Last night I went a Digital Dumbo event where the founders of Refinery29, Of A Kind, and the General Manager of Gilt Man talked about the changing retail environment. 90% of the conversations circled around the open frontier of storytelling to engage an online retail audience.
They all agreed this is the way forward. But while the event started with optimism, it ended in cautionary tales and warnings of peril.
The main point: story sells, too much distracts.
When you’re known as a place to go read, people go to you to read. And after they’re done reading, getting them to buy is hard… they didn’t go to you for that. Sure, you’ll catch some folks, but you’re catching them as an afterthought. And if the products you want to sell are the main attraction, you probably don’t want people looking at them as afterthoughts; especially considering that secondary messaging and use cases only reach a small fraction of a platform’s visitors.
Video was pegged as even worse than editorial. It sucks you in, engages you, and then drops you when its done; the last thing you’re thinking is “I want to shop,” but rather, “I’m done now, thanks.” Conversion rate killer.
However, on the bright side of things, the whole panel agreed that photos are excellent ways to tell stories. They can capture the essence of a product, the world it came from, the environment in which you see yourself wearing it, and different ways to use it. Within one mere photo, if its a good one, that a user can quickly scan it, receive the message, and get motivated to move onto the products positioned right beside it… and buy them.
The last point that was made, which is a testy one if you ask people like Fred Wilson who prefer open, peer-based marketplaces to curation, was that caché still rules the roost. Brands want their stuff in Barney’s and Bergdorfs, and on Fab.com and Gilt, because it means something. It makes the brand look good, and opens up more doors for them, geting them inside the myriads of retailers who want a piece of the glitz, and the press that loves to cover it. And the way these cachéd merchants and platforms get their accredited panache is though their curatorial eyes. This, the panel claims, and I agree, will always have an edge over the click collectors like Amazon, eBay and other non-discriminatory marketplaces.
The moral of the whole story, is that stories are important. Stories sell. But it takes the right story, delivered in the right, non-distraction, value-added way. And a deft hand in creating it.