The power of a story is to make connections. While it can entertain and convey information, it can also captivate and inspire.
This is the core motivation behind the Storylines tour and our documentary on “The New Art of Storytelling” — to explore the personal connections that all kinds of businesses have built or are trying to build with their customers, and how they’ve tapped fresh new ways to reach audiences all over the world.
Gathering in the heart of Paris on May 25, attendees learned how partners and customers like Diptyque, Google, Vaimo, Fredericia, AKQA, Commerce Layer, Shell Energy, Twilio Segment, and Vercel are pulling the threads of their stories together in the most consistent, compelling, and memorable ways.
What many of these parties have in common is that they’ve successfully built on the heritage of a brand to propel the digital experience. This means identifying the ethos of a brand, not only in the content, but how it delivers that content.
Moving from a content strategy to content as a strategy
“If content is king, then context is god,”
As Sébastian Pagès, Executive Director, Global Digital and Ecommerce at Diptyque, succinctly pointed out. And context is critical not just for the content organizations deliver to their customers, but also for creating meaningful change in an organization itself.
Diptyque’s heritage is one of classic luxury as well as pioneering the unexpected. For example, being the first to market gender-neutral perfume and creating the first-ever concept store, while still operating out of the original maison in the historic heart of Paris. But as the business grows, how do you maintain that ethos while expanding in new markets such as Tokyo and New York?
It requires a profound appreciation of your customers and cultures in each market. No two are exactly the same. Sébastian cites the example of how perfume is applied in Western culture — directly onto the skin — and how it’s applied in Japan: the user sprays it into the air and passes through a cloud of fragrance.
This rule forms the basis for a steady expansion of their operations globally; building a team with both creative and technical skills that understands the needs of their customers and what they value about their products. With this in mind, Diptyque is working with Vaimo to roll out a global refresh of their websites and ecommerce platforms that continues their unique sensibilities of art and luxury — while also improving conversion rates.
Sébastian also discussed the importance of stakeholder engagement in their digital transformation: “We needed to transform the mindset of the company from a physical store first to mobile-first,” where workshops and other training initiatives were held to help executives and managers to understand and support the new direction of travel.
Brands will endure the test of time by going composable
There was more than one luxury brand with an illustrious heritage at Storyline Paris. Established in 1911 in Denmark, Fredericia Furniture is a family-owned design company with an absolutely top-tier portfolio of original modern home furniture. Check out their Ox Chair or Spanish Chair — both examples of an array of pieces handbuilt in small batches which are as functional and sustainable as they are stylish and desirable.
Working closely with AKQA and Commerce Layer, the company is in the process of building out new digital experiences — providing new levels of versatility and customization for their customers while also rejuvenating the commercial potential of a three-generation family business.
Nicolas Le Pallec, Executive Technology Director Europe at AKQA, explained the beginning of his agency’s collaboration with Fredericia Furniture. Commenting on the mismatch between this amazing brand and products and its online presence, the key question he posed was: “How can we help unlock the expression of this brand online?”
From this point, all parties agreed that migrating Fredericia from a monolithic CMS to a composable platform wasn’t something that would be fixed in a couple of months. It would be a journey.
“The truth is, it’s complex,” Nicolas continued. “You’re going to need to make big decisions. And I really encourage all brands to trial that partnership [with agencies] through workshops or starting a small project so you can test the common grounds that you have. You need that basic understanding.”
But so far as Daniel Fuldager, Digital Commerce Manager at Fredericia, was concerned: “We were a perfect fit to go composable.” Together they were able to tackle each key stage one step at a time, he explained.
“We started out just by making the brand site look beautiful and getting the products in. And then when we’re comfortable and we have the resources and support from management, we can pop on a commerce engine and we’re ready to sell our products directly to our dealers.”
The benefit of going composable is that your team — whether editorial or technical — will no longer have their ideas limited by a legacy CMS. According to Nicolas, it all comes down to the craft. “We were suffering from having to pull off brilliant experiences in templated CMSes,” he said. “There was so much restriction, we couldn’t express the brands the way we wanted. It was extremely frustrating.”
