cin7 logo


Using Storytelling to Build Trust and Drive Sales

by Pauline Farris
If you run an eCommerce business, your competition is fierce. But you already know this. You also know that you have to “woo” your target audience in any way you can and somehow stand out among your competitors.

Consumers have changed too. They’re attached to their digital devices and swimming in an ocean of content, much of it designed to sell them something. Here are a few stats that bring the point home:

- 2 million+ Google searches are conducted every minute

- Consumers expose themselves to more than 100,000 digital words a day

- Online ad sales total about $3 trillion per year.

Unsurprisingly, consumers have become almost numb to traditional methods of companies trying to market to them.

They’re long past sales pitches and unsubstantiated claims. They want trusting relationships with the businesses they patronize; they want a personal understanding of those businesses; they want to “experience” what a business is all about; they want to see that a business exhibits values they believe in; and they want social proof – from others who also trust and love the company, its products and its services. 

This is definitely a tall order, but one of the ways you can fulfill it is through storytelling. 

Tell your own story – Share how you came to be in the business you’re in, what your mission is, and personal details about your life, your family, your interests and your passions. When people can see the real you, they can relate.

Tell stories about your team – Feature them on your site, in your blog posts and on your social media channels. Again, your audience can see your business as comprised of people just like them – it humanizes your company.

Tell stories about your customers, or let them tell their stories on your platforms – This is the social proof consumers demand.

Tell stories of your social responsibility  What community programs or activities does your business support? What charitable causes or activities do you participate in? Are you giving your customers an opportunity to as well?

All of these types of stories will satisfy the needs that today’s consumer has when it comes to building a trusting relationship with your brand. The question then becomes: How do you tell these stories and on what platforms? How can you make them engaging, compelling and popular enough that people spread awareness of your brand and bring in customers?

Storytelling Platforms: Where and How?

You have three basic platforms for your storytelling: your website, your blog and your social media channels.

Your website and blog are obvious. What you may need to evaluate more carefully are the social media channels you use, especially if you’re not a “big boy” like Coca-Cola. Hopefully, you’ve done your research and know where your target audience hangs out. You should also understand your customer well enough to know the style and tone of content they find valuable, entertaining, inspirational and educational. Focus on the two most popular channels first to get your brand storytelling out there.

Storytelling Methods: Showing vs Telling

As a child, your parents and teachers read storybooks to you – brightly illustrated with colorful pictures and drawings. As you grew older, you began to read stories that were text only. As an adult, you may still read novels – longer stories that are all textual as well. 

Digital storytelling should be more like your childhood experience. Why? Because consumers are impatient and have different attention spans. They’re in a hurry, on mobile devices and not inclined to read walls of text. 

The other factor in storytelling methodology is this: Recent research shows that humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than words. And, even more important, when consumers are presented with great visuals, they are 43 percent more likely to follow calls to action. 

The point? If you want to engage your audience, use visuals to tell your stories, reinforcing them with words, of course, but focus on great visuals first and foremost.

And here’s the other benefit of using visuals for your storytelling: If you have a domestic foreign-speaking audience or are moving toward audiences in other countries, then your storytelling is far easier to translate. Of course, your text, particularly in videos, is best translated by a professional service like The Word Point, but visuals are fairly universal.

Examples of Successful Storytelling

Examples abound of eCommerce companies that began as startups then grew exponentially. While they offered valuable products and services, they all had one thing in common – they told stories on all of their platforms. Here are a few that stand out:

TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie traveled to Argentina, where he witnessed firsthand the hardships of children who had no shoes. When he returned home, Blake was determined to start a company with a purpose: For every pair of shoes purchased, he would donate a pair to a child in need. As you may know, the company’s do-gooder origin story went viral, propelling a profitable global brand while inspiring other like-minded companies to bake social responsibility into their business model.  

Today, corporate social responsibility is de rigueur. Why? Most people like to feel like they’re good people. Brands like TOMS give them a way to help others while shopping for themselves.

Dollar Shave Club

Watch this video crafted for Dollar Shave Club’s launch and you’ll get the point of this company’s bawdy storytelling. Notice how the value of the product, a subscription that delivers razors to a customer’s mailbox once a month, is integrated into the company’s story. (By the way, the video cost a mere $2,500 to produce!) Today, Dollar Shave Club has expanded to all sorts of grooming products, and many companies have since emulated its subscription-based model. Also note the video’s style and tone, perfectly suited to its target audience: millennial men.


This retro fashion retailer has really nailed the idea of storytelling through its customers. ModCloth’s site, blog and social media channels are filled with happy customers sporting all the clothes and accessories they’ve purchased. Few words are necessary – it’s social proof at its finest.

So, where will you begin? Start by identifying the things about you, your team, your customers, and your products and services that can be turned into compelling stories. Weaving those things into engaging stories takes skill and creativity, and you may need help as you become a better storyteller yourself. But tell stories you must.

About the Author 
Pauline Farris speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian, having traveled the world to learn other languages and immerse herself in new cultures. Today, she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators’ Association and an active participant in the Leadership Council’s Portuguese Language Division. She is also the author of the blog Translation Client Zone.

This content was brought to you by Cin7 Inventory Management.