Retail storytelling – product presentation with a story behind it

We humans love good stories. In times gone by, tales told around the campfire served to entertain us as well as to impart knowledge. Little has changed in this regard to this day. Stories still stimulate our imagination and create images that linger in our minds. And anyone who knows an exciting story is happy to tell it to others. That‘s why profitable use can be made of storytelling as a sales argument, to build the image of the company, and to train staff.

Additional information gives meaning to the goods

Arranging goods neatly on a shelf is no longer enough to generate good sales figures. The megatrend of “neo-ecology” is making its mark and customers want to know how, where and by whom the product was made. This can be explained by a short text or short film that is retrieved by means of a QR code. The story should be chosen so that the uniqueness, the handling and the “must have” character of the product is suitably presented to the target group. However, despite all the technical possibilities, the foundation of the specialised retail trade must not be neglected: the sales pitch. Why? Because the enthusiasm of well-trained employees who are passionate about the products they are selling is the best sales argument. People who come to a specialist shop want to be offered an experience that they just can’t get in an online shop. And that includes personal advice, an individual sales experience, passion and service. The retail firm Manufactum, for example, lets its customers test products at workshops, get to know manufacturers and tell others of their experience of the products. An appealing description, a short film showing how they were manufactured or a sequence of pictures showing the craftsman at work add an emotional charge to the products.

Visual stories capture customers’ hearts

The sober stringing together of facts and the weighing up of the pros and cons of various items doesn’t create an emotional shopping experience and doesn’t anchor the product in people’s subconscious. Every staging of retail goods needs a script, and the merchandise is just part of the story. It doesn’t matter whether the focus is on the function of the products or whether the customer is seduced to dream, marvel or smile. The main thing is that the story catches the shopper’s attention. The shop window design could, for example, tell the story of a fantastic underwater world. Items in shades of blue and turquoise – such as pens, blank books, hole punches, magazine files, folders, ribbons, etc., together with jellyfish, fish and coral – could be the main characters in such a presentation. The children would receive the craft instructions for the jellyfish and fish via QR code on the shop window and the required materials would be available for purchase in pre-packed craft bags (in the shop or in the online shop).

Or you could create the story of how a high-quality fountain pen accompanies the customer through life or is always at hand whenever they sign important documents: their first employment contract, their business start-up, their marriage certificate or some legal contract. The story doesn’t focus on the purchase of a writing instrument, but tells the story of a loyal friend who is always there when key life events occur.

The opportunities and possibilities of authentic storytelling shouldn’t be underestimated. Because every decision, every purchase is accompanied by emotions. Retailers who package their goods and company (with corporate storytelling) in the right story will captivate their customers and bind them to them in the long term. All considerations need to begin with the customer. This raises the question of how retailers should weave the story around their products so that their customers get an experience that they can’t get at home on the sofa.

Finding or coming up with stories: how to track down the next story


  • What is the story that makes your customers want to come to your shop and buy?
  • What emotions do you want to arouse in your customers? What story can do that?
  • Which occasion is suitable as a hook you can use to make products the protagonists of a story?
  • Which products themselves have a story waiting to be told by you?
  • What stories have your customers told that you can tell or embellish in your shop?

About the author

Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.

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