Earning a customer’s brand loyalty is a love story. It’s one that starts weeks, months or even years before they ever buy something from you.
They may encounter your site by chance, through an online ad, blog, Instagram post, YouTube video, or Google search. Or maybe they read a positive story or watched a touching video review.
How a customer experiences your fashion ecommerce brand, from discovery to purchase, involves many stories in a never-ending loop.
Let’s look at how some of the best fashion ecommerce brands are attracting, converting, and keeping customers through storytelling.
Why storytelling matters for ecommerce merchants
Advertising is a proven way to attract new shoppers. But attraction is only skin deep, even in business. Building a meaningful customer relationship isn’t enough.
Customers also know when they’re being sold to. And they’re increasingly skeptical of brand advertising.
But when they hear how great you are from one of their friends, a favorite influencer, or even a celebrity they love and trust, they’re more open to receiving your brand messages.
After all, buying is an emotional decision. What we buy says something about who we are as individuals.
We all want to belong and be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Involving customers in your story and journey inspires brand favorability. It makes them want to be associated with your brand and may even influence them to become an extension of it as an advocate.
The cost of driving customers to fashion ecommerce sites through advertising is increasing. Over the past five years, Facebook’s average cost per click increased 612.5%. And Facebook’s cost per mille for product catalog sales ads are now 645% more expensive than store visits.
Paying to find customers who want to buy from you costs significantly more than just buying traffic.
As online customer acquisition costs increase, many ecommerce brands now consider storytelling and content the holy grail of growth. Let’s look at how to harness stories to help you grow your business.
Where should you start?
Successfully executing a fashion ecommerce storytelling strategy is both an art and a science. Brands must combine visual content, such as images and video, with audio and experiential content.
This combination drives “full-funnel marketing campaigns: awareness, interest, desire, and conversion,” says Nik Sharma, head of direct to consumer at VaynerMedia.
Begin with your audience
You need to understand your audience before you write your story and decide where to distribute it. Who are they? What are their biggest wants and fears? More importantly: Why should they care about you?
Talk to existing customers to understand their pain points and why they buy from you already. You can do this through quantitative customer surveys or qualitative focus groups.
Online reviews also provide insight into what your customers want, think, and feel about your brand.
Then, tell your origin story
Consumers want to be associated with brands that have an inspiring and meaningful story. They prefer to “patronize and work for companies that are not only customer-oriented but have socially-oriented mission statements (and actually follow through),” writes AJ Agrawal in a post for Entrepreneur.
Your socially conscious story should not only live on your site but also across your blog, videos, and other social platforms. In your origin story, answer: Why did you start your business? How will it solve a problem for customers or the world? Why should they care? Then continue to tell the story in different ways.
The Rothy’s brand story is all about sustainability. Its shoes are made from recycled bottles that would otherwise end up in our oceans and landfills. Rothy’s showcases this story on its site and repeats similar stories on all of its social media channels.
Happy #worldoceansday! And may we just say, the sea looks good on you. In honor of this day, we're partnering with, @eXXpedition, a phenomenal all-female organization which focuses on improving ocean health. Click below for the deep dive. 🌊 https://t.co/dRrVznGZWL pic.twitter.com/Fj1yWYih59— ROTHY'S (@rothys) 8 June 2019
Use a unique voice, tone, and style that not only speaks to your customers but reveals your brand personality.
For example, Chubbies sells colorful, comfortable men’s shorts. The brand’s voice is equally as bright, playful, and entertaining. It often shares behind-the-scenes videos showing how fun it is to work in its office. The Chubbies team also hosts a podcast to entertain and engage with customers.
All of the brand’s social media content is engaging and puts a smile on your face. The Chubbies Twitter feed is a treasure trove of entertaining stories and content. And the imagery in its content is always eye-catching and vibrant. Let’s look at that next.
Use inspiring images and video
People make buying decisions based on visual cues, especially when it comes to fashion ecommerce. That’s why the imagery and videos you create for your stories need to inspire customers to not only purchase your products but buy into your brand.
Warby Parker does this well through the “How Warby Parker Glasses Are Made” section of its site. Its visual brand story is told through behind-the-scenes video footage and inspiring photography.
Seeing the care and precision that goes into a pair of Warby Parker glasses makes customers feel they’re purchasing a work of art. Shoppers also feel good about the socially conscious message in the video: “For every pair sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.”
Remember that your story is a living, breathing thing
It’s never too late to re-write your story as your audience changes. For example, Gucci recently revitalized its brand strategy to attract millennial shoppers. That strategy was extended throughout its storytelling tactics.
The company is reaching this audience through new platforms, like its microsite Gucci Equilibrium, which reports on its involvement in eco-friendly and socially conscious initiatives. Gucci’s Instagram feed is also a reflection of its efforts to focus on streetwear and tell its brand story to a younger customer base.
Once you’ve introduced your brand story to the world, it will keep unfolding through stories told by your customers, influencers, and even celebrities who love it.
Sell a lifestyle through celebrity and influencer stories
Storytelling humanizes your business, so you need to connect with customers through your humanity. Bring them into your story by being accessible and honest.
Many business founders share their personal and business growth stories online—revealing their ups and downs. Tammy Hembrow, an Instagram fitness sensation and the founder of Saski Collection, vlogs about her daily life. It’s a big reason why her online fitness brand and activewear have been such a massive success in Australia and globally.
