For Canadian companies selling internationally, the beauty of ecommerce is that online shoppers can be found anywhere.

  • Ninety-six per cent of Americans have made an online purchase, and the U.S. represents barely 10 per cent of the world’s Internet users.
  • About 70 per cent of adults in the UK, Japan, and Germany say they shop online, and the fastest growing ecommerce sales are in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Even buyers who choose to shop through other channels, such as a local store or outlet, comparison-shop online beforehand.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Statista, global ecommerce sales reached $1.9 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016 (a 20% rise from 2015), and are expected to top $4.5 trillion by 2021.

Marketing storytelling: the secret to building online customer relationships

Selling in an electronic world, however, makes it easy to forget there’s a human on the other end of the computer—at a time when, faced with fierce global competition for customer loyalty, it’s more important than ever to build strong relationships.

This is where storytelling in marketing comes in, a technique which, I believe, is one of the most powerful tools you can use to sell online.

Why? Because storytelling has been our way throughout history to tell people who we are and what we stand for.

It exists in every culture as a universal means to explain:

  • how things work
  • what we need to know; and
  • why something is important.

That last point about the why is critical. This is where you use the power of emotion to draw the line between simply talking about the benefits of your product or service and telling your unique business story.

And stories aren’t just for entertaining. Scientists now believe that our brains are actually hardwired to learn from stories. They say that two areas of the brain, the Broca’s and Wernickle’s areas, process language and hear things very differently depending on how you tell your story.

Let’s tell a company’s story in two different ways:

  1. When I tell my customer that their Protein Shake is made from natural ingredients, those two areas light up as the brain processes the information.
  2. But if I tell them I went to a local farm to find the freshest, most natural ingredients for the Protein Shake, walking across a dew-covered field, smelling autumn apples and feeling the cold, crisp air, the other parts of the brain linked to our emotions fire up.

People simply become more engaged through storytelling because more areas of their brains are involved in living the experience.

So how do you use a storytelling marketing strategy to craft good business stories?

Storytelling is an art and a science, and there are lots of web sites and classes to help you master the craft.

But I believe these five tips really work for those selling internationally.

1. Build trust and credibility

Once upon a time companies knew they could advertise a product or service and, if a customer tried it and liked it, that customer would likely remain loyal. There weren’t a lot of ways to search for other options. Today, we have a world of research at our fingertips. You can’t just tell people about your product or service, you have to prove that they can trust in it and you.

2. Move from B2C and B2B to H2H

We used to believe that if there was a seller, there was a buyer. But that’s no longer the case. We don’t have to take a company’s word for the quality of a product, or that we have to buy what’s being sold. Instead we depend strongly on referrals from trusted friends, colleagues and family.

We have to leave behind those traditional selling techniques and start thinking Human to Human—or even better, Heart to Heart. Once you start to think of people as people, instead of buyers, then brand storytelling becomes more natural. You are no longer simply relaying product facts but starting a conversation and, hopefully, a relationship.

3. Get to know your customers and how they like to get information

To understand what your story should say, you have to understand the people you are trying to reach. Our senses influence the way we take in information, and each of us processes experiences through our senses in different ways. Ask yourself who are your most likely customers and how do they like to get their information.

4. Structure your story like a Golden Circle

Structure your story like a Golden Circle

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle has three layers of information: why, how and what. Why is the core belief of your business, or why you built the company in the first place. It’s the inner layer, like our heart, and it speaks to those who are intuitive and instinctive.

The two outer layers connect with the brain, with how and what the business does to deliver on that core belief, appealing to the intellectual and practical.

5. Let your customers tell your story.

There is nothing more powerful than having your customers tell the story of their success, and how they achieved it with your help. Encourage an online environment that makes it easy for them to share their stories. EDC loves to celebrate their export heroes, and are proud to be a part of their success.


The bottom line is that it’s important to remember that digital communications can never replace human interaction, but it does create a unique doorway to connect with people around the world in a human-to-human way.

So what’s your story?