The Future Consumer
In last week’s blog we looked at a recently published survey suggesting millennials still see the sales associate as hugely important to the customer experience. We questioned; In the modern age of retail, where digital advancement and integrated technologies seem to take all the friction points away from the need to make a trip to the shops, why does someone come into a store? What is driving over ⅔ of millennials to claim they see the sales associate as a crucial part of the shopping experience?
We concluded that the frictionless view of shopping we have been presented over the last few years, one that involves online stores and no human interaction is not one that holds up to scrutiny. Retailers and brands alike are now discovering that there can be a deeper emotional experience at the heart of any shopper’s journey and one of the ways to really tap into that is through storytelling.
This week’s blog delves into the role storytelling can play within the retail environment and has been compiled using a presentation given by Myagi’s Head of EMEA Business Development, Richard Smith, at the 2017 Cycle Show, which you can watch below.
A story is a great way to convey information in a format that’s both condensed and emotionally engaging. Stories have been told for thousands of years, since the dawn of time, and the process of storytelling is much more complex than it may appear at first.
Humans are immersed in stories from the time we are born. Stories are not something we learn, but something that is hardwired into our brains. That is not an exaggeration: Storytelling quite literally stimulates the frontal cortex of the brain, the area that is active when we feel wonder, and stimulation in this part of the brain is when we are most happy, most comfortable and most open to new ideas. That is what makes stories so engaging to us as human beings and why creativity in the storytelling process can really engage all our emotions from fear to ecstasy.
A great story, as we all know, has a beginning, a middle and an end. This story arc, as basic as it may sounds has many elements within it; Stasis, Trigger, The Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice, Climax, Reversal and Resolution. Though we will not be delving into these in great detail (do so here) each element plays a crucial role in making the listener or reader FEEL part of the narrative, allowing them to empathise with characters and place themselves into the world being generated for them.
Why Is This Important To Retail?
Quite simply, storytelling is a great way to connect emotionally to your consumer. We already know the customer has come into store because they want an experience they can’t get online; they are craving real interaction. From what we know about the benefits of stories, ensuring you have a narrative for different aspects of the buyer’s journey (which we will go into detail on later) is a quick and relatively easy win with vast rewards.
The focus of retail store operations can often get bogged down with concepts that are:
1) Expensive to compete on
2) Fighting battles the consumer does not consider important
When we are trying to sell a product to the consumer, what we really want to do is sell them the story. ‘’Selling the dream’’ may sound a bit cliche, but it is perfectly apt in this situation. Shoppers don’t come into store wanting to hear a sales associate recite the tech-spec or product features they could find online. Don’t get me wrong, product knowledge is vastly important to the sale – but the real reason the consumer is wandering the store, looking at themselves in the changing room mirror or testing bikes on the shop floor, is because they want to experience these products and visualise a mental storyboard of how they will use it in their everyday lives.
People are no longer loyal to products. They are loyal to people. If your sales associates can create more engaging stories, better human to human interactions, and forge a stronger bond with the consumer than your competitors can, you are making a huge leap in the potential your store has to offer.
Richard Smith, Head of EMEA Business development for Myagi says, ‘’Our digital lives have taken away many of the opportunities we have to connect emotionally with people face to face – and customers see the physical store as a way to connect with like minded people’’. He continues, ‘’We’ve seen this happen in other industries – itunes and digital downloads in music came about so quickly it killed the record store, as retailers didn’t have a chance to adapt, but yet demand for tickets for live music events have grown 10x over the last 5 years, as people seek out deeper human experience and connections with like minded people.’’
Storytelling can create deeper human experiences in the retail world, and it makes retail more relevant, personable, and relatable – great for cutting through the often impersonal corporate view consumers have of big business. It is the ultimate engagement and retention tool, and in the retail environment, there’s a multitude of opportunities to work storytelling into the buyer journey.
Constructing Stories In Your Business
People will remember your stories more than they remember your sales pitch…
In Rich’s presentation he lays down 7 stories that we can tell in retail, we will break down a couple of those here;
If you are a brand, you are almost certainly going to have a brand heritage and story that internally you are very aware of. This needs to be conveyed to your sales outlets and their staff, to allow its delivery through to the consumer. Whatever brand identity you need to convey, it’s crucial this can be slotted into a narrative that will resonate with your sales representatives as well as the consumer.
If a story can resonate with a consumer in a way which enables them to see they have the same or parallel views to a brand’s core values & mission, you can often generate a customer for life.
A great example of a brand that does this well is Patagonia.
Consumers who are socially and environmentally conscious when buying will face no moral hesitation with a Patagonia product. Why is that? Because their brand and product stories are so aligned to environmental protection that if you share those values and understand the Patagonia narrative, you cannot help but feel connected to their brand. They also integrate this seamlessly into their…
The story of an actual product can also go a long way to connecting the dots in the consumer’s mind and helping them to feel more aligned to the product than they would have from just seeing it or reading about its technical attributes.
Let’s take a look at one of those previously referenced Patagonia examples, in the realm of the product story;
If sales associates are armed with stories like this around stock, the consumer can really connect themselves to the product. It is important for product stories to stay simple and grounded in the truth. It would be difficult for an associate to memorise a full narrative on every single item stocked, but endowed with some heritage information about the product, a story can be shaped that is true and compelling.
This is where the sales associate can become a character in every interaction they have with the consumer. Unlike with the product story, here, the sales associate can become a little more creative and imaginative with the narrative. Assuming your sales associates have been provided with the relevant product training, it can be easy for them to slot themselves into the role of protagonist, in a story created for the consumer.
‘’You like the look of the Range Finder Plus Backpack? Great choice! I have one myself; I used to use the Range Finder, but I noticed that the waterproofing would always wear away when I placed it down on on the rocks where I go climbing in the Lake District. This great waterproof leather underside re-enforcement they have introduced for the Plus spec has been great in reducing the wear and so far this season everything has stayed dry in my bag…’’
If your sales associates have built credibility and a rapport with the customer at this stage, they will trust the story that is being told to them about the product, which can help them find the appropriate product, but also place the product into a situation that is ‘real’ and relatable, all through conveying a simple story.
So perhaps when it comes to using stories in retail, we should change the world from storytelling – to storyselling. This encourages us to be far more thoughtful and purposeful about the stories we tell and ask to hear about.
Watch the full video or download the audio below of Rich’s presentation, which goes into greater detail on how sales associates can encourage customers to share their own stories and breaks down further story options we can utilise in retail to build loyalty and drive sales.