Tammy named her brand after her daughter, Saskia, and includes her children in many of her YouTube videos. Her biggest fans want to be her, and purchasing her activewear allows them to buy a piece of her lifestyle.
But you don’t need to be a celebrity or Instagram influencer to connect to customers through storytelling. Young & Reckless collaborates with celebrities and influencers to tell its lifestyle story for them. The brand aims to create content that appeals to the aspirational lifestyle of its customers.
“We’ve noticed that if we have content that has real meaning, “people are more likely to click and go look at the actual product, as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, look how cool this photo is,’” says Chris Pfaff, founder of Young & Reckless. “If you get across your brand message and make people feel inspired or motivated, then they’ll go and buy your product.”
Social accounts for half of all Y&R’s traffic and the company is “tripling down” on YouTube because, Chris says, “people go there to be engaged, whereas it’s more passive on Instagram and Facebook.”
In one video posted to YouTube, rapper Rob $tone shares personal advice and talks about other rappers who have influenced him. He also shows off Y&R’s signature Strike Thru hoodie.
The video draws $tone’s fans into the brand lifestyle that Y&R strives to convey through its clothing and storytelling. Brands can do the same by seeking out customers who embody their brand image to help amplify their story further.
Involve your customers in the narrative
Your happiest customers can become an extension of your storytelling strategy through brand advocacy. Pura Vida Bracelets has done this well by creating a micro-influencer program—getting customers to sell the product on the company’s behalf. These micro-influencers are so in love with the brand that they bring a level of passion you wouldn’t get from a traditional influencer.
The company launched an email and social media campaign to recruit Pura Vida reps. When customers signed on, they were invited to join a private Instagram–Facebook group of other brand fanatics who helped each other with social media storytelling and sales tips.
Reps were encouraged to creatively promote Pura Vida products on their social channels through a rewards system. The program was so successful that sales grew 300% year-over-year in the first year the program ran.
Rothy’s takes a different customer storytelling and sales approach through its #RothysInTheWild Instagram hashtag. It encourages customers to show off their new shoes online. Rothy’s then curates some of the best images on its Instagram pages, which are embedded on the Rothy’s site. It’s kind of like bragging rights for the customer.
Those Instagram photos are instantly shoppable through one-click that adds the shoes to your cart.
Customers, influencers, and celebrity brands can bolster your storytelling success. The same can be done with more traditional brands and ecommerce sales tactics.
Co-create stories with like-minded brands
Often two brands will have similar storytelling goals that can be told collaboratively to reach new customers.
Barry’s Bootcamp recently launched a campaign with Olivier Rousteing, a designer with luxury fashion brand Balmain. Rousteing created limited-edition hoodies for Barry’s, a popular fitness and lifestyle fashion brand, to sell online.
Barry’s used an integrated storytelling and ecommerce sales approach to drive customers through the funnel.
To start, it built a custom landing page that hosted a video explaining the fashion collaboration. The countdown clock on the homepage to create a sense of urgency. Shoppers only had a few days to bid on the limited-edition items.
The campaign not only drove conversions on-site—it helped raise awareness of the new Barry’s store opening in Paris.
Also, 100% of the proceeds went to Le Refuge, an organization that provides medical, psychological, and legal support to youth who are victims of homophobia and transphobia. That feel-good story was an extra incentive to make loyal customers not only buy the products but fall deeper in love with both brands.
Another way to use integrated storytelling to sell your products is to immerse customers in new digital experiences. It helps them see your brand from a fresh perspective.
Use emerging technologies to tell your tale in unique ways
Nike’s Jordan Brand continues to innovate through storytelling—both with its shoe designs and its use of new technology. To mark the 30th anniversary of Air Jordan in 2018, Jordan Brand hosted an exclusive sneaker drop for the new Air Jordan Tinker III. The campaign featured an augmented reality (AR) and social shopping event during the NBA All-Star weekend.
At the event, fans could view a 3D AR video (called a world lens) on their mobile device. The footage showed Michael Jordan famously taking flight from the free-throw line in a retro slam-dunk contest. The video was a great nostalgia story that reminded fans why they loved the brand in the first place.
Viewers could walk around the world lens to see Jordan from all angles and tap to watch him change into the 2018 All-Star uniform. In the clip, he was wearing the new shoes, which were available exclusively to sneaker drop attendees.
Snapcodes (QR codes powered by Snapchat) were displayed at the event so sneaker fans could scan them with Snapchat-enabled cameras. Users were then given access to a special ecommerce store set up for the event. The Tinker III sneakers, which wouldn’t be available in stores for another month, could immediately be purchased through the Snapchat app.
The sneaker drop sold out in 23 minutes. The shoes were also same-day delivered to customers’ front doors, thanks to Jordan Brand’s collaboration with local fulfillment centers, operated by Darkstore.
The experience was a success because it not only involved customers in the brand story at the event, it also gave them a great story to tell whenever they wear the shoes.
Breathe new life into your fashion ecommerce brand story
Whether your business has been around for five years or 50, your brand story must put your customers first. If their perspectives change, your narrative needs to change too. It’s a living, breathing thing after all. And hopefully an enduring love story.
You also need to involve your audience, and other brands and influencers, in telling your story. They can do so through reviews, word of mouth, and even creating content to advocate for you and influence other customers.
Whatever form your storytelling content takes, be sure to optimize it to drive product interest and sales. It should entertain, empower, and inspire your audience at the same time.
Finally, experiment with new platforms and technologies to immerse customers in your story and let them experience your brand in new ways.