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How to Write Product Descriptions that Sell

In case you missed it, e-commerce businesses have seen a massive spike in sales and traffic over the past couple of months. And that’s because people forced to stay at home due...

Iss Bautista
Iss Bautista June 19, 2020

In case you missed it, e-commerce businesses have seen a massive spike in sales and traffic over the past couple of months. And that’s because people forced to stay at home due to COVID-19 have shifted most, if not all, of their buying activities online.

If you’re not doing it yet, now is the best time to focus your efforts on creating an unmissable online shopping experience. These can range from site speed enhancements to security updates, from product photos to SEO optimizations.     

But another equally important aspect to work on is your product descriptions

I know, it’s quite a handful. Just thinking about writing unique descriptions for thousands of SKUs is enough to give you a heart attack. But it’s that sort of upgrade that you can do incrementally, a few descriptions at a time, and get amazing results from as you go.   

Benefits of Effective Product Descriptions

Enticing product photos, discounts, offers, and scarcity tactics are enough to catch attention. But a poorly written or missing product description can put costumers off and cause them to abandon the page. In other words, a killer product description helps guarantee that customers will push through with their purchase. It gives them that needed nudge to buy the product they need and desire. 

Beyond that, great product descriptions can have a huge impact on your sales. For example, one of the top reasons customers return products is because the description is inaccurate or it doesn’t match with the product they received. 

A good percentage of shopping cart abandonment has also been attributed to poorly written product descriptions and insufficient information about the product. Shoppers who have had this experience are less likely to shop with the retailer again, proving that product descriptions impact brand trust. It’s also common knowledge that, when well-optimized, product descriptions can help improve your site’s performance in search results and overall traffic. Plus, if you’re still using manufacturer’s descriptions in your product pages, Google will have already flagged them as duplicate content, hurting your chances of ranking in SERPs. 

Now that we’ve covered the “why,” let’s jump right to the “how” of crafting product descriptions that drive sales, improve SEO, and build trust. 

How to Craft Product Descriptions that Sell

There are countless ways to go around writing product descriptions, and your strategy will mostly depend on who your ideal customer is, what kind of products you sell, and how you want your brand to be perceived. But here are some techniques that have been tried and tested by some of the most successful online marketplaces. 

Set your key metrics and goals

Before you rush into writing your product descriptions, it pays to have specific, actionable, and measurable goals. This way, you’ll have concrete KPIs to compare your performance against and have a basis on how you’ll shape your e-commerce copy in the future. One way to know if your new copy works is to perform A/B split tests. You can also compare organic traffic, conversions, and engagement as influenced by the changes you’ll make. Keep in mind that you should have metrics across all stages of the buying cycle, from discovery to advocacy. Check out this definitive guide to e-commerce metrics to know more. 

Identify your ideal audience 

Knowing who you’re writing for is the first step to writing effective product descriptions. If your online store has a wide assortment of products, you might need to create multiple buyer personas. But if you’re selling a few niche products such as boutique headphones or organic makeup, focus on perfecting that ideal customer. To do this, consolidate consumer data from your own site and social media pages, as well as competitors and research institutions in your industry. If you’ve got time to spare, you can conduct surveys for a closer view of your customers. When crafting buyer personas, try to avoid being too specific as you could end up alienating other potential customers. Apple does an amazing job at writing for a specific audience in mind. In the copy below, it’s clear that the writer is talking to a young creative professional. She’s someone who needs no introduction to a trackpad or an iPad; a true digital native who simply wants the best machine to elevate her craft. 

apple ipad pro product description

Image source: https://www.apple.com/

Create a template

No matter how short your product descriptions are, they should still have some sort of structure. It pays to have a product description template to make sure your sales pages look structured and uniform. Your descriptions should be able to answer the following questions:

Assign a psychological need for each product

Many marketers turn to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a point of reference to understanding consumers’ decision-making process when buying. Knowing what ‘need’ each product satisfies, be it functional or psychological, is basically one way of putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Allow me to break it down for you:

Once you have a clear idea of what specific problem or paint point your product addresses or what need it satisfies, apply the appropriate writing style, tone of voice, and format. For example:

Applying this simple technique can make a big difference in your bottom line. You’re not just selling products; but you’re building demand and making people want what you’re offering. But keep in mind that some products satisfy more than one of the five needs. A house, for example, can both satisfy safety, love/belonging, and esteem needs. This is where creating multiple buyer personas and split tests come in handy. 

