By Ross / February 13, 2017
Storytelling in an online shop – products that sell themselves
Storytelling in an online shop – products that sell themselves

The topic of the customer journey – or the unique process your customers experience when making a purchase – is currently one of the most popular and important topics in eCommerce. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because those who understand how to score major points with customers through storytelling benefit even further than achieving higher sales.

Storytelling thrives on the idea of transferring the shopping experience from the physical store as seamlessly as possible to the digital world. Within a well-designed online shop, customers not only browse through products, but experience them on a more engaging level on a journey through the store. The products are always framed with meaningful content, providing an experience that evokes emotions, sentiments and values.

Positive emotions from shopping

Storytelling in eCommerce is the result of findings in neuromarketing. This requires a small excursion into the human brain, specifically the limbic system, which is the neuron system in the brain responsible for the creation and processing of emotions. Evolution caused the limbic system to react very quickly and on a subconscious level. Rational decisions are therefore processed with second priority in the brain. When the limbic system is activated by external stimuli, essential known process that influence the decision to make a purchase are also awakened. In appealing to the impulses of the limbic system, the products in your shop sell themselves. You can highlight three main purposes of storytelling in eCommerce:

  • Inform customers in an entertaining way about products and services
  • Trigger positive emotions / promote readiness to make a purchase
  • Effectively position an interesting shop / brand

In order to realize storytelling in an online shop, of course first you need the technical basis to make this possible. The technical capabilities of HTML5, CSS, picture elements and JavaScript offer an extensive range of design possibilities. Apart from this, the shop owner should be aware of the best methods used to effectively tell a story.

Create a concept

Which products should be presented through storytelling? Is there a history, background information, video or the like which could be embedded to attach meaning to the products? In which order should the products be presented? How extensive should the shopping world be? These are all questions you should ask yourself in the brainstorming phase.

The right images and videos

The customer should get lost in the story. Therefore pure product images and videos are not enough. Enrich you shop with aesthetically appealing imagery that captivates the customer. For instance, when selling diving equipment, frame the products around high-quality images of a beautiful coral reef. Should ski equipment be in your product range, include active images on the ski slope. Let your imagination set the stage for your products, and always remember to use quality images with the ideal resolution for different devices.


Now time to discuss the path of designing the best story. Here brothers Dan and Chip Heath lend a hand, who created a “Made to Stick” guideline for telling stories. Their S.U.C.C.E.S.S. acronym perfectly depicts how to map out a captivating story:


The message relayed must be easily understood, making it effortless for any reader to remember.


Unexpected elements can draw attention and entice the customer to want to learn more.


The story should be structured so that it can be easily retold.


Create trust with the customer as a basis for credibility.


One of the most important factors is awakening emotionally-charged associations and basic needs.


Pictorial descriptions with situations that everyone associates with will invite the customer to stay for the journey.


Storytelling is not only a great way to draw customers into your store and encourage them to develop their own personal journey, but also an excellent opportunity to heighten your own brand, stand strong against competitors and increase sales. Not every product is equally suitable for presentation in a shopping world. So for instance, “Herbs of Provence” can entice more emotions than a standard skewer for cooking. But even supposedly “boring” products can be made more exciting when accompanied by how-to videos, practical examples, interviews and many other exciting elements from shopping worlds.

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