To build a successful ecommerce business, you have to be a master storyteller. At a time when new ecommerce shops are popping up every week and new products are going viral each day, you have to do everything in your power to connect with your customers, keep them loyal, and convince them to buy again and again. Storytelling can help you do it.

As an individual, chances are you’re probably good at telling stories—it’s a natural part of life, and it’s how we relate to each other as human beings. But intentional crafting the stories and using them to grow your business? That’s a completely different ball game.

This is how you do it.

Why Tell Stories in The First Place?

Before we get too far into the ‘how’ of storytelling in ecommerce, it’s important to first understand why more and more ecommerce brands are investing in storytelling. Here are a few reasons:

Reason #1: Storytelling forces you to build a brand, not just a business. In ecommerce, branding is everything. Because your audience doesn’t have the option to come see you in person, you have to do everything you can to create a memorable experience for them. You have to make every interaction amazing. It all starts with branding.

When you invest in storytelling, it forces you to think beyond the idea that you’re simply running a business that supplies products based on the demands of your customers. When you craft your brand story, you have to think about the bigger picture. You have to drill into thinking about things like:

  • Who you are and why you got into business in the first place
  • Who your customers are and what they care about
  • Why you decided to create the products you sell
  • What your goals are and where you hope to take your business

People buy products from a business, but people follow a brand. Storytelling can help your target audience understand who you are and why they should be supporting you.

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Example of origin storytelling from Harry’s

Reason #2: Storytelling drives customer loyalty and advocacy. Your customers want to be excited about buying your products. Because of the popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, sharing has become inherent to most people. In ecommerce, your primary goals should be to figure out how to land new customers, how to keep them, and how to get them talking to their friends about your business and your products. Storytelling can help with all three of those goals.

Simply selling good products isn’t enough to get people talking about your products and coming back to your store to buy again. If you really want to scale your business and leverage social media to drive more sales, you have to present people with compelling stories that make them excited about interacting with you.

To drive customer loyalty and advocacy, you can share stories that:

  • Illustrate the origins of your business and your products—again, think about why you decided to produce and sell your products and create your business in the first place.
  • Remind people of your mission and movement you’re trying to support.
  • Highlight real customers and their interactions with your business and your products.
  • Illustrate the quality and uniqueness of your products—again, remember that your customers don’t have the benefit of being able to walk into your storefront and pick up your products. Storytelling can help fill that gap.

Your customers can be incredibly effective salespeople for you. All you need to do is give them the materials (stories) they need to convince their friends to buy from you too.

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Example of stories produced by Yeti, a company that produces coolers

Reason #3: Storytelling makes it easier to differentiate from competitors. In the early days, ecommerce leveled the playing field and allowed small businesses to compete with the big guys. You didn’t have to have an expensive storefront or an extensive inventory in order to be successful. Today, you’re not only competing against the big dogs, but you’re also competing against the hundreds of other ecommerce shops that pop up each month.

You have to be strategic about differentiating from your competitors. As mentioned already throughout this post, the stories you tell about your business, your products, your team, and your customers are what can ultimately persuade people in your target audience to do business with you and not the other guy.

In most cases, potential customers can’t easily ask you what makes you different from anyone else—that’s the challenge with ecommerce. So you have to be proactive about helping them understand.

Reason #4: Storytelling helps you build trust by humanizing your business. If you’re a relatively new or a not yet well-known ecommerce brand, your main challenge to overcome is going to be building trust. Online consumers are naturally cautious about giving their personal information and credit card information to a company they don’t know well to buy products they haven’t gotten to see or feel in person.

The best thing you can do to combat this is to show them that there are actual humans running the show. Online consumers want to know that they can reach out to a person if they need help—that there is an actual trustworthy team behind your store.

To humanize your business, you can share photos and videos that:

  • Introduce your audience to your team of employees.
  • Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your operations.
  • Highlight other happy customers who have interacted with you and your team.
  • Help viewers understand how your products are made.

When your customers have a better understanding of who they are ultimately working with—that there are actual human beings running the show—they’re much more likely to buy.

