People buy from people (and brands) that they like, and connect with. They buy from brands they empathize with. Connectedness begins with empathy!

People buy from people (and brands) that they like, and connect with. They buy from brands they empathize with. Connectedness begins with empathy! Storytelling for ecommerce retailers is a skill any business owner can learn.

How do you create a feeling of brand connectedness to your ecommerce products when you and your customers are never together in person? And in particular, how do you do this in a pandemic or economic crisis?

Storytelling is the emotional transfer of information.

What kind of information? All: from opinion, to data, facts, ideas, argument, and assertations. It is done using character, plot and conclusion. How does storytelling work for selling stuff online? Clients ask this all the time. They say things like “I’ll do video but I won’t talk about the weather” or “I’ll go on video, but just this one time” or “I’ll share a blog post but only a how-to post.” 

Brand crafting and business in 2020 (for the last 5 years and for probably the next 15) is all about connectedness.If you miss that connection, there are a dozen companies selling products just like yours that customers will FEEL a relationship with that will give them more incentive to buy from than yours.

That’s really critical. There are few businesses out there that operate in a blue ocean, free from competitors.  If your competitors have a better story, if they connect more with the customer and you sell similar products, you will miss out on sales.

How understanding customer experience impacts storytelling:

Understanding the customer in a deep and meaningful way means that you can craft the story that connects with them. Understanding the customer is not your gut feeling, however, it comes through TALKING with customers – survey research, online discussion, phone calls, in-person conversations about what they need, want and desire. 

For startups going through startup boot camp, one of the very first steps is customer discovery.  Through customer discovery the startup understands what customers really need, not what they think they need; each startup is required to talk (IN PERSON) with 50-100 prospective customers! Some of the more prestigious boot camp programs (that have an entry fee of $50,000 and up to join) require 100 in person customer/prospect discussions before they can pass to the next level. Since millions of investor dollars are at stake, talking to the customer to find out their real needs is critical. Yet, this is a step most small businesses never take. It’s a hard step, for sure. But it’s from this step that the story emerges. 

Once you understand your customer, what her or his needs are, what drives them, who are they as a person, outside of work titles and hobby affiliations, you can begin to craft stories and build relationships.

Use social media for listening and connecting

We recommend a lot of listening to your customer, and you can do that via social. Social media is great for discovery and listening to what your customers want as they post what they deem valuable. Using this opportunity to connect, like, comment and repost what they are posting helps you understand what they want to see from your brand. 

Be authentic

Your brand’s message should reflect who you are as a person and organization. And authenticity is the number one reason people connect with brands. The more authentic you are, the more you create trust, and trust influences buying. There are many competing products. Why should someone buy from you? They trust you. They like you. 

Use live video

Live video has to be one of the best ways to connect with your customers,to share your story and connect with theirs (outside of Zoom calls). You should be as authentic and real as possible. It’s OK to accept the occasional flubs in your video – the more polished the video the LESS it invites trust, believe it or not! That’s not to say you should not plan, prepare, practice and use good video tools, not at all, but you should weave in as much storytelling as you can. You have no other way to directly reach a customer as an e-commerce retailer. 

Crafting your first story:

Think about what you’d like to share. Maybe it’s a brand new product. You could, with this following model, craft a great live video story to share with your audience:

Share data: from opinion, to data, facts, ideas, argument, and assertations using character, plot and conclusion.


Let’s say you’re really opinionated about how your product performs. We’ll pick a product we work with a lot with our clients, sewing patterns. A great story using an opinion might be how sewing one’s own clothes can help the global environment, by tapping into the slow sewing movement. A character is your customer. Plot is what they’re doing now (buying fast fashion and disliking how it fits), the challenge is breaking free of fast fashion and poor fit by using well-drafted sewing patterns (opinion, yours are better than others because X, Y and Z) and the conclusion is “sew these items to break free of fast fashion.”


Or, another option for your story is to convey facts. You might opine about using linen fabric and in particular vintage linen to upcycle for your sewing patterns as a perfect match. You could craft this argument because of how linen is made, it’s ecological footprint, and it’s ease of sewing all come together to create a garment that is long wearing, beautiful and easy to sew. These fact-based looks at a particular fabric that fits with the patterns you’re selling help set your videos and blogs apart from your competitors.  You are marrying what you do well (design a pattern) with something that your customer wants to learn (how to choose, care for and love sewing successfully with linen fabric, a summer staple) to create what they want: a wardrobe that fits, is ecologically friendly and looks great.

Storytelling is a WAY in which we communicate. You can communicate anything with a story. If you’re stuck about story telling, try watching a few well-known TED talks on YouTube for ideas on how great storytellers communicate often powerful, impactful data and information in a way that is compelling. 

You can tell stories with words (blogs, articles), with pictures (model photography, flat-lay, detail photos), with video (live video, short video clips.) But the way you tell stories is crucial, weaving together character, plot (with challenge) and conclusion. Your ability to craft stories was honed in childhood – you have this in you already. You were the toddler who created elaborate scenarios with your stuffed animals, the child who built Lego creations with character, plot and conclusion. Tap into your built-in storytelling instincts. Build on them with some skills and share with your audience!