How To Write Top-Shelf Product Descriptions

In very simple terms, there are two actions performed when someone tries to sell a product, showing it and describing it. Along with adequate product photos, product descriptions are, for all intents and purposes, an eCommerce shop’s salesman. Forget about site speed, SEO and special offers.

If your product descriptions are dismal, your sales figures will follow suite.  Why? It’s quite simple if you think about it. In a brick and mortar shop, an attendant will be able to explain the product’s features, its usefulness, emphasize its quality, etc. On an eCommerce shop, product descriptions perform that function and since there’s no actual rapport with the potential customer, they have to be even more persuasive.  Let’s look at a few ways you can write kick-ass descriptions that actually sell.


Define who you’re talking to

Business owners tend to get caught up in a “numbers game” when it comes to anything related to eCommerce or online advertising. They obsessively count how many visitors they’ve had, how many likes they’ve earned and how many people have shared or commented on their posts, focusing more on the figures and reach, rather than their worth. The difficult truth is, most of the time, there are maybe a few thousand people worldwide who are interested in a business’ constant updates and even less actual buyers. Find them! No, really, find them. Understand who they are, what they do, what they like and, most importantly, what they need so you can fulfill that need.

Defining buyer personas means much more than acquiring demographics on your target audience. It extends to understanding them, being able to predict what cultural references they respond to, what movies they like, what affects their shopping habits, etc. Buyer personas offer structured insight about your target audience giving you actionable information. The more detailed they are, the more you’ll be able to tailor your content in a way that reaches and motivates your target audience specifically.

Figure out who you are

Big brands have big identity manuals, small businesses that play it by ear have the worst case of personality disorder you’ll ever see. eCommerce business owners mistakenly believe that branding manuals are something you graduate to as your business grows. The truth is that a brand identity should, in a perfect world, be defined before you even start a business and has absolutely nothing to do with how big your store is, how many products or visitors it has.

Giving your brand an identity means giving it a form, function and voice. Its purpose is to establish who it is, what it inspires, how it wants the audience to perceive it. If it were a person, you’d have to instruct it what to wear, down to the tailoring and colours, how and what to say about your business, what jokes to tell, etc. Knowing who your brand is means you can be consistent throughout not just your product descriptions but your messages across all channels, as well. Not to mention that when analyzed in conjunction with detailed buyer personas, it can help you bridge the gap between how consumers perceive your business and the image you want to portray.

Work your audience

Now that you know who you are and you’ve got a good idea of who your customers are, you can meet their needs with convincing unique selling propositions. If you don’t already know, figure out and detail the benefits of each product, preferably in a manner that solves a problem your audience has. It might seem self-explanatory to you but, then again, it’s your business. Be careful not to dumb it down too much and end up sounding condescending.

Don’t sell the product, sell the experience.

Unfortunately, many eCommerce shops take the safe route and list a bunch of features without explaining them or putting them in a context the consumer can relate to. Sure, saying your strawberry jam contains organic strawberries is useful but your odds of making a potential customer’s mouth water are much higher if you say your homemade, 100% organic strawberry jam has a wonderful velvety texture. Regardless if you’re a manufacturer or retailer, remember, you’re not selling a run-of-the-mill product, you’re selling an experience.

Make it easy on them

Some people like to spend a lot of time window-shopping and some don’t. Some like to read every single detail but most people just skim the content. Research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group shows that only 16% of people read content word by word. If you’re second-guessing your commitment to detailed, custom, targeted product descriptions because only 16% will read it all, don’t. No description means you can’t emphasize the benefits of buying your product and half-assed content will only detract from the trust consumers have in your business and product because, let’s face it, if you don’t care about your products, why should they?

Skimming simply means you have to make it easier for key features to stand out and, most importantly, that you put yeah,yeah phrases(the filler-content one adds when one has absolutely nothing useful to say) in the trash, where they belong. Using short and relevant phrases, bullet-points and a clean design are just a few ways in which you can make your content easier to read.

Show some pzazz

Having a personality isn’t worth much if you don’t show it off. Retailers in particular tend to settle for whatever the manufacturer provides them or simply outline product features in a bland, all-too-familiar list. While this might be better than nothing and does provide your customer with an inkling into what the product might do for them, eCommerce studies have shown that 20% of abandoned purchases can be attributed to incomplete or unclear product information.

The way you package your information is just as important as the information itself.

This is the part where understanding your customers is essential. Knowing what your target audience needs and responds to means you can meet the demand accurately. While eCommerce shops make products accessible around the clock, the draw-back is that images and descriptions are the only way potential buyers can experience products, making sensory words the cornerstone of effective descriptions.

Custom ain’t cheap

We all know that a tailored suit or a bespoke piece of jewelry is more expensive than a store-bought one because you pay not only for the craftsmanship but for the experience of owning something that is made especially for you, as well. This expectation somehow flies out the window when it comes to copywriting. Business owners discard the value of custom-crafted content in favor of default manufacturer descriptions or even worse, looking into content-generation software, amounting to keyword littering and incoherent text. Not only is this insulting to an entire industry but it’s one of the worst things a business manager can do.

You get what you’ve paid for.

Just like any other service, the quality of the final product is directly proportional to your investment. If you’d rather not spend money on a copywriter then do it yourself, but understand that it will take time, practice and you’ll have to be very adaptable in order to come up with good-quality material. I for one, would much rather read an honest description written by a beginner than an impersonal, repetitive list.

What it all boils down to

Consumers look to your product images and descriptions in order to find the value of your product and justify its price. What you show them and what you tell them should convey what the product is, what it does, why it does it better than any other product, why they need it and how it will make their lives better. Nobody will ever spend money on something they don’t understand or perceive to be as valuable as its price tag. At best, they’ll look to fulfill their need somewhere else. In either case, you’ve lost their business, not because your product wasn’t up to par but because your presentation of it was found wanting.


The Bottom Line

Every single business wants to stand out from the competition and the truth is, there’s plenty of it. The most important thing you have to remember is that if you always settle for the bare minimum, if average is always good enough, that’s all your business can ever hope to be – average.


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