Today, to build a successful e-commerce business, you need to not only provide users with an attractive website, a nice product display and easy checkout but also be a storytelling master. Storytelling has become an effective method for e-commerce companies as they have to cut through the computer screens to connect with customers. Purchasing decisions and brand loyalty both depend on a well-told and engaging story.
What is Storytelling in E-commerce?
Storytelling is building a narrative around your company and its products. Through stories, customers can understand who you really are. Everything about you, your company, your products, and your services makes up a story. You can use storytelling on your homepage, about page, product pages and across your social media accounts.
It has become a central part of e-commerce marketing. And it’s vital that brands both know their own stories and how to tell them.
“Facts tell, but stories sell. We decide what to buy based on emotion, and then we use logic and data to reassure ourselves that we made the ‘right’ decision.”, said Samantha Reynolds, president of Echo Storytelling Agency, to the E-Commerce Times.
A good story can distinguish one company from another, particularly in a field crowded with competing brands. “In a world where customers are bombarded with advertisements and infinite choices, the only way to cut through the noise is to appeal to that emotional instinct in your customer. You have to win their heart. Without that emotional connection, your product or service will be competing solely on price and features, and that’s a brutal playing field.”, she added.
Reasons to use Storytelling
Connecting customers with brands via emotions
Since narrative plays a significant role in shaping the way people communicate and connect, storytelling is important for both brands and individuals. “Humans relate best to humans – not institutions and concepts,” observed Lisa Kagan, Executive story coach and Director of communications at Unify Consulting. “Humans operate in the world of relationships and experience, which translate well into stories. Plus, neuroscience has proven humans can’t make decisions devoid of emotion, and stories are one of the best ways to deliver emotion to audiences. Assuming that every customer or client is a human, stories should work on them.”, she added
Indicating the unique point of a company
Stories can tell customers about what makes a company unique. “You have to show why you matter, not what you do,” said Kagan. “Your target audiences want proof of your company’s brand narrative, plus authentic emotion. If you have a lot of brand language and no stories to prove it, bridging that gap should be the first order of business.”
Attracting potential employees
It is important to understand that stories can attract not only customers but also potential employees. “The best employer brands tell stories on multiple channels about their workplace cultures in order to attract and recruit the best talent,” said Echo’s Reynolds. “These same progressive companies use storytelling to efficiently onboard new hires, and to keep employees engaged and living the company’s values, mission and purpose every day.”
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What makes a good Storytelling?
These stories will tell customers how the company started and why. “What motivated the founder or founders to start the company? This content must live on your About Us page, but it shouldn’t end there,” said Reynolds. “It’s your opportunity to humanize your company by introducing the faces and stories behind the brand, and it should inspire by telling us what you stand for.”
A good storytelling involves both understanding it and living it. A brand story must be the spirit behind a company. “You have to make sure your words, action, and heart are aligned,” advised Esther Choy, president of Leadership Story Lab. “Stories can’t be just words or a nice infographic. The real stories are also in what the organization does and what values and purpose are at the heart of its actions. You have to know your story, tell your story, and live your story.”
In fact, your customers “should take up most of your storytelling airtime,” said Reynolds. “Your customers are in the midst of a compelling story arc at all times. They are on a quest to solve a problem or meet a need, just like every lead character in every blockbuster movie you’ve ever seen. Your job is to convince them that you are their happy ending.”
Style and substance
It’s important to focus on style as well as substance to have good storytelling. Particularly companies need to use language and images that keep people engaged and make them understand. “Pretending to tell a story and then, one sentence in, switching to company jargon will lose your audience in a flash,” said Kagan. “Case studies are vulnerable to this. You are not your clients, products or catchphrases. Tell a genuine story that demonstrates your company’s contribution – not one about your association to cool things. You are your people and your conviction. Your clients and products are where you manifest that.”
Stories of the Future
Like technologies and media, storytelling also changes day by day. And in those changes, the most significant change is that nowadays stories are increasingly being told through social media. That means they have to be interactive.
“Social media equips anyone and everyone to talk about companies on their behalf without giving the companies control over it,” said Unify Consulting’s Kagan. “If the stories are negative, that is proof of brand failure and could be a company’s undoing. If the stories are good, the company has a credible reference. The future will be about cultivating stories from genuine customers and users so you can win your brand skeptics over.”
A part of customer’s journey
In addition to being interactive, stories also need to be considered as a part of customer’s journey. Then, basically, that journey becomes a part of the larger story a brand tells.
“Brand storytelling used to be limited to discrete marketing and advertising assets, such as the one-minute long commercial, the billboard, the full page spread,” recalled Matthew Woodget, CEO of Go Narrative.
“Now storytelling can be used across multiple assets and across the customer journey,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The best marketers are constructing stories designed to move people forward on their journey — a journey that, because their brand was their guide, is chosen to go along for the ride.”
Being flexible to the change of data
With new technologies, stories now are neither static nor unchanging paragraphs on an “About Us” page. They move along with the change in real-time, specifically based on who’s interacting with them, where and when.
“Data-driven marketing gives us the ability to test, adapt and evolve our stories as people interact with them,” said Woodget.
“Brands need to plan for more than just storytelling, and they need to participate and adjust with interactive story-making across the whole customer journey,” he suggested.
“Data can give you insights into the difficulty and desire of customers. Data also shows you the effectiveness and impact of storytelling,” Woodget said. “Combining storytelling with data gives your brand ammunition to adapt and maximize the number of people remembering — and ultimately buying from — your brand.”