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Ecommerce manager and online store owners often ask 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” and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Whether your products 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 and 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 and psychology, incorporating the elements of both prose writing and journalism. A “good” product description will not do. Competition is getting too fierce. It must be great!
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?
In fact, following this simple formula below is a great way to writing compelling product descriptions:
[Paragraph(s) of Prose] + [Bulleted List of Specs or Product 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 above, 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
Now let’s take a look at how eight real online stores sell more with product description perfection, with tidbits you can take from their expertise to increase your own conversions.
Be Short & Sweet to be Effective
Onzie is a great example of just how well the basic formula can work. Their product pages combine conversational paragraph-long descriptions that engage their fans, as well as quick bullet-points on need-to-know specs for any shoppers just scanning the page.
Onzie’s product page
Use Storytelling to Your Advantage
Does your product have a backstory that’s particularly special to you? Chances are it will be particularly special and endearing to your audience, too. Use that story in your product description to add more character to your item, engage your audience and win hearts and minds.
Son of a Sailor’s product page
Boost a Little Bit to Sell More
Take the product description formula above one step further, like water polo retailer Kap7 ( and check out their amazing backstory). Is your product differentiated through a founder’s expertise? Is your product better because of years of testing? Is it hand-crafted?
Call that out!
Tell a better story in your short product description paragraph by including tidbits of detail that prove why your product is better than rest. Don’t be afraid to name drop, either.
Kap7’s product page
Talk the Technical Talk to Win Trust
If you have a more technical product, don’t be afraid to get in the weeds with your product description. Prove to your customer your brand’s expertise in the industry by providing all possible details they’d need to know –– before they ever even have to ask.
Spectrum Audio’s product page
Know When to Show and Not Tell
Text isn’t always the best way to describe your product. If you are getting too wordy, think about how you can simplify.
Images carry weight and are better remembered by customers. If possible, show off your product in a visual that explain exactly what it does.
Solo Stove’s product page
Know When to Show, Tell and Describe
Other than graphics, videos can be an extremely effective way to showcase how to use a product or why it is better than others. Some brands, like BombTech Golf use videos, graphics and text to drive the point home.
BombTech Golf’s product page
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Your Own Way
While a short paragraph description on a product page is a best practice — know when that isn’t what your audience wants. Every industry and every business is unique. Do you know your customer well enough to know they won’t read that product description? Are all of your customers scanners?
Pull out the content that is most important to them, and find engaging, visual ways to get all the relevant information to them without any headache. Your buyer personas should inform the overall form and approach towards your product descriptions.
BPI Sport’s product page
Go Big or Go Home
Finally, this last example just blew me away. This is a great example of how far you can take the perfect product description formula above and really just blow it out of the water.
Joovy followed the simple formula above, but instead of simply writing out bullets, they used the their bullet-pointed list to create a storyline throughout the product page.
The page is long, but engaging and visual. It answers all questions a new parent might have. And, it still uses a simple paragraph to really drive the product home in an engaging, smart voice particular to the brand.
This is what a home run looks like.
Joovy’s product page
In all, it is important to first know your audience in order to determine what kind of content will best speak to them to increase conversions.
The product description formula works for most brands, but it is only a starting point.
Think visually. Add graphics. A/B test copy and get personal on those pages. People like to buy from people they trust –– and building trust is different based on what you are selling.
A stroller might not sell well if the description tells of how it was thought up overnight and then handmade. Similarly, a handmade leather playing card case might not sell well if all you show are the technical specs.
Know your audience. Know your product. And then, show and tell!
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