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Our culture has an obsession with stories. The average person consumes 34 hours of live TV per week, plus more than 6 hours of pre-recorded television. Essentially, every American occupies a full time job absorbing stories. This does not include the four hours per day, on average, that we spend on the internet. This also does not include time spent with books. This is a big deal.

In the real world, we are a storytelling culture. Why should the retail culture be any different? Stories elevate. Stories differentiate. Stories sell products. Why aren’t we telling more stories?

Well the short answer is that, for the longest time, retail wasn’t able to tell stories in an interesting or cost-effective way. There were some efforts. Personal shoppers told consumers the story about how they are somehow elevated from the average shopper, with products that complement them specifically. Coupons and sales create stories of urgency, making shoppers think themselves particularly savvy or thrifty compared with their peers. Commercials help, because they’re sandwiched in between bits of narrative. Print media helps, again because it’s squished between attractive bits of story.

For the most part, however, the retail experience remains story-and-context-less. Products are put on display, maybe with some static signage to up the emotional umph of the products. The customer selects the products they like, if they can find them. They ask questions, if they need to. Then they purchase those products, or not, and that’s the end of it.

The problem is, for the most part people can do all of that online now. That old story isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need to make some changes. We need to engage people’s love of stories in-store, in the presence of all these products. Retailers need to create new narratives, and there’s a huge assortment of new tools that they can use to do it.

Let’s look at a huge success: Jewelry commercials. In your typical jewelry spot, you get a 30 second love story that evokes strong feelings and then attaches them to a ring. What if you can show something akin to that commercial in-store, right above those rings? Better yet, what if you can help a couple create their own story and let take some mock engagement photos using an app that they can only use in your store? The technology is there. You bet that if you engage them with that story, or if you even remind them of their own story, whether they participate or not, you are going to see better numbers. The genesis of the story doesn’t matter; it just has to happen when you have the consumer’s attention.  

Retailers can use motion, touch, and the new level of interactivity technology provides to leverage more stories into their in-store experiences. More stories equal more sales. Stories equal the next level of differentiation from competitors. Start telling stories.

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