Creative freedom finally arrived in the form of composability, with technologies that support design without getting in the way of it.
Implementing data-driven personalization strategies
Luxury brands don’t have a monopoly on forward-thinking digital experiences. Another outstanding session took place between representatives from Shell Energy NL and Twilio Segment, who shared insights into their data-driven personalization strategies.
By supplying all their electricity from Dutch wind and solar farms, as well as offering gas with carbon credits and other energy solutions for homes in the Netherlands, Shell Energy NL fulfills an important role in the Shell Group’s wider strategy of delivering net zero emissions by 2050 (while still generating shareholder value).
While Diptyque and Fredericia were both heritage-driven brands, Shell NL is a new entity within a mammoth, established brand. For Koen Schiffers, Product Manager, and his team, this provided a unique opportunity: “We started from scratch and we began with a tech stack built around Twilio Segment for customer data and Contentful for content management."
What this stack enables them to do, for example, is sync up offers both online and offline for Shell Energy NL customers with other parts of the group, so that a customer can get discounts off fast charging at a Shell Recharge station, or a cup of coffee for 1 euro each day at a Shell petrol station.
In addition to providing customer value, Koen shared, “With Contentful, we can ensure that the editorial team or the marketing team is capable of building new landing pages for themselves. We saw that we empowered the business, while the frontend and backend engineers were free to build the foundational layers instead of being busy with the marketing website.”
Koen also remarked on benefits he’d seen for brand consistency, where best practices established in Shell Energy NL are carried over to sibling companies operating in Germany and the UK which carry the same branding but offer a set of services specific to those markets, such as broadband.
The hidden power of dynamic frontend experiences
Representatives from Vercel took to the stage to explain the secret recipe for effective search engine optimization that improves site performance and conversation rates. And with customers like Nintendo, McDonald's, and Netflix on their books, Vercel knows what they’re talking about.
No matter what brand you are, you are competing for your customers' attention and SEO is a key differentiator. But improving your search performance can be challenging. As Alice De Mauro, Sales Engineer at Vercel pointed out, brands need to take into account things like user experience and conversion — the last of which is directly related to how performant your website is. And this ties back to the technological advantages of a composable content platform versus a monolithic CMS.
“Composable is taking best-in-class tools and assembling them as you wish,” Alice explained. “I’m going to use Contentful to manage my content, for example, then Vercel to host my website and a backend that might have its own infrastructure somewhere else.”
This is a strong foundation of microservices to build upon, with the flexibility to add more components as necessary. For instance: “You want to use a performant framework that’s easy for search engines to crawl,” she said. “The same goes for rendering strategies — how the page is built — and routing of traffic via servers and edge servers.”
All of these are factors that a search engine like Google will check and use as the basis to score its quality as a page and thus ranking in search results. A difference of 0.2 milliseconds in load times will make a huge impact to your conversion rates — by as much as 8%, according to Alice.
Bookmarks for the next chapter
A takeaway from Storylines Paris is that being a brand with a rich heritage is not an obstacle but an advantage. While it can be challenging to accommodate decades of tradition established before the digital-first era, composable is the right solution where it allows for incremental implementation and revitalization.
This is only a snapshot of all the vibrant discussion and insightful exchanges throughout the day in Paris. To get the full experience, you’re invited to join us for the next leg of the Storylines Tour. Between now and October, the team at Contentful will be hitting the road and stopping at London, San Francisco, and Berlin to meet with the brightest and the best practitioners in the art of storytelling.
Speakers and panelists will share their experiences and strategies on cutting through the static in an increasingly complex, dynamic, and multichannel landscape. Use the links below to explore these details and save your spot now!
And for further details on all the major announcements stemming from Storylines, check out these posts:
Editor’s note: statements made by speakers and panelists have been edited for clarity.