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Stories: The Leading Mobile Format

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Stories: The Leading Mobile Format

You’ve probably noticed by now that we’re pretty into the Story format. Not only is it in our name, but Stories are at the core of everything we create and offer. We’ve seen firsthand how dozens of industry-leading brands have achieved their engagement goals with the power of Stories, cultivating loyal audiences, and offering a user-centric experience that keeps their customers coming back for more. But if you’re new to Stories (or just curious about the specifics) you can read up below on why Stories are the leading mobile format, and how they can work for you.

What is a Story Anyway?

The Story format originally began as a social media phenomenon created by Snapchat, then quickly adopted by Instagram as a way to allow users to create quick, casual supplements to their main feed in the form of temporary video or image content. Users could create a Story out of pictures or videos on their phone, embellish them with stickers, filters, and animations, and make them available to their followers either just for 24 hours (after which they would disappear from view) or as part of a Story group (sort of like a highlight reel) where their audience could find them later to rewatch.

Blue background with four mobile screens showing different Stories. The first shows a woman in sportswear and there is a product tag for the tennis skirt she is wearing. The second shows a group of friends laughing and there is a "Discover now" button at the bottom. The third shows a woman in a summer dress, there is a "Shop Now" CTA at the bottom and a promo code. The last Story shows a man wearing sunglasses and there are thumbs up and thumbs down emojis asking the user's opinion.
What is a Story?

As social media made the cultural shift from “some online thing that teenagers care about” to one of the primary methods of personal and professional communication for millions of people worldwide, the Story format felt like a breath of fresh air to many.

Rather than the highly curated, filtered, polish of what users saw on the main feed of content from friends, family, celebrities, politicians, and brands, Stories were like a backstage peek; ephemeral, enticing, and highly entertaining.

Today, the Story format goes far beyond social media and has become an indispensable part of the digital ecosystem and a key communication method for individuals, organizations, and brands. Stories provide an opportunity for companies to create full-screen, interactive, irresistible experiences in their apps and on their websites.

What Makes Stories so Powerful?

Mobile-native

Stories are more than mobile-native, they’re actually the only content format designed to be both created and consumed via mobile devices.

Unlike other formats, Stories don’t need to be reformatted for mobile viewing– they’re already a perfect fit.

Purple background, a web screen and two mobile screens showing web and app Stories. Two of them showcase a limited-time discount for a jacket and there is a countdown sticker. The other in-app Story displays a jacket with a 50% discounted price.
Web and app Stories

But the benefits of using a mobile-native content format go far beyond the tech specs. Stories aren’t just a good fit for mobile devices, they’re also ideally suited to the needs and expectations of modern internet consumers. Stories remove distractions with full-screen, immersive visuals, allow users to advance or pause with a single tap to eliminate pacing frustrations, and, as an inherently segmented format, Stories help break down even complex concepts and information into bite-sized pieces that can be understood by users in seconds.

Intuitive

Just as touch screens are simple and intuitive to use, so are Stories! While some users may be familiar with the Story format from social media, Stories are accessible to audiences at any level of digital experience. With almost no learning curve for most users, Stories offer instant access to what consumers want most: a virtually endless buffet of entertainment, information, and discovery at a lightning-fast pace, always on tap.

A group of four friends looking at their mobile phones happily.
Group of friends

In a recent study by Forrester, participants were given the opportunity to view a salmon recipe both as a scrollable article and in Story format to ascertain their preferences. Forrester reported that “84% of survey respondents felt the ease of navigating tappable Stories met or exceeded their expectations” and also noted that “most study participants were not familiar with this motion or engagement method (tappable Stories) in a mobile web context” but that users adjusted “quickly” to the “short learning curve” of Story navigation.

Interactive

The interactive capabilities within the Story format have a wide range of benefits for both consumers and publishers, but the main two are giving users more control over their experience, and giving marketers valuable information. Let’s take a look at the user benefits first.