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Example of brand storytelling from Modcloth

Reason #5: Storytelling makes you think more about your customers. In order to craft effective stories, you have to think about your business, but more importantly, you have to think about your customers. After all, you want to tell stories that resonate with the right people and give them what they need to be persuaded to buy from you.

In ecommerce, it’s easy to use the digital wall as an excuse for not getting to know your customers better. The most successful brands, however, understand that in order to build and scale their business, they have to constantly work to think about and understand who their customers actually are.

Storytelling forces you to think about your customers. When you craft a story, you have to ask questions like:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Why do they care about this story?
  • What are they motivated by? What do they care about?
  • What fears do they have? What obstacles do I need to help them overcome?
  • Why do they do business with me instead of my competitors?

When you work to know more about your customers, you not only are able to tell more effective stories, you’re also able to use what you learned to improve other areas of your business (product development, customer care, marketing, etc).

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Example of storytelling seen on the Filson Instagram feed

The Art of Storytelling: How to Get Started

Storytelling can be an incredibly effective way to boost awareness, drive repeat purchases, and build a loyal army of brand advocates and passionate people who want to support your movement. To build compelling stories for your ecommerce brand, focus on these 7 tips:

Tip #1: Understand the workings of a good story. Before you craft your story, it’s helpful to understand some basics about storytelling and what makes a story great. Here are a few resources you can check out to learn how to craft a great story:

Tip #2: Use high-quality images and graphics. Thanks to the popularity of YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media sites, visuals win over text always when it comes to storytelling. When you’re crafting stories for your ecommerce brand, include rich images, graphics, and video to get your point across. See an example from Yeti here.

Tip #3: Repurpose piece of your story across multiple locations and channels. The best stories are the ones that can be told in a variety of ways. When you craft your brand story, think about how you could share it on your website, on your blog, on your product pages, on your social media pages, on your packaging, in your emails, and anywhere else you can think of. Create enough text, photo, and video so that you have enough unique and repurposable content to use on each platform and channel.

Tip #4: Make it easy for website visitors to learn more about you. If you want new visitors to learn about you right when they land on your website for the first time, make it easy for them. You can do this by promoting your origin story in your navigation menu, in your hero image on your homepage, or even as a pop-up that displays after a few seconds.

To promote your brand story in a pop-up and encourage your website visitors to learn more, try using WisePops. You can start a free 14-day trial today.

Tip #5: Take time to actually talk to your customers. In order to determine which stories would resonate most with customers, you need to actually talk to them. You can do this in a number of ways. You could send a short survey to customers who have purchase from you in the last 30 days, or you could send it to your top customers.

You could also email customers individually and schedule some time  to talk over the phone. Finally, if you have a lot of customers near you locally, you could plan a VIP event to gather feedback from them.

Your goal in these conversations should be to simply learn more about who your customers are, how they feel about your brand and products, why they purchased from you, and what kind of stories they think you should tell.

Tip #6: Develop voice, tone, and style that authentically represent you and your brand. You can’t fake storytelling, otherwise it will not work as an effective driver of sales. In order to get any sort of ROI from storytelling, you need to take time to develop a personality for your brand. You’ve likely already started doing this on your website and in your interactions with customers, so just transfer what you have into a more formal document about voice, tone, and style.

Remember: you need to be able to show visitors and customers what makes you different. Why should they choose to interact with you and not someone else? Let your voice and style shine through the stories you craft and share with customers, and they’ll start to better understand who you are and why you do what you do.

Tip #7: Don’t make it just about your products. Don’t tell stories about your products. Tell stories that illustrate how your customers have used your products. How have your products improved their lives? These are the stories that prospects want to read about and watch. They want to get a better idea of how your products would help them, and customer-focused storytelling can help them relate to and identify with other people who are like them that benefitted from buying your products.

Want More?

We recommend First Site Guide for web beginners to help them create and maintain an online presence on their own. They have many step-by-step guides, video tutorials, numerous blog development materials and we also covered social media.

Over to You

In your mind, what makes a great story? What are some brands that do a great job of storytelling? Tell me below in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

  • Rob Wormley