storytelling.

person looking at their smarkphone

Why Storytelling is Important for Brands In General?

Storytelling brings great advantages to brands who use it, all of which help drive sales, retention, and engagement. Keep in mind this is not a tech issue although having a reliable tech backing your product/content efforts today means a faster, more secure, and overall better website (performance is at the core of better user experience and better clickthrough rates). In layman’s terms, no matter if you are on a traditional monolith setup (think Woocommerce or Magento) or headless commerce storytelling can help you sell better.

Add authenticity.

In the last decade, we’ve seen an increasing number of brands move away from the impersonal corporate voice. Why? Because no one wants to communicate or engage with the stereotypical company, and storytelling can add authenticity.

By telling stories of the founding of the company, of the people working there, and of the values you as a company support, you get to communicate with your customers on a more emotional level. In a way that lets you connect with them, it shows that you are more than your product. Storytelling is one of the main ingredients of authentic branding that drives a loyal user base.

two people talking

Grab attention.

We’ve been over the number of marketing messages and ads an average person sees per day. It’s why the attention span of consumers has never been shorter, a phenomenon supported by the surging of bite-sized content platforms like TikTok or Twitter. 

Storytelling helps you capture attention. A captivating, authentic story can make sure your customers don’t ignore your messages, and after a while, even look forward to new ones. 

Develop stronger relationships.

As humans, we all have shared experiences and can relate to one another in many aspects. Relatability is the key to building stronger relationships with your customers. 

A good start is defining your target audience and then looking for those shared experiences, values, and whatever else your target customers can relate to. In this way, they will get a sense of belonging to a community that creates loyalty and brand ambassadors! 

Use storytelling to make your consumers want to be a part of your community. 

people taking a photo

Increase product value.

Referring back to the experiment mentioned above, a good story built around the product can even help increase its value. 

As an example, a hand-knit sweater may seem too expensive to your customers if the only thing they see is the price. If you tell them the story of how you’ve knit it with your own two hands, taught by your grandmother, the product itself will become more authentic, and romanticized, which would help your customers realize that its price is more than justified.

Motivate to purchase.

Stories are a great way to call users to action. When you create your story, think about the action you’d like your users to take right after. Weave that call to action right into the story, and you may be surprised by the results. 

person picking up an item

7 eCommerce Storytelling Strategies

If you haven’t started implementing storytelling yet, or if you wish to finetune your existing storytelling best practices, having a look at these seven eCommerce storytelling strategies should be of help.

Define Your Target Audience. 

The better you define your target audience, the better your storytelling will be. 

As you research storytelling, you’ll realize that relatability is crucial in connecting with your customers. And to be relatable, you need to know your audience.

Think About Emotions.

Focus on what your customers feel when using your products. Showcase the benefits and that amazing feeling they get when they finally solve their problem using your product. 

Try to avoid showcasing any negative emotions. It’s much more powerful when you succeed in using positive reinforcement to motivate your customers instead of using fear-driven motivation.

woman smiling

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Socially Conscious.

Never be afraid to stand for your values, especially if you know that the majority of your customers share your core beliefs. This will only add value to your brand, and help your target audience choose you instead of your competitor.

Remember that humans are social beings by nature. When your target customers see they share the same beliefs as your brand does, it makes them feel a part of something.

Tell Your Founding Story

Storytelling helps humanize your brand, and one of the best ways to humanize your brand is to tell your founding story. Speak about how the product came to be, and speak about the teams’ experience.

This is one of the best low-cost storytelling strategies that help you connect with your customers on a human level.

three entrepreneurs talking over a project

How Did Your Product Change Your Customers’ Lives? 

The best thing is to start from the beginning and compare the before and after of your product.

What did the customers do before they bought your product? What happened after? How did this change make them feel? Find out, and tell the story of the problem, how your product solves it, and the results your customers have seen.

Make Your Story Shareable. 

Your stories should be told in such a way that they are easily shareable. Think short, relatable quotes, funny or emotional images, etc.

And don’t forget to actively ask your customers to share your story, it will significantly help boost your results.

two girl friends talking

Diversify the Ways in Which You Tell Your Story. 

In the last 15 years, we’ve made the journey from desktop-only, to mobile-first, and now omnichannel. Different segments of your customers use different channels to consume content, so make sure that you tell your story on as many as possible.

Videos, images, stories, short-form content, long-form content, website, social media, traditional media, etc, are some of the main formats to consider.

Wrap up

For most eCommerce businesses the last couple of years were truly challenging. People have changed the way they shop and why they shop. They are not buying just your product. They are buying the promise, the feeling, and the story that your product brings with it. The big question is have you changed the way you sell?

About the author

Nebojsa works as the Head of Content and SEO at Crystallize, he describes himself as an SEO wiz turned Jamstack n00b.

Nebojsa Radakovic

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