Three mobile screens displaying in-app and Web Stories. The first one shows a man in a suit and there is a "Shop Now! sticker along with different emojis. The second shows a woman in a dress, there is a sticker with a promo code and a timer that shows when the summer campaign ends. The third shows a woman wearing sunglasses, there is a sticker to leave comments and there are thumbs up and thumbs down emojis to express opinion.
Interactive Stories

Stories Put Users in the Driver’s Seat

Mobile users love the convenience of having access to content on their phones but are generally reluctant to scroll making text-heavy content and large product catalogs frustrating and difficult to navigate.

Stories offer a simpler and more exciting way to navigate retail offerings, content libraries, and more. Users can advance forward or pause as needed with just a tap, letting them absorb information at their own pace, reducing frustration and increasing accessibility. In fact, Forrester Consulting found that 64% of users preferred a tappable Story over its scrolling article equivalent not just in metrics of appeal, but in usability as well.

Another advantage of interactive Stories is their ability to guide users to desired actions with tappable, swipeable CTA’s that streamline checkouts, sign-ups, and more. With shoppable videos and direct link Stories, you can take advantage of micro-moments of desire and help users buy what interests them the moment it captures their attention.

Open a Dialogue for Actionable Insights

Interactive Story stickers let you take the pulse of your users on any topic, at any time so you’re never in the dark about what your users are thinking or feeling. Emoji sliders, quizzes, and polls make it easy for users to quickly answer questions like “Who wore it better?” “Which new feature are you most looking forward to?” or “How excited are you for our Spring collection?” Or use open-ended questions to gather elusive qualitative feedback, that will help you understand your customers better than ever before.

Four mobile screens displaying in-app Stories with interactive stickers. The first Story shows a woman and the question asks "How many stars do you think our summer collection deserves?". The second Story displays the Eiffel Tower and there is a sticker that asks "Where would you like our next affordable destination to be?".  There are two options: Paris or Milan. The third Story shows a microphone and the question asks "On which topics would you like to see more articles?" Answers to the poll are "Politics", "Sports" and "Arts & Culture". The last Story asks "What do you think about the new wallet feature?" and the users can leave their comments via the sticker.
Interactive Story stickers

In-app Story stickers are among the best vehicles for audience engagement and have much higher response rates than email campaigns, notifications, or in-app messaging making them perfect for gathering feedback on user preferences, needs, and expectations. You can even use our audience builder feature to generate new audience segments based on responses to stickers!

Authentic

The Story format’s origins in the social media landscape mean that it retains a sense of spontaneity and authenticity which is helpful for creating strong relationships between publishers and viewers. With fun elements like filters, backgrounds, stickers, and animations, Stories can create opportunities for humor and personal connections.

This is an animated GIF that shows an in-app Story displaying a man walking his Husky. User can shop what the man is wearing while they are watching the Story and go to checkout.
In-Story checkout

Stories are able to cut through the noise of highly curated social media feeds by offering a contrasting message format that feels less like brand communications, and more like a social exchange. Especially when combined with personalization based on user properties, Stories can capture and maintain the attention of individual shoppers or browsers to nurture them into loyal customers.

How Stories Can Level-Up Brand Communications

With Stories, brands can build captivating personalized communication with consumers through a blank canvas for rich, interactive, customized content sharing.

Meet User Expectations

Long gone are the days when optimizing for mobile consumption could be an afterthought. Millennials, Gen Z, and younger audiences rely on mobile experiences for everything from content to shopping to communication so it’s more important than ever to offer mobile-native formats like Stories. According to Statista, 61% of mobile users aged 13-34 consume short video content (less than one minute) multiple times a day showing a clear preference for the Story format.

Per The Influencer Marketing Factor, Gen Z audiences “expect apps and Influencers to already know what they’re looking for,” sometimes even before they know themselves since 97% of the same demographic cited social media as their top source of shopping inspiration. The interactive elements of Stories discussed earlier are an excellent strategy for gathering zero-party data to help brands understand those needs and expectations, and those seem needs can be met by delivering personalized Story experiences. In other words, Stories can not only help you understand your Gen Z users but captivate them as well.

