Selling By Storytelling

This post is sponsored by Squarespace.

By Seine Kim.

Though mass-manufactured products sold in big-box retailers are still as prevalent as ever, an interesting parallel has begun to take shape. More and more people are starting to question where their purchases are coming from and how they’re made. Simply look at the emergence of local farmers’ markets in major cities, or the continuous popularity of Etsy. There is a real desire to seek out small-batch, hand-crafted, artistic products. Some of us prefer products lovingly created by dedicated craftspeople, as opposed to those that appear at the end of a factory conveyor belt.

If you’re a small business, or a creative shop trying to market your wares online, this can often work to your advantage. Selling online is now easier than ever, with a myriad of services offering the means to do so. There are certain advantages to working with an established marketplace - you can get set up easily and quickly, and belonging to such networks can help you and your products get noticed. However, having your very own online store gives you far more control over the look, feel, and the overall shopping experience you provide to your visitors.

This is where the concept of editorialized commerce comes into play. Often, sellers seek to influence a customer emotionally, hoping they will buy out of desire rather than need. Through a store blog, product page, or the use of social media, you can tell a story about what you sell. This gives your products context and makes them more compelling to a prospective customer.

The benefits of editorialized commerce are numerous. You can offer content and commerce from one place, so customers can purchase directly from the website without being distracted. By telling stories about your products, there is an opportunity to draw attention to a collection of products that go together. The luxury retailer Net-A-Porter does a great job of this through their editorial features. Recently, they announced the launch of a print magazine that will blur the lines between commerce and content even further.

Intrigued and want to try it out for your own store? Here are some best practices for selling through storytelling:

1) Show your visitors who you are
You can do this through product pages or blog posts. Illustrate them with photos and videos of you or your studio. You can also share the process of making your goods. Squarespace Commerce offers a “Product Block” that lets you easily add product information, an image, and an “add to cart” button to any blog post, sidebar, or web page.

2) Get creative and tell a story around your product
Share what you were inspired by, why you created it, and who you hope will use the product. Again, you can use videos, images, or even music to help tell your story. With Squarespace, you can easily embed all types of multimedia on your website.

3) Use social media to your advantage
Help visitors share your products on their own social networks by adding a “Share it” button to each product page. Share new product news and stock updates on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google+. Squarespace offers fully-developed social media integrations so you can easily pull in content from, and publish to, these platforms.

4) Consider a “how-to” or “works with” approach
Create a story around how your products can be used in a non-conventional way, or how a group of your products can work together. Perhaps the repurposed wood console in your store can double as a shelving unit, or maybe those letterpress prints look even better in the custom frames.

5) Invite your customers to share their experiences
Your customers can provide valuable context to your products by showing them in action. Invite them to share photos of their purchases at home, or even specific examples of how they’ve used a particular product.

If you have any tips you’d like to share on creating a unique, editorialized e-commerce experience, please send us a tweet @altsummit!