How Storytelling Can Engage Shoppers & Improve Your Retail Business

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Apr
23 2019



Bridgette Hernandez
Guest Contributor

Storytelling is a perfect way to give shoppers something worth remembering, talking about and sharing, and in the age when marketing content is everywhere, storytelling allows brands to meet the needs of their customers who want to understand brands’ values.

“It
sounds dramatic, but this lid is going to get used about a billion times a
year. It’s going to take billions of single-use plastic straws off the market,”
says Andy Corlett, one of the people behind the new recyclable lid that will
help Starbucks to dramatically cut the production of plastic straws.

This way, the well-known coffee brand is trying to be more socially responsible and protect the planet from more plastic pollution. Since an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 tons of plastic are in the ocean surface waters causing all sorts of negative impacts on the quality of water and marine life, this decision is certainly welcomed and appreciated.

I’ve taken the quote above from the recently launched storytelling website, Starbucks Stories. The article described one of the latest attempts to produce sustainable packaging made by the brand and explained that the new design of the lid can potentially take billions of single-use plastic straws off the market.

If you’re wondering why Starbucks would launch a separate website just for stories of customers and employees, listen to this: 92 percent of consumers want brands to make their advertising materials feel like a story, according to Digital Marketing Institute. Younger generations such as millennials and Gen Z seem to value branded stories the most, with more than 90 percent of them agreeing that custom-branded stories are the best way to connect with them.

In
other words, many customers really would like brands with a story to identify
with, because it improves their confidence and makes them feel good about
themselves and their choices. This makes storytelling a must for retailers to
achieve such critical goals as customer engagement, increasing brand loyalty,
and driving sales.

In this article, I’m going to talk about storytelling and how you can use it to make your content and customer experiences far more compelling and memorable, and avoid being outperformed by retailers who share stories.

Storytelling: Why It Works

Most
retailers know modern consumers don’t find one-size-fits-all marketing that
lacks personalization to be of much value. Today, they make purchasing
decisions based on brand value, so hard-sell advertising simply doesn’t work
anymore.

Take millennials
for example. These are people between the ages of 18-32 who are notoriously
media and marketing savvy and are extremely conscious of their values. They
don’t want ads, they want stories that foster authentic relationships and
demonstrate similar values. That’s why brands who become socially conscious
today will improve their bottom line tomorrow.

Storytelling
is a perfect way to demonstrate social consciousness and give customers
something worth remembering, talking about, and sharing. In the age when
marketing content is everywhere, storytelling allows brands to meet the need of
their customers who want to follow a business that shares their own values.

Let’s
consider a simple example that shows how storytelling allowed a startup to
succeed in a “boring” market niche. Back in 2012, a startup called Dollar Shave
Club uploaded a now legendary video featuring its CEO, Michael Dubin,
explaining why their products are great while taking a hilarious walk through
the company’s warehouse.

The
video was a great example of a brand not trying to play it safe and using funny
stories to connect with its customers. It was followed by more entertaining
videos with Dubin that also received millions of views on YouTube.

By creating a unique customer experience and offering a simple but valuable proposition, the startup has achieved immense success. Not only was it not destroyed by big, well-established brands like Gillette, but one of them, Unilever has acquired the brand for $1 billion.

And,
of course, they created a large community of customers with the same goal:
getting quality shaving products without unnecessary features for a reasonable
price.

So,
as you can see, Dollar Shave Club succeeded at getting their brand message
across and sharing their values. Without a doubt, powerful brand storytelling
was one of key factors that helped them achieve such impressive results.

Now,
let’s learn how to create meaningful, customer-centered stories that strike a
chord with your target audiences.

Tips for Retail Storytelling

1. A Brand Should Not be a Protagonist

Every
story has a protagonist. In case of brand storytelling, it cannot be your brand
because people tend to relate to other people, not companies. While it’s
totally okay to use someone who works for the brand (it certainly worked for
Dollar Shave Club), you can also use a character who represents a typical
customer, a real customer, or a prominent individual whom your customers
admire.

