How Storytelling Can Engage Shoppers & Improve Your Retail Business


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.