Keep it short, simple & specific  

The key to high-converting product descriptions is simplicity. Think about it, when you’re browsing products online, do you take the time to read all the text on the sales page? Don’t you just gloss over the page and head straight to the features and benefits? 

Essentially, your descriptions should have these two ingredients:

1. The keyword inserting the right keywords may seem tricky if you only have a few characters to work with. The key is to write as naturally as you can, insert one main keyword seamlessly, and enrich the text with LSI or related terms. 

At 182 characters, Urbanears was able to capture the essence of its Luma true wireless headphones series without skimping on information. The description highlights the product’s USPs—its battery life, sound quality, and true wireless connectivity. Other more technical specs are provided in a separate section, allowing users to focus on the product’s unique selling point.

urbanears luma product descriptions that sell

Image source: https://www.urbanears.com/

2. Emotional impact – the most memorable product descriptions are those that appeal to the user’s emotion as though the product was made especially for her. Even with just a few evocative words, you can connect with your audience on a personal level. 

Clean Beauty Collective uses this technique quite well in presenting its line of perfumes. It taps into a person’s imagination to bring the multisensory experience of the scent across the screen. Selling perfumes online can be a challenge since most people would prefer to get acquainted with a scent first before buying a bottle. But words have the power to bring readers as close to the experience as possible, as seen in the copy below.  

clean beauty collective rain perfume product description

Image source: https://www.cleanbeauty.com/

Highlight benefits and USPs

Most product descriptions focus heavily on features. This may be effective for certain kinds of products, such as gadgets, cars, cameras, and other spec-heavy products. But for lifestyle and luxury items, as well as products in competitive industries, the traditional approach may not work. One way to make your product stand out is to highlight its benefits and USPs.

fab ormon settee how to write effective product descriptions

Image source: https://fab.com/

Let’s break down the example above:

Fab, a design-focused e-commerce store, uses evocative words that double as unique selling propositions. Words like “natural,” “woven,” “modern,” “mid century-modern,” and “versatile” seem to be just adjectives thrown around, but they actually communicate the “value” and unique characteristics of the product in a subtle way. The narrative style lets users imagine having the settee in their space without exaggerating the features. Notice how Fab shows users the benefits of the product without shoving the features in their face. It also manages to squeeze in useful information on how to care for and clean the furniture set without taking away from the writing style. 

In other words, benefit-focused writing makes users “want” the product, while feature-focused writing makes them “consider” it.  

Tell a story

j.peterman example of a great product description

Image source: https://www.jpeterman.com/

J.Peterman is the master of e-commerce copywriting. It’s literally a company built on amazing, unique product copies. Each product is shown in hand-illustrated version and comes with a detailed description, a combination of poetry and prose, pulling users into the item’s unique story. J.Peterman presents its products as art pieces, attracting a specific type of audience — educated, refined, powerful, and classy folk. The website is an experience in itself, even for online window shoppers.

The point here is, words have the power to transform your customer experience and elevate your brand, so use them wisely. Put time into writing engaging product descriptions. It may not be as elaborate as J.Peterman’s, but every bit of effort counts. 

Don’t be afraid to be unique

Most of the product description examples I’ve included in this article have some kind of “uniqueness” factor to them. Be it a unique writing style, format, or tone of voice, any form of departure from the norm can help you stand out from your competitors, when done right, that is. It also helps with brand recall. Take it from Oatly.    

oatly oat drink whole product description

Image source: https://www.oatly.com/

Oatly’s product descriptions are a classic example of unique, personalized writing. If you want people to perceive your brand as quirky and fun, don’t be afraid to showcase that personality in your content. In this case, the conversational style works because it’s consistent with Oatly’s branding. You can see this writing style in all of Oatly’s website and advertising copy, and even in its packaging. But keep in mind that humor is not for everyone. Take the time to get to know your audience, test what kind of writing generates the most engagement, and consider how it will reflect in your branding. 

