Writing a product description seems simple enough until you realize that crafting a description that merely describes your products isn’t enough.
The most successful copywriters approach their product description writing from a very psychological understanding of how the human brain works and how people react to certain words.
This guide won’t get too deep into the cerebral concepts behind writing a phenomenal product description, but it’s helpful to at least understand that each word reflects an idea or experience in the reader’s mind. Being able to craft descriptions that elicit a positive reaction or put negative feelings of apprehension at ease is the cornerstone of excellent product description writing.
Your product descriptions are not only a great way of delivering key information to your readers, but they can also help you to outrank your competition, as well as convert shoppers into long-term customers.
The Product Description Copywriting Process
The learning process surrounding writing product descriptions that sell often has a similar trajectory:
Step 1: This looks easy. I pretty much just have to write what my product is, right?
Step 2: This product description isn’t selling much. Let me do some research.
Step 3: Wow, there’s a lot more to it than I thought. How do I pack that much information into that little amount of text?
Step 4: This is too long and clunky. Rewrite.
Step 5: This sounds weird. Rewrite.
Step 6: I need help.
The following tips will help you to write product descriptions that help you solve every obstacle above, but, before we get into that, let’s take an aerial view of what the process actually looks like.
List all your features and benefits. What is it that makes your product stand out? Don’t worry about being brief here—this is simply a rough draft of information.
What are the core components of your brand that you want to showcase? Do you have a mission? Is your brand more fun or professional? Try a next draft of your product description in your own voice that is true to your brand.
What are your shoppers looking for? Be sure to address those specific qualities and solutions to their problems first.
Refine, emphasize for persuasion, use bolds and italics, and polish.
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Read out loud. Iterate.
Test and iterate.
Repeat step 7 to perfection.
Focus on the Benefits
Too many eCommerce merchants end up writing sub-par product descriptions because they write them to highlight the features rather than benefits. Making the distinction between features and benefits is copywriting 101, and it’s very important to make sure you write all your product descriptions accordingly.
It’s important to note that although you should be focusing on the benefits, you shouldn’t neglect to include certain features for customers that are purely informational. For example, instead of attempting to convince customers that “the medium sized shirt perfectly embraces your body,” you’d probably be better off saying “shirts run true to their size.”
As an eCommerce merchant, it’s very easy to get excited about the features and specifications of your products. After all, you chose to carry or make those products for a reason. You get excited that you managed to find a hammock that only weighs six ounces or a titanium-based hairbrush.
The problem is that by merely mentioning the features of these products, you force the readers to make implications of what the benefits to them are. They are less likely to understand your products the same way you do, which is why it is your job to make your descriptions palatable.
For example, a shopper that sees your hairbrushes are made out of titanium might think, “Well, that’s cool, I guess. But why?” Instead, you can answer the “But why” question by saying “Never worry about buying another hairbrush. Our titanium-based hairbrushes last up to 20 years and can be easily sanitized and cleaned.”
You’ve just created a miniature WOW moment for your shopper, at a time where WOW moments can make the most substantial impact on whether you make a sale or not.
Describing the benefits of your products also gives you the opportunity to relate to your shoppers. For example, a shopper that sees your hammock only weighs six ounces might think, “Ok. How much do they usually weigh? Does it matter? But why?” if they don’t skim over it completely. Your product description would neglect to highlight one of the best features of your product. Your incredibly light hammock would be looked at like every other hammock on the market.
However, if you were to change your description to “Campers rejoice—your backpack just got lighter. Our 6-ounce hammock is the lightest on the market. Think of what you can carry now with all the weight freed up. Perhaps snacks. Mmmm. Snacks.”
The shoppers now not only see the value that your hammock provides, but they will also view you in a more fun and playful light. Showing them you understand how big of a difference a lighter backpack makes allows you to appeal directly to your target audience.
Let Your Personality Shine
Whether you got into your eCommerce niche because you were passionate about your industry or not, it’s important to let product descriptions shine a positive light on your brand’s personality.
Shoppers have fallen in love with the convenience of being able to shop online at any time, but there is a certain melancholy for a human experience between shoppers and their store owners. This is why merchants that have created content and product descriptions that humanize their store have been able to not only make sales but retain their customers for future purchases.
If the potential to form a long-term relationship with your customers isn’t enticing enough, consider the fact that you may actually lose customers if your product descriptions are lacking in flavor.
To the average shopper, if you look like another merchant peddling the same goods, you immediately put yourself into a pricing competition with all your competitors. A large majority of eCommerce shops have substitutable products readily available at the click of a mouse. If you’ve been able to elicit a positive reaction with your shoppers at any touchpoint, whether that touchpoint is your product description or other content, you are more likely to keep them shopping on your site.
