If you’re part of a growing e-commerce business, or have grown an e-commerce business from scratch, you’ll be familiar with the challenges of wearing multiple hats, juggling dispatch and customer enquiries whilst trying to attract more customers online.
We get accustomed to doing everything as fast as possible. There’s always a new immediate task to be dealt with, and sales is a fire that needs constant stoking. Therefore, marketing is focused on the fastest return on investment. Creativity and branding get pushed aside as a luxury that you never have the time or budget to focus on.
Why do you need a brand story?
Having worked in content marketing and branding for many years, the one thing I see time and time again is that storytelling, branding and content don’t get the attention they deserve from retail brands.
In a fast-paced industry where you’re constantly racing to keep up with the likes of Amazon, short term results become your focus and long journey brand investment doesn’t fit in the priorities.
New followers, increased engagement, more traffic and newsletter subscriptions seem inconsequential when you have bills to pay.
You don’t sell products from blog posts and social media, they’re just a nice extra.
What many new e-commerce businesses fail to realise, especially in the early stages, is that their story can be their biggest asset, opening doors to exciting opportunities and acting as a magnet for loyal customers.
What’s your story?
To you, your brand story is probably the most natural thing in the world. After all, you’ve known your business since it was an idea scribbled on a napkin. You know why you do what you do, but to people discovering your brand, your story is unknown, your motives are a mystery. These two elements need bringing together into a story for people to understand your business.
Your Brand story includes:
- How you started
- What inspired you/what problem did you want to solve
- Your brand values
- Your team culture
- What makes you different
- Where you want to go
- your brand voice, tone and design
Every brand should have a good about page where they entertain and connect with customers by telling their brand story. Your brand story is bigger than this though. It’s in every choice you make as a brand. If you sell wooden toothbrushes for eco conscious consumers, you don’t put likes on pictures of the latest fuel guzzling sports cars because that’s not part of your brand story. If you are selling minimalist home accessories, you don’t have a rainbow logo or flashing graphics, because it’s not part of your calm and minimal brand story.
Therefore, it’s important that everyone who works in or with your business is just as confident telling your brand story as you are.
This about page from the FMLY store clearly introduces how the brand was started, explains their ethos and says what makes them unique. It is simple and to the point. Even without the words, the logo, layout and images being bold, modern and family themed all tell you that this is a brand for modern families.
Being a brand that has grown from a blog, The FMLY Store know the value of brand storytelling and they do it really well. Notice that at the bottom of the page there are further links to read deeper into their brand story.
Your FAQ page is for answering questions customers ask. Questions about delivery, payment or returns.
Your brand story is for all the questions they don’t ask. How environmentally conscious are you? Who works in your business? What made you want to sell the products you do?
Don’t be put off if you’re just getting started and don’t yet have the answers to all of these questions. In the beginning you don’t need to have all of the answers. But you do need to be aware of the different elements that make your brand story.
Your story is not just for your customers. A strong story proves to your partners, employees, potential investors and yourself that you’re aware of what makes your brand unique.
Storytelling to answer these questions will help you to persuade staff, partners, investors and customers to invest in your brand. It makes pitching less awkward, your social posts more interesting, and brand collaborations more exciting.
Customers feel confident about becoming your advocates when they know your story.
Your story creates a foundation for you to create marketing that revolves around your core values, goals and buyer personas.
Reaffirming where you came from and what makes you unique will help you to bring together all the pieces to attract business partnerships that really work for you, and loyal customers that truly love your products.
How to tell it
Answering questions is one thing, but how do you craft those answers into a compelling story?
One brand that uses storytelling in really compelling way is sustainable seaweed based skincare brand Haeckels.
This story from Haeckels hooks you in with a reminiscence from their brand founder about his own focus on sharing. It goes on to speak about honesty and transparency. These qualities are important to the Haeckels brand story and that is reflected in the frank and intimate style of their writing. Opening up, sharing personal insights and knowledge from the brand founder creates a strong feeling of trust with the reader.
Focus on the customer’s interests
When creating your brand story, it’s important to write for the reader, not for yourself. You may be interested and proud of how you sourced your product, but is your customer? How much do they want to know about that?
The FMLY Store brand story mentioned that they have raised over a million pounds for charity through the sale of their t shirts, and how they product products in line with their own brand ethos. This brief reference to raising money for good causes, not using sweatshops and always using eco packaging is an incredibly streamlined version of what is the main focus for this brand. This is undoubtedly something The FMLY Store could write a book on. TheFMLY Store know their customers though, and they know that for them, this one line mention is enough. If they do want to read more, there is a further link for a more focused story on that aspect of the brand.
Don’t go it alone.
It’s always useful to bring help in and get an expert eye to lend their expertise to brand and content marketing. Investing in the services of a brand marketer or copywriter to solidify your brand focus and sharpen up your story will always pay dividends.
Even if you’re a talented brand marketer and you create a strong brand story, growing takes the work of many people. You can craft a perfect story, but still at some point you have to rely on your social media person, your customer service agent or your designer to communicate as your brand. They all need an understanding of the different elements of successful storytelling. This can actually be the biggest challenge for a brand in its infancy. It’s usually too late when you realise that you need help in these areas.
Keep being yourself
You can’t just create a story and let it stay in a document. You need to live it. A half true story sitting on your about page won’t win you any loyalty. Staff know it isn’t true and customers soon see through it. To be effective, your brand story needs to be the truest representation of your business roots and aspirations. It should flow naturally as part of who you are as a business.
Align your storytelling across all your activities.
All your marketing activities should align with your brand story. Your brand story is in the tone and approach of your blog posts, the way you reply to people on social media, and the images you choose. Wherever a person encounters your brand, they should get a glimpse of your brand story.
Finally, harnessing the power of storytelling is easier than you’d imagine. All you need is to do is prioritise your story as the foundation of your brand, and then have the dedication to build it.