When I work with clients who are new to e-commerce, they often ask me about product descriptions. What should they say? How long should they be? What format is best? It’s no wonder they are worried — the quality of a product description can make or break a sale, especially if it doesn’t include the information a shopper needs to make a purchase decision. Providing key product details is critical if you want the shopper to click “Add to Cart.”
But your products are more than just widgets. Whether they have a specific function, like a camera, or a personal purpose, like fashion, all products exist to enhance or improve the purchaser’s quality of life in one way or another. As the shopper browses, they instinctively imagine having each product in hand, using it, enjoying it. The more powerful the shopper’s fantasy of owning the product, the more likely they are to buy it. Therefore, I like to think of product descriptions as storytelling, incorporating the elements of both prose writing and journalism.
Journalists utilize the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How method for getting across the facts of their stories, and following this process is the first step in crafting a compelling product description:
- Who is this product for? The target audience can be a gender (women or men), an age group (college kids, retirees), a lifestyle demographic (new mothers, car enthusiasts) or some other defined group of people.
- What are the product’s basic details? This includes attributes such as dimensions, materials, product features and functions.
- Where would someone use this product? Is it meant for indoor or outdoor use, for your car or your home?
- When should someone use the product? Is it meant to be used during a certain time of day, seasonally or for a specific type of occasion? Just as important is pointing out if a product can or should be used every day or year-round, as that will speak to its long-term value.
- Why is this product useful or better than its competitors? This can be anything from quality to value to features.
- How does the product work? This may not be necessary for every product, but if you are selling anything with moving parts or electronics, it’s a must-have.
The next step is determining the best format for the above information. Since some shoppers only scan text on websites, it’s a good idea to have a list of bullet points that cover the most important product details. Bullet points should generally be used for specs (like dimensions) or short phrases (like features) so that they are quick and easy to read.
Unfortunately, bullet points aren’t the best way to tell a product’s story. They look cold and clinical on the page instead of engaging the shopper’s emotions or imagination. This is a job for prose! By writing a paragraph (three or more sentences) or two about the product, you can set the scene and help the shopper realize why their life up to this point has been incomplete without it. It may seem daunting, but after some practice, it will become second nature and even (gasp!) fun.
This is your opportunity to be a little creative and establish a voice (personality and tone) for your brand — whether that be serious, casual or even irreverent. Just imagine you’re at a party, telling someone you’ve just met about the product. How would you describe it so that they’d understand how great it truly is?
Therefore, my formula for writing product descriptions can be expressed as:
[Paragraph(s) of Prose] + [Bulleted List of Specs or Features] = [Engaging Product Description]
“But this is going to take a long time,” you might be thinking, especially if you rely on product descriptions from your distributors or manufacturers. And you’re right, this isn’t a quick process. But if you can commit to writing a dozen or so product descriptions a day using the formula I’ve outlined, you’ll begin to see a variety of benefits:
- An increase in conversion rate (shoppers will be more confident in their purchase)
- A decrease in cart abandonment (again, increased confidence in purchase)
- A lower return rate (shopper expectations of products are more likely to be met)
- Fewer calls from shoppers (they’ll have fewer questions about your products)
- Better organic search rankings (more unique and original text content on your website)
The last thing to keep in mind when writing your product descriptions is that your shoppers will read them. That’s the whole point of this blog post! So don’t forget all of the writing rules you learned back in school. Avoid using all caps (it looks like shouting), use proper punctuation and run the finished product through grammar and spell-check in a program like Microsoft Word before publishing it. Whatever the tone of your descriptions, you want your text to be professional so that shoppers feel confident and click that “Submit Order” button!