How to leverage storytelling in the retail environment


Once upon a time, retailers left their merchandise to sell itself without much thought of the customer experience. Now, retail stores are discovering the power of storytelling and using key narrative strategies to pull their patrons into the tale. Find out why your retail store should make the most out of this trending brand-building strategy.

Why it's important
Managing a customer's perception of your store not only makes the retail outlet look good, but it helps accomplish the main goal of any business: making the sale. If the storyline ends at the checkout line, pulling a customer in as a character will help get them there. As humans, we need something with which to identify. Retailers can positively engage the customer in the experience with the help of a story.

Depending on the characters and narrators of a retail tale, the same situation can tell two completely different stories. Take empty shelves for example. PRWeek contributor Steve Barrett described his experience of walking into a retail store and seeing vacant spaces lining the walls of the shop. The logical conclusion was that the store was running low on product, but why did that happen? This particular store hosted employees happily restocking the shelves, chatting with one another and smiling as they completed the task, putting a contagious energy in the air. For Barrett, the scenario told a story of a thriving business that had products flying off the shelves, and he wanted to be a part of it. However, had the store contained outdated items tossed about on bare racks and shelving units with no employee in sight, the scenario would have painted a dreary picture of a shop going out of business.

How to achieve storytelling
One of the most integral parts of a retail story is the setting, according Nikki Baird of Retail System Research. The environment, from the dressing room to the clothes racks, must coordinate with the branding strategy. For example, a store selling youth clothing would probably want to generate a fun, child-like atmosphere, so black-painted walls and dim lighting wouldn't create a successful setting for this particular brand.

Just like in Barrett's experience with the determined and happy employees, retailers can use their staff as characters in the plot. From their uniforms to how they greet customers, employees can be a useful tool in building an effective setting, even acting as narrators and leading patrons through the storyline. Additionally, retail display fixtures add to more than just the visual piece of a tale. Arranging them so customers can easily maneuvers through the store smoothly welcomes patrons into the narrative.

The music you play in the store can really set the tone for the customer experience. Slower, softer music will create a relaxing setting for those perusing the shelves of your shop. For a fast-paced, electric atmosphere, playing today's hits or any upbeat tunes will put pep in the step of your customers.

What's your retail story? Use these tips to make your customers the star of the show.


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