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Words that turn heads
When it comes to selling online, one thing is extremely important across the board: product descriptions.
Editor's Note: This article was written prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Out of respect and support for our community of founders, business owners, and writers—many of whom have been economically impacted by this global health crisis—we have decided to continue publishing these stories in conjunction with other news and trending stories related to current events.
With most people staying in their homes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s more attention directed to online mediums than usual as people spend more time scrolling through their phones and devices.
As part of that, online shopping is also seeing an uptick: Wayfair reported more than doubled growth rates in online sales in March, while Adobe data showed overall e-commerce sales were up 25 percent in March.
Given the many struggles of small businesses in this current climate, for those who haven’t tapped into e-commerce, it may be a worthwhile avenue to explore. For business owners with existing e-commerce operations, online growth rates mean that now’s a great time to fine-tune your copy in the conversion-centric elements of your website where sales happen—like individual product pages.
Could your online product descriptions use a re-write or some tweaking? Maybe so.
When it comes to selling online, there’s one thing that’s extremely important across the board, regardless of product, industry, or customer demographic.
What is it?
Writing home-run product descriptions.
Why are product descriptions so important? Well, think about it: In a digital shopping environment, your customer can’t touch, see, or try on your product before buying it. Instead, they have to lean on visuals and written descriptions when deciding which product is the right one to buy.
This is why it makes sense that Salsify data shows 87 percent of shoppers say product content is extremely or very important when deciding to buy, while detailed product descriptions are one of the top three deciding factors around online purchasing across markets, industries, and verticals.
And guess what? You don’t have to be a trained copywriter to write stellar product descriptions. You just need to know some basic tactics and best practices.
I’ve been a full-time copywriter for the past seven years and have learned some of the best conversion optimization tactics used on the top e-commerce platforms. Today, I’m here to share that wisdom with you.
Let’s look at different approaches you can take to craft compelling, sales-driving product descriptions that convince online shoppers to buy. I’ve scouted some top-notch examples from e-commerce merchants across a few different categories to show you what these tactics look like when well-executed.
When it comes to product details, more is more. Be sure to provide as much information as you can on things like materials, fit, care, use cases, and more. It’s also a good idea to include details around your policies, like shipping and returns.
Burton snowboards does a great job of this on the REI website.
In their detailed product description, you’ll not only find the technical product specs, but also tons of features, use cases, and even the nitty-gritty on materials. It’s got everything you need to know if you’re looking to buy a snowboard.
In short: No matter what it is you’re selling, the more details you can include, the more likely it is you’ll make the sale.
Make shoppers feel like you’re in the shopping experience together with inclusive and engaging first-person pronouns like ‘we,’ ‘us,’ and ‘our.’ This taps into the community mentality that expert marketer Seth Godin calls “people like us do stuff like this.”
Godin sums the concept up like this: “More than features, more than benefits, we are driven to become a member in good standing. We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle.”
First-person pronouns in product descriptions are an easy way to do that. Dagne Dover does this well on the product page for its Ace Fanny Pack. Notice the ‘we’ used.
Bonus: The description has a sprinkle of humor in there, too. Check out the last part that says “you’d be the most stylish tourist around. Unless you’re wearing a Hawaiian shirt or sandals with socks. In which case, we can’t help you.” That dash of personality goes a long way.
Build a mental picture for online shoppers by writing product descriptions with rich, sensory words that describe textures, moods, and feelings your products create.
Swap out the industry jargon, acronyms, or any technical words and put these in their places. In general, a good rule of thumb is to strive to write for readers at an eighth grade reading level to ensure your copy is easy to read and understand.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams does a great job of using sensory language while describing their ice cream flavors.
Notice how they’ve tied in words and phrases that make your mouth water and that create a strong, vivid mental picture. We’re hungry now. Are you?
Product descriptions should anticipate customer questions and spotlight how your product solves problems and pain points. Be sure to include FAQs that get out in front of possible obstacles to purchase and really speak to the problem-solving elements of your offering.
KONG dog toys does a great job of this with a whole section devoted to addressing pain points (on the left.)
Note how they touch on the things pet owners struggle with and worry about—like dogs destroying toys or eating things they shouldn’t—and how they keep furry friends busy and entertained.
A common mistake people make while writing product descriptions is getting caught up in feature-focused talk. The thing is: Features are salesy, whereas benefits are customer-focused and value-driven.
Swap out feature-focused content for product descriptions that play up your product’s benefits and share how they make the customer’s life simpler, easier, and generally just… better.
Skincare brand Town & Anchor nails this approach in their product descriptions that speaks to the benefits of their products, the science behind them, and the problems it solves, such as acne-prone skin.
When customers read your product description, it should sound like their own voices in their heads. So how do you figure out what your customers’ voices sound like?
One simple way is to leverage your existing voice-of-customer sources. Look to your testimonials, reviews, and customer feedback for common words and phrases, and then tie them in.
Once you have an idea of what that should look and sound like, do a focus group around your updated descriptions with loyal customers to find out what’s missing and what could be better.
The freelancer course Creative Class does this well on its landing page.
Notice those key phrases (and pain points!) that would ring true in a target customer’s head. You can do the same thing for your customers.
Now, you don’t need to be an SEO whiz to do a good job with integrating keywords (which will help you show up in relevant customer searches). You really just know your most important keywords. From there, just tie them in naturally.
If you’re running pay-per-click campaigns (think Google Ads) or social media ads, you may already have a solid running list of keywords to pull from, so think about which ones are the most natural fit on your different product pages.
BestSelf does this well by writing headings that integrate relevant keywords:
From ‘everyday carry’ to ‘success’ and ‘achieve goals,’ they’re touching all on the top keywords within their product descriptions. Nice.
Your brand is unique and has a distinct personality and voice, whether that’s quirky, nerdy, funny, or sarcastic. Embrace it—no one else can be you! You can integrate your brand personality with a touch of humor or a little snark, just don’t go overboard (unless overboard is on-brand for you, of course).
Clothing company Marine Layer does this in just a few words. Notice how they added in a line about their model, which is a little quirky and fun.
Simple, right? Easy-peasy.
Ultimately, you don’t need to be Don Draper to do a good job writing product descriptions for products you sell online. Follow the tactics we’ve outlined here, and you’ll be on the path to sending products flying off your digital shelves.
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