Retailers need to tell stories to attract Millennials – and get their customers involved, Headstream reports

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New research has revealed that retailers looking to get UK customers involved and engaged online need to focus more on storytelling than on reviews, shopping tips and tweets.

When asked what type of online content they most want to see from retail brands, the most popular response overall, unsurprisingly, was discounts and special offers – 67% of UK adults will always love a bargain.

However, nearly half of customers (41%) want humorous, dramatic or heart-warming stories, making it the second most-popular choice overall. Perhaps most importantly, millennial groups were the most likely to want to see storytelling content (49% of both 18-24 and 25-34-year-olds).

It found that all consumers, and especially these key younger audiences, want stories more than they want reviews & ratings, hints & tips or news delivered via social media updates.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults was commissioned by content marketing agency Headstream. Importantly, it also found that shoppers are just as likely to want to see content produced by their peers than material made by the brand itself: 42% prefer so-called ‘user generated content’ (UGC) while 58% want to see content created directly by retailers.

And they want those stories to be about their peers as well: two-thirds (66%) of consumers prefer content to be about regular people rather than celebrities or the company’s CEO or founder. In addition, 38 % specifically want to hear and read about a brand’s customers.

Steve Sponder, managing director of Headstream, said: “Some retailers are beginning to grasp just how important storytelling can be, but there’s a lot more that they can do to engage both current and future customers. The John Lewis Christmas ad is usually an example of brand storytelling in action, but great stories are more than just TV advertising: they can be the basis of an entire content marketing strategy.

“This research suggests that one of the key areas retailers need to explore further is ‘advocacy content’ – getting their customers themselves to tell the stories of why and how they shopped at that particular store, why it’s worked so well for them and why they’d buy there again.

“With so much research showing the growing pressure on the high street, creating truly engaging and emotional stories could be the best way for retailers to get younger people excited about the idea of physically shopping again.”

As for the type of stories people want to see and hear, video was the most desired method, with photos/images second and written articles third. The popularity of video has been fuelled in part by the increase in smartphone use and social networks that enable consumers to easily share clips and footage.

Sponder said: “Millennials have been brought up on stories – food, drink and consumer goods brands that have created whole narratives around their products that can be enjoyed and shared online.  Retailers need to develop and craft their own stories if they want to remain visible and relevant to those key demographics.

“Millennials are also far more willing to create their own content, particularly on video, and retailers need to make the most of that inclination. Getting young shoppers involved in making their own content could be another great way to engage them and better understand their thinking, their approach to purchase and their customer journey.”