Include trust signals & social proof

More often than not, consumers need more convincing than a product description would allow. Trust signals and social proof, such as ratings and reviews, testimonials, and trust badges are a way of saying “Don’t just take our word for it, take it from our happy customers.” This gives potential buyers more reasons to trust your product and service. The added benefit is that Google and other search engines favor e-commerce sites with a high volume of user-generated content. 

kora organics noni oil face oil product descriptions that sell

Image source: https://koraorganics.com/

Not all trust signals and social proof are effective, though. Some have more weight than others, some are timeless while others are fleeting trends. “As seen on” badges, for instance, were a thing for a while but they eventually died out. Highlight trust signals that are proven to stand the test of time, such as testimonials and customer ratings. You can create a separate section for this, tuck them away in a drop-down menu, or make them a visible extension of the product description the way Kora Organics does it as seen above. In addition to the celebrity video testimonial, the brand also displays its customer reviews in full view in the bottom half of the page. Again, it’s up to you how many trust signals to include, but make sure you’re not burying important information or overcrowding your sales page. 

Use bullet points & lists 

fab ceramic porter bowl writing compelling product descriptions

Image source: https://fab.com/

Writing tools such as bullet points and numbered lists result in a cleaner, more scannable, and organized page. These tools also let you add other important details that you simply can’t squeeze into the main description. In the example above, Fab uses bullet points to enumerate technical specifications such as the product’s material, make, color options, dimensions, and weight. This gives the writer more space to highlight the product’s USPs and make conversation with the user.

Use literary techniques

Literary techniques such as wordplay, alliteration, and figures of speech can make your product descriptions more empathic and dynamic.  

For example:

“This rose petal facial toner is a blend of certified organic rose water, aloe vera extract, and naturally-occurring tannins that cleanse, tone, and moisturize the skin.”

This sentence tells a lot about the product, but it looks just like any description you’d find in most skin care websites. Here’s a better way to write it:

“Make your skin bloom with our gentle rose petal toner. Our time-honored formula contains certified organic rose water, aloe vera, and beneficial tannins that bring out your skin’s natural glow. There’s no cleaner way to cleanse your skin.”

Other techniques you can use are the “rule of threes.” This basically means that if you’re enumerating features, limit the items to three. You can also use power words, which are words that evoke a psychological or emotional response, to make your descriptions more persuasive. Bellroy does a great job at bringing its products to life using evocative words and literary devices. In the example below, the writer turns something as mundane as a billfold and presents it as an expression of style. 

bellroy hide & seek billfold wallet product description example

Image source: https://bellroy.com/

Don’t skimp on information

The ultimate goal of writing product descriptions is to educate consumers. Don’t bury crucial information for the sake of telling a good story. Make sure your page includes accurate and adequate info so that users can make informed decisions. If you can’t fit these details in the main description, include a drop down list or separate section that users can easily find. 

baronfig high-converting product descriptions

Image source: https://www.baronfig.com/

Baronfig’s website, for example, has two sections in its product pages: About and Features. The former typically has the more ecovative and punchy descriptions, while the latter section includes the nitty-gritty details of the product. This format works effectively if you wish to discuss as many features as you can in detail. Having longer, well-optimized content in your sales pages could also help improve your SEO performance. 

baronfig high-converting product descriptions

Image source: https://www.baronfig.com/

Best Practices When Writing Product Descriptions

While most of the tips above are purely suggestions, and it’s up to you if you want to follow some or all of them. But there are certain rules that e-commerce websites must follow.

  1. Avoid plagiarism. Some people commit plagiarism, so it’s always good to check your product descriptions for originality. Remember, search engines can easily flag duplicate or plagiarized copy and penalize your site. Run your descriptions through Grammarly, Copyscape, or other trusted plagiarism checkers before publishing them. 
  2. Don’t hate your competitors. That’s not how you’d want your brand to be known for. You can write about what sets your products apart without discrediting other businesses.
  3. Be transparent. Lying in e-commerce websites to entice customers to buy is just a PR disaster in the making. Don’t mislead customers with features your products don’t have or with vague descriptions. Enlighten, don’t imply.  
  4. Know when to stop. There’s a golden rule in writing that goes, “Kill your darlings.” In other words, don’t get into too much detail. Respect your users time and give them only what they need.  

Check out our ultimate roundup of copywriting tips for other techniques for writing high-converting copy.   

Transform Your E-commerce Experience Today

Product pages are the bread and butter of your e-commerce business. The total effectiveness of your website rests on each product page you optimize. In an increasingly competitive and saturated market, an engaging and well-thought-out product description can help you rise above the noise. 

Partner with Growth Rocket and have seasoned e-commerce developers, marketers, and content creators in your team.

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