For
example, Under Armour uses famous athletes like an NBA star Stephen Curry and
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to show how determination and hard work help to
achieve amazing things.

The
brand’s message is very powerful and serves as a great motivation even to
customers who don’t play sports professionally.

2. Be Human

As I
mentioned above, people tend to connect with other people, not brands, so it’s
critical for you to feature real stories of real people to grab the attention
of viewers and make it easy for them to relate with.

Here’s how an Australian wine maker Yellow Tail does it. There’s a special section on their website called Our Story where they share the story of the Italian immigrant family who has been running the business for six generations.

It’s
here in this section that anyone could read and see the story of this family
who managed to build one of Australia’s most beloved wine brands. Indeed, the
history of people behind the brand is a really powerful piece of storytelling,
something most anyone can appreciate.

Since the desire for brands with stories to tell is strong among millennials – who, by the way, are responsible for consuming 42 percent of all wine sold in the U.S. – doing storytelling is a no-brainer for wine brands like Yellow Tail (which is currently in the top 5 wine brands in the U.S., too).

Writing stories requires some expertise in writing emotional-rich text and maintaining the voice of the brand; to get advice on that, feel free to use such online tools as Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, SupremeDissertations, and Tone Analyzer.

3. Make Sure Your Storytelling Message
Represents Your Brand

The
tone, style, and voice of the message of your storytelling campaign should
represent your brand’s personality and mission. Let your unique style and
personality shine through the stories, and they’ll make your brand more
memorable.

Achieving
this goal requires consistency and professionalism in writing your marketing
message, so check out these online writing tools to make sure your copy meets
these demands.

  • Hemingway Editor. Checks for style, complexity, and passive voice use
  • HotEssayService. Get your marketing copy proofread and edited by professional writers with experience in marketing
  • GrabMyEssay. Make sure your copy doesn’t contain common errors such as complicated sentences and a lack of brand voice
  • Grammarly. A well-known proofreading tool that uses AI-powered technology to generate tips on text quality improvement

4. Let People Share Their Stories

While
telling people your story is critical, don’t forget you can also involve them
and let them tell their own stories within your campaign. As a result, you’re
increasing the chance of reaching more customers simply because more people
will share the word.

One way to do this is to focus the storytelling campaign on customers and have them share their own stories with a branded hashtag on social media. Nike’s #RiseAbove campaign is an excellent example of that.

The
brand sought to promote the Jordan brand and get more people to talk about
their passion for basketball by encouraging them to share inspirational
stories. Some of the most inspirational stories included an Iraqi woman
attempting to rise above local traditions prohibiting females in sports and a
cancer survivor striving for quality on the court.

The
campaign featured a truck tour and an Instagram contest, so it was conducted
both online and offline.

Conclusion

As
you can see, storytelling is tremendously important for retail businesses. In
fact, it’s so important some brands even dedicate separate websites to share
the stories of employees and customers.

This
technique is quickly becoming increasingly common among online businesses, so
it makes a perfect sense to engage as well to avoid being outcompeted and
losing an excellent opportunity to truly connect with your shoppers.

Hopefully
the abovementioned storytelling examples and tips inspired you to share engaging
stories with your audience and impress them. Just remember to always be clear
and genuine, which is easy when you look into the story of your company and
your customers.

About the writer: Bridgette Hernandez is an experienced blog writer who thinks brand storytelling should be the compass for marketing strategies because it raises awareness and develops trust. She is currently working on a series of white papers about the use of storytelling by B2B and B2C businesses and hopes to inspire more brands to accept this marketing practice. Bridgette has contributed to many blogs and currently writes for IsAccurate.

Join the #retail, #inspiringretail and #SmartStore conversations on Twitter @RetailNext, as well as at www.facebook.com/retailnext.

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