The importance of product descriptions is continually underestimated in eCommerce. Companies that don’t invest time in writing accurate, descriptive and informative descriptions are missing out on revenue because competitors are writing them out of the game.
It’s important to have product descriptions that describe the product you are offering. It sounds simple, but many companies are experiencing high return rates because customers are reading poor descriptions and ending up with unsuitable products. Some products are always going to be difficult to assess when viewed online, clothing for example; it’s often difficult to judge which size will be most appropriate. In cases like this, live chat can really boost sales – you can discuss with someone how you would like the fit, what your typical size is (or measurements are) and have someone help you decide whether it is the right product or not.
When your site contains great product descriptions, visitors are more likely to become customers, reducing return rates and increasing conversion. Many companies invest in help driving traffic to their site, develop stunning landing pages, but fail to engage customers with informative content.
Know your audience
When it comes to writing product descriptions that convert customers, you need to know two things really well – your audience and your products. The most valuable thing is audience knowledge. If you’re unsure, start by thinking who would buy the product, then build a character. You can do this in any way you please, but starting by picking an image of someone can help. Give them a name and describe their characteristics, what they do, what their interests are, what they read. Build it up, make a mind map – what car do they drive? What are their aspirations? Really get to know them.
Once you know your customer, you’ll be more aware of how to reach them and then, how to write to convert them. Say my customer is ‘Dave’. He’s a builder who cares about functionality rather than appearance. He’s not going to buy a product described as: “appealing to the image conscious tradesman, this product will have you looking the part on-site…” etc. You’ll get more luck with a description starting: “putting functionality first, this XXX will get the job done, quickly and effectively.”
Optimise copy for conversions
Product descriptions are used on all online stores. Supermarkets often aren’t optimising their copy for customer conversion. Say I’m doing my online food-shop. I click on the site, and search “mince”. What comes up is a product image, too small for me to make sense of and two basic facts: it’s 750g and less than 15% fat. This isn’t enough. I want to know more about the product. I don’t just want “minced beef, less than 15% fat”; I want:
“Lean minced beef (less than 15% fat); a key ingredient in many easy, healthy and hearty family meals from Bolognese to cottage pie. Our prime steak mince is sourced from cattle reared on an outdoor farm in rural northern Lancashire, which exceeds British farming welfare standards. Our 750g pack of prime minced beef makes a meal for a family of 6.”This description satisfies both my conscience, telling me the animal is treated well, and tells me useful benefits to buying the product – I can make a range of recipes and serve 6 people. It’s much more helpful and I’m much more likely to buy. You can read some great examples of product copy here.
Don't omit the essentials
You’d be surprised how often companies omit useful (or essential) details. Take clothes shopping; I need a new belt. When I’m in the shops, I can just thread it through my belt loops to see if it fits, online I can’t. I need to know the belt’s dimensions so I know if it’ll fit my trousers. (If you list this detail, I’m converted!) Make sure useful details are included; bullet point them if you’re worried about going on for too long!
A key consideration when writing product descriptions is getting an even balance between product features and benefits. In the example above – the features (750g, less than 15% fat) are tied in with the benefits (serves 6, many options in terms of recipes). It tells the customer what’s important and why.
It also helps to include why a product is better for your customer than an alternative. This is especially true when it comes to tech gadgets where acronyms and jargon can confuse a newbie. E.g. Tell the customer why choosing a product with a quad core processor is better than one with a dual core processor. For example, when describing a product to have a quad core processor, tell the customer why that’s better than a dual core processor. E.g. “Quad core processor – quicker and more effective operations when using multiple programs (versus single or dual core processing units).” Still technically heavy but there I combine feature and benefit to make a useful product description.
Don't make false claims
Something to avoid when writing descriptions is making bold claims or over-promises. Saying “This product is THE BEST” is sometimes not only false, but can lead you into the troubling waters of media law. If you can’t back your statements up, don’t make them. Also, customers tend to find statements such as “great quality”, “innovative”, “best out there” as off-putting. Of course, you want your customers to think this, but it’s just going to lead to negative press if your statements don’t stand up.
Adding social proof to product descriptions can hugely increase conversion. Social proof covers things like ratings, reviews and shares. Using social proof adds an element of trust too, that is often absent from online purchases. When I’m viewing a product online, I rely on customer reviews if a product description isn’t up to scratch. Also, if you’ve got good ratings or reviews, show them off! Seeing five gold stars on a product is a great way to convert.
Create a story
It’s also important to create narratives around products that help your customer imagine using it. Tell its history; say why it was created or how the product could be used. Make them want to be part of something! Don’t sell “a basic cafetiere”, sell an experience. Think lazy Sunday mornings, staying in pyjamas ‘til noon, reading the broadsheets and enjoying the aroma of freshly brewed coffee from the comfort of your kitchen. This cafetiere may well brew 3 cups of coffee, and keep it well insulated, but this cafetiere could let you into a lifestyle. Narratives can greatly improve conversion; pop on your marketing hat and be inventive.
Writing good product descriptions can turn a browser into a spender. When you’ve got a spender, you’ve got a customer (who may return and who may pass on their great experience to others) and an increase in revenue. Great product descriptions will reduce returns, engage customers and improve their shopping experience. Adding in social proof and live chat assistants can make online shopping less of a mystery and make it a good experience! You can have the greatest products, but without great product descriptions, you won’t convert your visitors.
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