eBay and the Future of Storytelling
By: Cicely Wedgeworth
On Friday, Oct. 5, eBay Marketplaces Chief Marketing Officer Richelle Parham (at center in photo) participated in the Future of StoryTelling Summit – an experimental event that turned the traditional conference upside down to further our understanding of communication in the 21st century and beyond. Here is her report:
“None of us alone knows what the future of storytelling will be, but together we can create it.” When Charles Melcher uttered those words in his opening remarks at the inaugural Future of StoryTelling (FoST) Summit last week in New York, I knew it was going to be a great day.
I’d taken the ferry from Manhattan to Snug Harbor early Friday morning, along with 250 top thinkers and practitioners from diverse fields (including former Vice President Al Gore), all with the influence to change the way stories are told in the 21st century. Our mission: Explore current evolutions and revolutions in the creation, marketing and consumption of information.
The Future of StoryTelling was founded on the belief that stories shape the meaning and momentum of everyday life. When I was first approached by publishing icon and FoST summit founder Charles Melcher to participate as a speaker, I immediately said yes. Storytelling has always been deeply embedded in eBay’s culture. The stories of our buyers, sellers and nonprofits are our stories. They create value and make transactions more human. And ultimately, they drive commerce.
I was on board. Melcher enlisted seasoned filmmaker B. Jeffrey Madoff to develop a film that would illuminate eBay’s unique perspective on storytelling and the role it plays in the future of commerce. The resulting film – Objects of Our Desire – is available online, along with the other films created for the event.
Recognizing that the Internet has seismically impacted the way individuals, organizations, and societies interact with each other, we set out to explore a few fundamental questions: How is digital technology changing the way we tell stories? How will these new stories change us and the world in which we live? How will we create and share powerful stories as technologies evolve?
The rise of ecommerce has made the buying and selling of products and merchandise easier than ever, but the explosion of choices in an increasingly crowded marketplace poses an immense challenge. Customers have a lot of distractions – they have the TV on, a tablet on their lap, a phone at their side—and we’re all trying to capture their attention in different ways. It’s important to build strong contact strategies. Stories are essential for establishing those contacts.
As you look at the history of eBay’s millions of sellers and buyers, and look at the relationships they build with each other, you start to see stories emerge. And from those stories we are able to gain tremendous insights into how the broader community of online shoppers define and express themselves in the marketplace.
Stories also create value. If you take a simple object and build a story around it, the value increases exponentially. People shop with their heads and their hearts, and they will pay for an object based on how much it means to them.
The art of storytelling will never die, but the ways in which we tell stories is evolving just as the commerce landscape evolves. In this period of information and data deluge, we need to find the white space of the digital age, and stand out by telling great stories.
— Richelle Parham
Photo courtesy of leesean via Flickr