5 Tips for Better Storytelling on Your E-commerce Website
We talk a lot about creating a remarkable shopping experience, but how do you get actually get started? How should you think about your content, design, and tech in order to tell a standout story?
Sanity co-founder and CTO Simen Svale recently spoke with Eli Gancena and Kerrin Meek from Half Helix and We Make Websites, two agencies that create e-commerce sites for some of the world’s most successful brands. Eli and Kerrin shared best practices and helpful tips.
Check them out below, or watch the full webinar:
Eli and Kerrin see this mistake all the time: a client is laser-focused on selling their product rather than telling a story. But potential buyers respond better to a narrative than to a sales pitch. Instead of putting the sale first, think about how to communicate who you are and what you offer, weaving visuals and copy into a narrative that can be referenced at every stage of the customer journey.
For example, Eli’s agency Half Helix works with shoe brand Rothy’s. Eli says Rothy’s aims to communicate their commitment to sustainability while showcasing the premium materials that make up their products. But they also want to replicate the in-store shopping experience by translating it into a digital space. To tell stories that drive sales, it’s important for Rothy’s to have the agility and freedom to tell those various stories in the form of pages, components, color wheels, full-page spreads, and so on.
If you want to communicate a story in multiple places on your website, you'll build flexibility into content design. Instead of focusing on what you want to put on a specific page, think about your content in terms of components—which can be used and reused in different contexts, across different pages.
For instance, a home page might include a hero, product carousel, technology section, and so on. Instead of treating the page like a hard, fixed template, divide the page up into individual components. This saves time and money. Instead of scrapping a page that isn’t reaching customers, you can experiment with components as necessary: moving the product carousel, adding a CTA, playing with colors, and so on.
When clients go to Eli and Kerrin with their development goals, they often want everything all at once. They have a vision for the site, and their expectation is that this vision will emerge fully-formed on the internet. While that desire is understandable, it’s not quite realistic. Instead of trying to put everything on the site at once, it’s a lot easier to start by building a bare-bones website and iterating. That way, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you decide to make a change.
Component-driven thinking puts you in a good position to iterate. Once you start playing with components, you can plug these pieces into different places across the site. This is a good way to conserve resources and protect your time. You can reuse components that perform well and test out components as you scale.
Teams often get in each other’s way as they work to stand up a website. When content has to wait for developers, and when a few representatives from each team act as gatekeepers, the content itself suffers. Content writers lack the agility to respond to changes in the market by spinning up new content or testing components. Collaboration is all about putting out fires rather than optimizing content.
It shouldn’t be that way. Instead, content should drive collaboration. Both Eli and Kerrin say that a structured content approach lends itself best to this dynamic. Structured content provides a common language that design, dev, and content teams can understand. It’s a Rosetta Stone that sets teams up to cohere rather than clash. Content teams don’t have to wait for development resources, so everyone gets to own a piece of the process. With a platform like Sanity Studio, each user has full control over the content, empowering them with the tools they need to test and deploy content on their own terms.
Users want to have a varied, rich experience. When developers are the only ones optimizing the site, they’re not experimenting with content; that’s not their area of expertise. It makes much more sense to have content creators and marketers own more of the performance and customization of the site.
New website designers often feel overwhelmed. They have big goals and a large pool of resources, which makes it impossible to decide how much to spend on what.
Analytics can help take the pressure off. Both market-wide and industry-specific metrics can help you figure out how to optimize spend on various components. Again, this is where component-specific thinking really helps. Too often, Eli and Kerrin see their clients spending too much on a page only to find that the page isn’t performing well—and that they have no resources left to make changes.
Eli likes to tie analytics to specific components so that clients can see how different versions of, say, the homepage hero performed. Analytics help answer critical questions like: What can you better communicate? How can you improve the UX through content or features that drive conversion rates? Armed with answers, you can tweak different product pages, brand storylines, and journeys to find the best approach.
Thinking about the site like Lego bricks, with metrics tied to each brick, enables you to approach development strategically and avoid getting overwhelmed.
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