museums&MORE Spring 2018
Retailers should be storytellers By Zeke Jennings

Today's consumers want to know who, how and why behind products they purchase

Back when I was a newspaper reporter, about a decade ago, I had a conversation with my then-supervising editor about the future of journalism. I expressed my anxiousness about the state of the industry and wondered aloud if writing jobs were bound to dry up and disappear.

He said something I’ve never forgotten. “As long as you have the ability to find a story and tell it in a short format, there will be a job for you.”

That is exactly what today’s consumer wants — the story behind the product.

  • Where was this made?
  • Who made it?
  • Are they being treated well?
  • Is the manufacturer environmentally safe?

These are all questions retailers may hear from today’s shoppers, the younger of whom continue to become more socially conscious. Any one of those questions is just a starting point for a storytelling opportunity.

Every person and every company has a story to tell, some have more plentiful and interesting stories than others, but there is always something to share with your customers. The key is to learn your vendors and their products — if they have good marketing and sales people, you shouldn’t have to ask — and then share the information with your staff.

Product information can and should be shared visually, whether through signage or even in-store video, but you’re missing a great opportunity for good old-fashioned person-to-person storytelling by not challenging your employees to engage visitors with the info.

“The author of this children’s book is a military veteran who was injured in Iraq.”

“We just got in this new line of chocolate. It’s made using rudimentary techniques that don’t involve chemicals or machinery.”

“The co-founders of this line actually met when one was offered a ride by the other while hitchhiking.”

The first two examples are hypothetical and the third is based on the real-life story of Burt’s Bees. However, they all demonstrate ways to engage a browsing customer and create a connection between you and them as well as them and the product.

Connections make customers more enticed to buy and to come back.

Zeke Jennings is the managing editor of Museums & More. He can be reached at

Zeke Jennings

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