“Less Store, More Story”: Embracing Storytelling in Grocery eCommerce

March 22, 2017 Stefanie Neyland


George Crum: Well, that’s someone we should all be grateful was alive. In 1853, Crum, a chef in Saratoga Springs, New York, became irritated with a customer who sent his fries back—twice—claiming they were too thick and mushy. To annoy the fussy customer, Crum sliced the next batch of potatoes so thinly that once fried, they were hard as a rock an­­d couldn’t be eaten with a fork. Despite having to eat them with his hands, the customer loved the thinly-sliced fried potatoes and the potato chip was born.


Why is this important to know? It’s not, really. However, the story is a good one, and you’re now more likely to remember it than you would have if the invention of the potato chip had been presented to you in a list of boring bullet points or pie charts.


And that’s the power of good storytelling.


Stories are Everywhere

Stories permeate our lives from the moment we’re born. They make us laugh and cry; they engage us and inspire us. Stories foster friendships, build communities, and define cultures. They inform decisions and nurture the imagination. And apparently, they also sometimes make us hungry for potato chips.


No one knows better how stories start conversations and create connections than the world’s marketers. Marketers know that great stories engage people and build brand loyalty, and that the best stories stay with people long after they’ve flipped a page or turned off a screen.


[Image Credit: Infographic by OneSpot via Brian Paul Kelley]



In fact, Headstream, a UK-based content marketing agency, conducted a comprehensive research study in an effort to gain a better understanding of what brand storytelling means from a consumer's perspective. The research indicated that funny, dramatic and heart-warming tales top the list as the content of choice amongst consumers, with videos being the most popular form of delivery.


Other findings included:


  • If people love a brand story, more than half (55%) are more likely to buy the product in the future, 44% will share the story and 15% will buy straight away.
  • Great stories trigger purchase intent in 55% of people.
  • Over half of consumers (57%) enjoy stories inspired by real-life people and events.
  • Over three-quarters (79%) of UK adults think it’s a good idea for brands to tell stories.


Storytelling in Grocery

Storytelling in grocery has a long history. At first, stories were told face-to-face when a customer bought directly from a farmer. As time went on, store owners and marketers used advertising and in-store displays to engage customers. Today, the evolution of grocery eCommerce has begun to open its doors to storytelling.


The industry is growing exponentially. According to a Kantar Worldpanel report, online grocery sales grew by 15% in 2016 and topped $48 billion worldwide. The report projects that by 2025, grocery eCommerce will be 9% of the market and will be worth $150 billion worldwide.


Believe it or not, the world of grocery makes for countless storytelling opportunities. A great story ensures your image and values resonate with your audience. Learn to tell that story and you will stand apart from your competitors.


Case Study: Whole Foods leverages Storytelling in National Brand Campaign

Company values are central to any retail organization, as global marketing director for Whole Foods Market, Scott Simms, explains: “Values and value are inseparable. They comprise the very DNA of an organization and set the bar for what customers can expect from a brand.”


Back in late 2014, in an effort to convey its commitment to quality, standards, and taste—and ultimately to distinguish itself as the leader in the grocery industry—Whole Foods Market used poignant storytelling in its first national brand campaign, entitled “Values Matter.”



[Image Credit: Whole Foods Newsroom]



In the past, Whole Foods Market primarily relied on its unique store experience and organic products to stand out from the competition. However, for this campaign, the grocery store chain added stories from suppliers and employees to edify and entertain consumers who look to make conscious, educated choices when buying food for themselves and their families


“Our customers, and frankly more and more consumers in our country, are concerned where their food comes from,” Simons says. “Our content, I believe, really serves the consumer and helps the consumer make truly informed decisions when they go to decide what to put in their grocery baskets. That's where our unique content at Whole Foods Market really not only helps us drive our company, brand, and mission, but [also] really serve consumers.”




Storytelling in grocery is no longer static (e.g. on a printed page); it is dynamic and organic. With the rise in social media and eCommerce, storytelling has become a two-way street between you and your customers. You’re now creating stories in real-time with real people. Make sure your stories are genuine and true and they will connect emotionally with your customer.


Which Stories Should You Tell?

Listen to your customers and you’ll know the stories they want to hear. Then, engage them emotionally with those stories. Tell them about where their food comes from and the family that grows it. Show them videos about how to cook with it. Give them ideas. Provide an interactive community where they can tell their own stories and share their own ideas. Engage your customers through great stories and they will want to be a part of your brand.


We all have a story to tell. If consumers can relate to yours, the more likely they are to shop in your stores and be loyal to your brand.





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