People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic. – Seth Godin
So you think you can sell. You’re selling products online, after all. You must be good at it.
Let’s run a little test. Let’s say you have this knick-knack you want to get rid of, but you want to sell it to someone rather than throw it in the garbage. It’s a little saltshaker that looks like a bowling bag and it’s worth half a dollar. How much do you think you could sell it for?
A dollar? Maybe two? Five dollars at most, right?
What if I told you I could sell it for fifty dollars? You’d probably scoff and tell me I’m dreaming.
But that’s exactly what Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn did with their Significant Objects project. They bought $129 worth of knick-knacks like the one described above and tried to auction them off at a higher price. However, instead of using typical product descriptions, they invited writers to create short stories around each item.
They sold the lot for over $3,600 by the end of the project! That worthless saltshaker sold for $49, a hundred times more than what they bought it for.
That’s the power of storytelling. Stories have been a part of our communications for thousands of years. Even before humans developed formal languages, we told stories through cave drawings. In fact, 65% of our daily communication involves stories.
We’re biologically wired to engage with stories. When we hear a story about someone taking a certain action, the part of our brain that lights up is the same as the one that lights up if we were doing the same action. We literally feel like a part of the story!
So how can you use this on your website? How do you get your customers to engage with you and your products? More importantly, how can you increase conversion rates through storytelling. Let’s find out.
Storytelling on the homepage
The Oyster Bed started off as a Kickstarter campaign, looking to pre-sell their innovative way of cooking oysters. The great thing about Kickstarter is that it puts the story front and center. After all, you don’t have a product at that stage but a dream and vision.
You need to tell a captivating story on Kickstarter to get noticed, and that’s exactly what The Oyster Bed did. Their story helped them blow past their funding goals and start a real business.
Unfortunately, many funded projects forget about the story when they enter production and start selling online. They revert back to the standard ecommerce template of bombarding visitors with products and sales as soon as they land on the homepage.
Not The Oyster Bed, though. When you land on their homepage you see the video that got them funded. Further down, you see more about their goals and vision. The entire homepage is one story about how they started and what they hope to accomplish. And if you’re inspired to help them realize this dream, you can head to the product pages.
Story telling on the About page
There are numerous leather accessory brands out there, and new ones popping up every day. Kickstarter always has at least one, or 350, new leather goods campaigns going on at any given time. How do you stand out?
You guessed it. Tell a story! Honestly, most people don’t know the difference between Italian leather and Chinese leather. One leather bag looks just like the other. It’s not about how many pockets it has. It’s about the story.
No brand tells a better story than Saddleback Leather. The entire website is one story, but it all starts at the “About page,” aptly named “The Story.” Dave, the founder of Saddleback Leather, takes us through the story of how he made the first ever Saddleback leather bag.
There’s Mexican bullfighting, assassins, and more, and by the end, you form an emotional connection with the brand—one that stays with you and comes to mind when you realize you need a new bag.
Storytelling on the Product page
Raven + Lily is a fashion store that employs at-risk women in developing countries and sells their handmade products. A few years ago, they decided to redesign their site so they could better connect with their customers and make it easier for them to purchase their products.
One of the biggest changes they made was telling more stories about the products they sold and the women who made them. It’s these women who make Raven + Lily special, and telling their stories would communicate that to customers.
On each product page, you can see additional information about the product, where it was made, and who made it. This is linked to their blog, which tells the full story of the person behind the product.
To continue the story past purchase, Raven + Lily also sends a card along with the actual product. Customers have told them they love opening up their packages and finding these cards inside.
This emphasis on storytelling helped Raven + Lily increase online sales by 150% over the last two years.
Start Telling Stories
Remember what I said earlier about our brain function when we hear stories. This is because of mirror neurons. In fact, mirror neurons don’t just work when we hear or see a story. They also activate the sensory and motor neurons of our brains when we read a story.
So when your customers read your stories, it’s like they’re actually experiencing it. This means the story gets encoded in their brains just as it is in yours, and it makes it easier for them to remember.
They may not buy your products the first time they land on your store, but when they need to buy it, your stories will help them remember you, and they’ll come back to your site to complete the purchase.
And if you can keep building on that story with regular emails, you’ll soon have an army of fans who swear by your products.
What ecommerce story has captured your imagination?
Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sid.