The keys to letting your personality shine in your product descriptions are to really nail down your voice and write in a way that is true to your brand.
Build Artisanal Flair by Telling Stories
Artisanal businesses and products tend to elicit extremely positive reactions from shoppers. Artisanal goods, or goods made in a traditional or non-mechanical way, have experienced an increase in demand in recent years. This is why online shopping platforms such as Etsy, a marketplace for handmade goods, have become extremely popular.
If the story is powerful enough, it might even provoke the shopper to share your product page to friends or social media. Think about it. How often do you see organic shares in your product page analytics? If you carry artisanal goods and aren’t telling a story, you could be missing out on a ton of traffic and customers.
For example, let’s take a look at Serengetee, an apparel company that makes clothing and accessories utilizing fabrics from all over the world. Each product page gives the shopper a miniature history and flair about the certain fabric and the specific cause the shopper supports when placing an order.
While the above example is very concise, it does a great job at delivering a story to the shopper. The country or city of origin paired with the specific cause convey images that appeal to the shopper’s imagination.
When writing a product description that tells a story, it’s important to note:
What is the inspiration behind the product? Conveying your passion in a story is a great way to captivate your readers.
Who made the product? Allow shoppers to feel like they are part of the journey in your passions. Even if your goods aren’t handmade, try to describe why you chose where your goods are manufactured.
What are some obstacles you had to hurdle in order to develop the product? Showcasing an interesting challenge adds some spice to the narrative behind your product.
Have a Mission
Your product descriptions are perhaps the most visible extensions of your brand. By first developing a strong foundation for your brand, you will be able to increase the impact of each product description.
For example, Serengetee, from the above example, focused their core mission around supporting local artisans and traditional production methods by providing stylish and comfortable travel-niche apparel.
“From day one, the mission was at the heart of everything Serengetee. By purchasing fabric from over 25 countries, we support artisans, their families, and ancient fabric making traditions.
And, by giving back 10% of our profits to a diverse range of grassroots causes, we work to improve lives in their communities. The stories of these fabric makers and causes are baked into every product we make, so when you wear Serengetee you are truly wearing a piece of the world.”
Although their mission statement was relegated to a “Mission” page (which serves as an excellent landing page for other marketing campaigns), it still resonates within every product description.
Shoppers that see this mission statement first are able to conceptualize a personality and purpose for the brand and are likely going to click through multiple product pages to see the stories behind every interesting fabric. Shoppers that happen to land on a product page first might get curious enough to view the mission statement, and then return to the different product pages.
Having a mission could stimulate a circular pattern, such as the one above, that could increase your average order size as well as help your “Mission” landing page start ranking in search engines more efficiently. To add the icing on the cake, this process also helps humanize your brand and, potentially, establishes long-term relationships with your shoppers.
Know Your Buyer
A perennial piece of copywriting advice goes “He who writes for everyone, writes for no one.”
It’s extremely important to refine and visualize exactly who will be reading your product description. Even if you’ve broken it down to a two-dimensional demographic buyer persona, such as age and gender, your writing could still be too broad.
What are your shoppers’ interests? These interests likely brought them to your products, and it’s helpful to know what these specific interests are. For example, if your shop primarily sells office chairs, you might accurately make the assumption your customers are primarily working at office jobs. However, from this point on, you could paint a completely different picture of your product in your descriptions. Are your shoppers mainly focused on comfort and ergonomics, focus, or aesthetics? While this may appear to be semantics, understanding what they are really interested in will help you to write product descriptions that sell. This will not only allow you to craft your product descriptions tailored to your shoppers but, also, to potentially stock up on relatable products in your niche.
How do your shoppers talk? Don’t make any assumptions. Your product descriptions should be very true to your brand while also communicating information in a way that your shoppers can relate to. You can find out more about this by frequenting online forums related to your specific niche. Choose to use words that your ideal buyers use.
Are your product descriptions personal? Your shoppers should feel like that there is a human at the other end of the interaction. Use the word you. Show your shoppers that you know them well enough, and they will keep coming back.
Build a buyer persona that encapsulates all the above information. Give them a name, occupation, and short list of hobbies and preferences. This will make your product description writing much easier.
Address Frequently Asked Questions
The most efficient shops build a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to address any and all shopper concerns, and, by incorporating product-specific frequently asked questions into your product descriptions, you will be able to increase your conversion rate.
Your product descriptions should do an excellent job at seamlessly answering the most burning questions your shoppers have before they have them. There is an art to putting together a FAQ page and descriptive product descriptions while also maintaining your brand’s voice. There is a delicate balance between addressing the hard questions in a readable and scannable manner while also delivering the same high-quality enticing product description.
Doing so will not only increase sales, but it will also save you time that you would otherwise spend answering simple questions via email. Additionally, if you are able to communicate things that would otherwise cause confusion, you will decrease customer complaints and the hassle of dealing with returns in the future.
