Today we know that customer reviews are a common, expected feature for most sites – consumers want to hear from other people like them when they make purchase decisions. And we’ve shown that customer questions and answers perform well, too – driving increased sales conversion and lowering customer service costs. More and more clients are turning to customer stories as a way to further engage the community and complement their social commerce strategy.

Stories attract new types of contributors. A comprehensive social commerce strategy should include three primary tools – reviews, Q&A, and stories to reach a complete audience. We’ve seen that only about 18% of people who submit stories will write reviews, and that only 13% of people who ask questions will also write reviews. We know that a number of people want to participate on a more conversational level about products, brands, and topics brands are associated with. For example, I may not be interested in giving an objective critique of a cruise, but I am excited about sharing the experience I had on a cruise – it’s a totally different type of contribution.NCL-Stories-Blog-Image

Norwegian Cruise Lines has done a great job of rounding up different types of contributors with the combination of Ask & Answer and Stories on its site. The Q&A enables knowledge sharing and the stories capture authentic customer experiences, maximizing the number of people that contribute.

Stories attract consumers beyond products. My last blog post discussed the variety of campaigns Stories enable, including brand and brand association campaigns. These two types of campaigns can drive contributions not just from your customers, but from those who aspire to be your customers or used to be your customers – or even people who are passionate about the topic, regardless of their customer status. For example, we’ve talked a lot about philosophy’s “Your Mom’s Philosophy” campaign, which had nothing to do with philosophy beauty products but hit on a very common theme: why Mom is great. There are many other examples cited in the “Multiple types of stories drive maximum benefits” blog post.

A variety of campaigns attract a variety of contributors. Your brand can reach new audiences by serving up contextually relevant story prompts around different themes, holidays or events, and bring a totally new audience to your site. For example, Zales encourages consumers to share stories about everything from graduation to engagement. And James Avery’s multiple stories campaigns ask contributors to share their experiences about everything from Mother’s Day to how James Avery jewelry is a part of their family’s traditions. Philosophy has continued to run a series of stories campaigns, and they saw that there was less than 1% overlap in people submitting stories across the multiple campaigns they ran.

Longer stories lead to increased, more relevant search results. Customer stories are usually 2.5 times longer than reviews, and 7 times longer than questions or answers, making their fresh, real-world content is key to driving increased, highly relevant searchers to a site. Driving search is another reason to run multiple campaigns, to tie into the type of things people are searching for over time. It’s not just about being new; it’s about being relevant.

The ultimate upside: credible advertising that appeals to all types of consumers. The obvious benefit of engaging a variety of contributors? The wealth of insights and content you gather that can drive future marketing. Different stories from different types of people will inevitably uncover new ways to market products and your brand.

With Ratings & Reviews and Ask & Answer, we saw the power of capturing customer opinions and knowledge. Stories provide an avenue for customers to share emotional, compelling, moving experiences – the hearts of consumers. And who doesn’t want to capture that?

Next week we’ll share specific examples of successful retailers’ uses of Stories. In the meantime, check out the webinar that highlights what jeweler James Avery learned from stories.

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