One thing is already clear: e-commerce is now normal. When e-commerce was first established, many were sceptical about the uptake, mainly due to factors of trust and security. But now, e-ecommerce is universally accepted and rather normal, the next frontier for e-commerce is being explored. I think, a powerful new wave of e-commerce will be based on story-telling, to motivate people and increase the probability of buying things.

The emerging trend for e-commerce or selling things online is now social e-commerce, meaning the leveraging of social networks to sell things. The theory is obvious, if your friend buys or expresses interest in something, the chances of you doing the same is increased. That is why there are now a plethora of social apps like Pinterest and Svpply, that aim to get people to pin, tag, follow then eventually buy things.

Another emerging trend extends the social commerce model and dives deeper into the story behind the product. Of course, this doesn’t and can’t apply to all types of products. I mean, who really wants to know the story of how a tissue box or a hard drive came to exist?  However the types of products, story-telling works for are things which have been designed and created by creative people, or businesses with a social cause. I know corporate social responsibility has been around for a long time already, but I think that stories are becoming increasingly intertwined with online sales.

What do I mean by story-telling? I mean, giving potential buyers insight into how a product came to be. From how a designer: thought of the idea, how the idea progressed from idea to prototype, where the materials came from, the techniques used to make the product, the people who benefit from the process of making it. The reason is because it helps customers connect with the product on a deeper level and relate to the sellers in a unique way. It no longer just become something people use and throw away, but something people feel has made a difference to someone, especially in the case of non-profit or social cause products. It also helps a product to stand out from the crowd of similar products. I don’t know what the actual impact of story-telling is, but I believe it is high.

Here are some notable examples of e-commerce stores using stories to sell their products:

Overseas examples

  1. Charitygiftmarket.comAn Amazon for Charities, so all products benefit a good cause.   The stories are connected to the products, for example, a necklace is made by a woman rescued from human trafficking and it provides her with employment.
  1. Fab.com – A daily flash sales site that offers up to 70% off retail from trendy designers. There is a short blurb about the seller that aims to inspire buyers.
  1. Etsy.comA sales platform for designers, artists and crafts people to sell their handcrafted products. The story usually tells of the material used, how it was made and the idea behind it.
  1. Ahalife.com – A curated e-commerce platform for designers. The story tells of who the designer is, where they are from and what they believe in.
  1. Quirky.com – A site that allows people to submit an idea for a product, crowd-source feedback and create then sell the product. The story is really in the process.

Now that China has no shortage of online-sellers, some are also trying to find a point of differentiation through selling the story with the product.

 Chinese examples

  1. Wowsai.com – basically a China-based Etsy.com clone
  1. Pinkoi.com – An Etsy-like site from Taiwan

The trend is clear that such online sites are taking advantage of telling the story about the product, the creator and the process, a trend I like.

Are there any other good examples you know of?