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Transmedia Storytelling and Ecommerce


Telling a great story is essential to any eCommerce experience. With web content now being accessible in numerous ways on various media types, creating a story that transcends its device and platform helps to create a better overall user experience.

Henry Jenkins, an American media scholar and professor, proposed the idea of transmedia storytelling in 2006. In short, transmedia storytelling is: telling a single story (or story experience) across multiple platforms and formats, using current digital technologies.

Designers and developers can use the Transmedia Storytelling theory to help shape their design and development decisions.

User Participation

An added bonus of transmedia storytelling is that often times, users play a major role in contributing to the story that is being told. This can be seen on the web through things like product reviews, blog comments and social media shares. This type of user feedback, whether positive or negative, will become a part of the overall story being told.

What This Means for eCommerce

Developing a good story may be one of the most crucial parts of creating an eCommerce experience that users will enjoy and want to engage in again. Designers and developers become story writers for the web. Many of the design decisions are influenced by the need to tell a client’s ‘brand story’ across as many platforms as possible. The correct decisions should result in a successful checkout conversion, which is the ultimate goal of any eCommerce site.

An Everyday Example of Transmedia Storytelling

Meet Ally. She’s a hardworking young adult who enjoys hanging out with friends and trips to the beach. She heard about the brand Free People from her friend who was wearing an amazing new summer dress. She visited their website for the first time, added a few items to her cart, but didn’t complete the purchase. Later, while on Facebook, she sees a Free People ad, likes their Facebook page, and decides to venture to their site again. After some more browsing, Ally finally makes her purchase.

Ally is excited about her new outfit and sends a picture to several of her friends.. From there, her friends visit the Free People website, and some even download the mobile app. The story then continues as new users visits the site, share it with their friends, and become Free People customers.

All of these media platforms: the website, Facebook, the mobile app, and even the text messages that Ally sent, help to shape Free People’s story. Their web designers started writing a good story of their own, by making the right decisions, and their customers were then able to build upon that by supporting and sharing the brand across several media platforms.

Everyone loves a good story. Today one of the most popular places to tell a story is on the web. Many of these stories tell of a specific brand and the experience that it creates. People experience the web in a variety of ways which means they can engage a story in many ways. Although this may seem like an obvious statement, it is a concept that was not as obviously understood until the development of Jenkins’ theory of new media known as Transmedia Storytelling. Kudos to you Mr. Jenkins!


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