The visual displays two young women looking at a mobile phone happily. They both carry shopping bags.
Gen Z Shopping

Gen Z, of course, is leading the way in consumer trends, and understanding their needs can help brands see what their audience will demand in the future. Since 68% of Gen Z customers will read or watch at least three reviews before making a first-time purchase, there’s a clear opportunity for making social proof easily available both online and in-store. Now imagine the power of providing that proof in a consumer-friendly, personalizable format like Stories.

As shopping habits continue to evolve, mobile users have incredibly high expectations for retail interfaces that meet their needs. Storyly offers the ability to meet those expectations with confidence, no matter how quickly they change.

Empower Users with Familiarity

Stories have been in use for nearly a decade, meaning that many users are already familiar with them, and can quickly and easily navigate Story groups to find the content or products they’re looking for. Especially in shopping apps, where helping users overcome decision fatigue can be key to increasing conversions, Stories allow users to feel confident in the app and in their decisions.

The mobile screens display Wrapped Stories in an app and a website. The first one is a shopping app which shows that the user's favorite item in 2022 was coffee beans. The second one is a fitness website that displays that the user rode their bike 235 kilometers for 564 minutes in 2022.
Wrapped Stories

And it turns out that when users can get immediate value from a brand or platform’s content, they consume a LOT of it. In 2022, users spent 2.5 billion seconds watching Storyly Stories alone; that’s nearly 80 years of viewing time just on our clients’ apps and websites, not their social media. Essentially, users want to get value from the apps they download and the websites they visit, and when they’re given a simple and streamlined path to do so, engagement soars.

Deepen Brand Loyalty

Users love that Stories feel authentic, intimate, and genuine; like getting a behind-the-scenes tour of their favorite brands, creators, and influencers. Especially when combined with personalization features that speak to users' individual needs and preferences, Stories are an ideal strategy for escalating brand relationships lightning fast.

The visual shows three mobile screens displaying personalized in-app Stories. The first Story reminds Jeff that he has forgotten a sneaker in his shopping cart. The second Story offers a user extra 30% discount for his birthday. The last Story offers the user a special promo-code on their second order.
Personalized Stories

According to the Next in Personalization 2021 Report by McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Storyly’s own research found that companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than those that don’t. In short, companies that invest in offering a personalized experience for their users can expect to see solid returns in terms of customer loyalty and lifetime value.

It’s also important for marketers to understand the Gen Z mindset when it comes to brand relationships. The Influencer Marketing Factory reports that 40% of Gen Z shoppers follow brands they like on social media, while Forrester Research shows that a third of the same demographic unfollows, hides, or blocks brands at least weekly. The key to captivating this eager-to-follow but quick-to-cancel user base is authenticity. As Mike Proulx commented on his Forrester research, “Members of Gen Z (born after 1997) are especially demanding of the truth…(they’re) skeptical to trust relationships until they are assured of a shared value system between them and the brands they consider.” Stories provide an ideal platform for showing users who you are and what you stand for so that they can decide if they stand with you too.

The Future of Stories

According to Statista, nearly 60% of global web traffic came from mobile devices, and World Advertising Research Center (WARC) predicts that 72% of users will access the internet exclusively through mobile devices by 2025. It’s time to go beyond optimizing existing content, and instead, create experiences that take advantage of the full-screen, interactive, spontaneous nature of the mobile ecosystem. As the first and most captivating mobile-native content format, Stories are an indispensable channel in the future of brand communications.

Though the future of internet consumption is decidedly mobile, it’s important to note that designing for a mobile-first digital landscape needs to also include the ways in which mobile expectations extend to web experiences, as well as in-person brand interactions. Smart marketers understand that the demand for experiences that are intuitive, interactive, accessible, and authentic, can be met with omnichannel marketing strategies that take full advantage of technological capabilities. The success of hybrid digital and brick-and-mortar retail models such as shopping online for curbside pickup or trying products in-store to purchase later online offers a glimpse into the future utility of a mobile-first mindset.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deniz Tasyürek

Content & Brand Marketing Strategist at Storyly. Writes about mobile user behavior, user engagement, and retention. A genuine Potterhead. She also loves succulents, cats, and aerial yoga.

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