The best way to build your FAQ into your product descriptions is to collect all the questions and comments that shoppers not only send to you directly but, also, to do your research outside of your site.
For example, you can look at competitors who carry similar products that have enabled customer reviews and look through all the negative reviews. What are the reasons the shoppers were unhappy? If the root cause was because the competitor’s product description did a poor job of communication, you can benefit from their mistakes by fixing your product description.
Utilize Social Proof
In moments of doubt, shoppers tend to look for confirmation in others to either enforce or deny their decisions. This is why sites that have honest reviews enabled on their product pages tend to do better than those that don’t.
However, you’ve got limited space in your product descriptions and can’t include a handful of reviews. Thankfully, there are other methods of building social proof within your product descriptions to get the same effect.
Testimonials are an extremely effective means to showcase the positive experiences someone else had with your product or service. It’s very important to make sure these testimonials look honest and organic, as testimonials that come off as fabricated could discredit your site altogether. Testimonials or quotes that describe the product as being popular, or testimonials that come from a vetted source such as a media organization, can make a strong impact on how shoppers view your product altogether.
Many shopping carts are abandoned due to shoppers second-guessing their decisions, and social proof serves as an effective way to decrease buyer anxiety. Additionally, by humanizing your brand with social proof, customers will be more likely to follow suit and leave their own reviews on your site.
Keep Your Product Descriptions Simple and Easy to Scan
It’s important to understand that, no matter how engaging and enthralling your product description is, there will still be shoppers who merely scan it for the information they want. Eye tracking reports have found that although users do prefer bulleted and numbered lists, they have shown an even stronger preference for numbers.
Additionally, mobile shopping has started to become extremely popular. Roughly 62% of smartphone users have purchased something online using their mobile device in the last six months. Mobile shoppers are working with a much smaller screen and are more likely to be in motion, which means it’s highly unlikely they are going to make it far on your page if you’ve got a lengthy block of text.
You can make your product descriptions easy to scan by:
Giving preference to the most important information early on
Using numbers wherever appropriate
Having bold critical elements of your description
Creating scannable bullet points
Opting for a higher and easier to read font size
Using whitespace to make the descriptions easier on the eyes
Making use of enticing headlines
Highlight Key Factors
A major mistake many merchants make is that they assume that a majority of the logistical information around their product is implied.
Be sure to include information such as shipping, taxes, refund policies, and other relevant information on your product page, and, if it’s a distinct selling point, even within your product descriptions.
Do you offer free shipping while most of your competitors don’t? Mention it!
Do you ship internationally? Specify your policies, especially if you have many international visitors.
Do you offer free refunds or any other guarantees that would chip away at buyer apprehension? Include them at the end of your product description.
In fact, a huge reason many shoppers drop off in the conversion process is the introduction of any new information that impacts the price or delivery time. Buyer confidence rapidly falls in each step of the buying process and, if shoppers see a new variable such as a substantial shipping price or tax in the last step, they will be more likely to bail on the whole transaction.
Additionally, try to use numbers wherever possible because they are easy to scan and represent more factual descriptive statistics. Hard numbers also help to capture attention and stop shoppers from looking elsewhere for answers to their questions.
Optimize Your Text for Persuasion
When you’ve finished writing your complete product description, it’s imperative you go back through it and optimize it for persuasion.
Did you forget to add any features and benefits?
Are there any potential areas of confusion within your product description?
Are you using highly engaging words such as you?
Are you replacing difficult words with more simple words?
Are you aiming to reduce your sentence length?
Are you being specific rather than generic with your phrases? Speedy shipping is generic, Product will be at your door in 2 days is specific.
Are you using numbers wherever possible? 5 is better than five. Try to use numbers because they are easy to scan and represent more factual descriptive statistics. Hard numbers also help to capture attention and stop shoppers from looking elsewhere for answers to their questions.
Before you hit “post,” try to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Read your product description out loud to yourself or some friends.
Do you trip over any phrases? If something sounds slightly awkward to you, chances are there will be a handful of people that feel the same way once hundreds or thousands of people are reading your product descriptions when your page goes live.
Is your copy engaging? If you’re left with a “So what?” or a “But why?” feeling at the end of your product description, it’s time to go back and answer those questions.
Is your product description engaging? There will be all types of shoppers in different stages of the buying process viewing your product descriptions. Is your product description engaging enough for someone with even a lukewarm interest in your product?
Nailing down a perfect product description is going to take several iterations. A/B test different product descriptions with your users until you find the perfect series of words. The essence of effective copywriting that sells is succinct simplicity, highly effective communication, and data-backed decisions to find the perfect mix of words that accurately deliver the value of your brand and product.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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