Shopping online lacks some of the intimacy that you might find with shopping in your favorite brick and mortar stores. There’s no friendly hello, no face-to-face conversation. In just a couple of clicks, customers can be in, out and checked out. It’s not the most personable experience.
But there is a reason customers shop from you. You may have low prices, but probably not the lowest. Your product line can be wide and varied, but it’s likely that someone else has a bigger collection. So why are buyers loyal to you?
They’re loyal for the same reason people will buy iPads, even when there are comparable, less pricey tablets on the market. They’re buying the brand. They buy into the story, and the feeling they get from using Apple products. You can (and maybe already do) encourage customers to buy from your brand, too. Customers want a connection to the products they spend money on. This amplifies when selling online, as it’s impersonal in nature – which means you have greater opportunity to capitalize on the power of storytelling within your business. Build a brand story, either around the company itself, or some of your products. Don’t just use your stories though – use your customers, too.
Lemon Stand growth hacking and conversion optimization software wrote a blog post about this, and highlighted FitBit as a prime example of a brand that relies on the customer story to drive sales and buyer loyalty. When you hear “fitness tracker,” you likely think FitBit. Why? There are other options out there – some less expensive, some more. So how did FitBit become synonymous with fitness tracker? Because they let their customers do the talking.
FitBit could have lead with the data and research benefits of fitness tracking apps…which I don’t even want to expand upon, because it’s boring. Yeah, monitoring your calorie deficit and providing analysis of how well you sleep is cool…so what? That’s what they all do. Instead of using the hardware to drive sales, FitBit put their customers’ own success at the forefront of their branding.
Blog posts feature success stories from endearing, real-life fitness heroes like Kodi, who shed 350 pounds (along with profound risk of disease) and became a marathon runner – all with his FitBit (and a lot of perseverance, of course). Kodi shared his journey with the FitBit, and took baby steps in his health until he was pounding pavement like a champ (he now averages 20,000 steps a day. That’s 10 miles). FitBit encourages other users to share their success stories, because they “love to share the news” of customers surpassing goals. They have been sharing about one customer story each month for the past year.
Why do customer stories work so well? Because it’s not sales-y. I think we can all agree on how uncomfortable the “used car salesman” shtick is. Nobody likes feeling pressured, and even if they buy something, they will not be returning. Letting your customers lead the narrative is a more personal, less promotional method of driving sales.
Additionally, it helps future buyers put themselves in the shoes of your customer, and envision themselves with your product. If “real” people that aren’t profiting from sharing their story benefit from using a product, consumers will buy in. This is purely speculation, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that a good chunk of FitBit employees are, well, fit. Many of the buyers are probably interested in fitness as well, but for people getting into exercise, it can be overwhelming, and not to mention intimidating if the entire website were splashed with chiseled models smiling with water bottles. Reading about a person just like them who overcame obstacles and achieved goals is far more persuasive than an airbrushed “after” picture. Consumers looking at your site are at the beginning of their buying journey. They are the “before,” not the “after.” Share the story of a customer who was once there too.
To do this for your own ecommerce stores, reach out to current customers and ask them if they’d be willing to share their experience. You have to frame this as something really cool for them – which it can be, but it also takes some work and time on their end. It has to feel special – present it as an opportunity to be a brand ambassador, or customer of the month (however you want to frame it). Find your rock star customers using one or more of these methods.
- If you have an email list, send out a message (maybe on its own and not buried in a newsletter) letting customers know you’d love to feature them.
- Go through old reviews on your website, sales channels or social media accounts. Find people who left really stellar reviews, and seem sold out for your company. Reach out to them.
- Post about the opportunity on your social media channels. Have cool graphics ready to catch their attention (we swear by Canva for creating fun social media images).
Once you have a customer story, you need to share it everywhere. Make sure it “lives” somewhere (like a blog, or a page on your website). Put it on social media, in your newsletter, and encourage the featured customer to share it as well. If you made the experience seamless, easy and fun for them, they will happily post it to their social networks.
Shake up your branding routine and try leading with your customers’ experiences. They will enjoy time in the spotlight, which can help them feel an even deeper bond with your company (86% of consumers feel more loyal to a brand after engagement, FYI). If they are sold out for your ecommerce business, new buyers will follow suit. Your wallet will appreciate it.