How to write quality product descriptions to grow your online sales
Displaying enticing product pictures on your e-commerce site is a great start. To boost your sales to a whole new level though, you also need well-crafted product descriptions that make your visitors yearn to own those products. Sadly, most site owners are unsure about how to write product descriptions and instead rely on specs from their suppliers. This is a massive mistake – which we’re going to help you correct.
The importance of powerful online product descriptions
People feel compelled to buy a product when they can clearly see how it fulfils a need or solves a problem they have. This process starts with emotional engagement. If the product leaves them cold, they are unlikely to look any further. Once they’re hooked into the idea though, they will look for details on features and specs.
Your product description needs to give them all that, explaining the item’s value proposition in a way that is simple and easy to understand, and that appeals strongly both to the heart and the head.
Powerful, optimised product descriptions benefit your e-commerce site in other ways too, building credibility and trust, and putting you ahead of your competitors. They also increase your visibility on search engines and maximise any pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns you may be running, potentially attracting even more of your ideal customers.
How to write product descriptions that sell more
Let’s start with at a simple process to follow when crafting your high quality product descriptions.
Step 1: Answer these questions
These questions help you get really clear on exactly what you’re selling:
- Who is your target audience? You could define this in many different ways, for example by age group, gender or lifestyle. If you’ve already identified your customer personas, you can simply use those.
- What are the product specs? These are purely factual, for example, size, shape, colour, what it’s made of or what it does.
- Where is it used? This could be in a specific environment like the office or gym, or indoors or outdoors.
- When is it used? This describes the circumstances, for example, daily, in wet weather or at a special occasion.
- Why does a customer need this particular product? Here you describe the benefits, which could include quality, features, value for money, or any other way in which it’s better than its competitors.
- How does it work? This may only be relevant for some products, like electronics or other types of equipment.
Once you’ve answered those, you’re ready to start writing your product description.
Step 2: Follow this formula
Use everything you’ve come up with in Step 1 to complete this formula:
Paragraph of benefits
In that first paragraph, which can be two or three sentences, or a bit longer, your job is to set the scene in the customer’s imagination. Think about who the customer is and when they might use the product, then describe that scenario as creatively as you can. The story you tell should engage their emotions and make them feel like they really need this product.
List of features
Now that you have their attention, give them some specs to help them decide if this is right for them. The best way to do this is in a bulleted list of phrases that the customer can quickly and easily scan through.
In the example below, Patagonia creates a very real feel for the experience of climbing and shows they truly understand their customers’ needs. Then they follow that with a list of features and specs so the climber knows exactly what they’re getting.
The only time you might choose to skip the first part of the equation and go directly to features is if you absolutely know your customers will never read that benefits paragraph. This might apply in some industries where the products are highly technical, for example, or if your customers are extremely task focused and scan product descriptions purely for the specs.
Seven guidelines to follow when writing online product descriptions
Now that you have an idea of the process, let’s look at what else you need to bear in mind.
1. Write specifically for your audience
If you write your copy for too broad a range of people, you will appeal to no-one. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. If you’ve done your homework though, you’ll have created personas that describe your different types of customers. You’ll know their lifestyle and what they can afford. You’ll understand what they care about and how they prefer to take in information. Then you can use that to tell them in their “language” exactly how they’ll benefit from your product.
For example, the product description below is probably aimed at an established couple, possibly with children, as opposed to, say, a student or a businessman. The couple can afford the chair, and they care about quality and the environment. The copy is perfect as it inspires them to imagine themselves or their kids reading a book on it on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
2. Be very descriptive in your product description – not generic
General words like “the best” or “cutting edge” don’t really help people understand what you’re selling. And what you’re selling isn’t just a product – it’s a solution, a feeling and/or a lifestyle. As we’ve already established, the first step is to engage their emotions. Then they’ll be ready for some concrete facts about the features of the product, also tailored to your audience.
In this example, the scene is set in the opening lines, which makes the reader (probably professional and middle/upper income) imagine the wonderfully welcoming atmosphere they could create with this product when hosting a party. This is followed by more details about the product to help the buyer make an informed decision.
In the next example, aimed at a fun, creative persona, the enthusiastic tone is completely different but follows the same formula.
3. Focus on the benefits to the customer
When you’re trying to sell your products, you may be tempted to lead with technical features and specs. After all, those are things you look at when buying from your suppliers. The customer is buying for different reasons though. They want to know how owning that product will improve their life
A good product description includes both features and benefits. For example, in this copy, the features are woven into the benefits, which include purified air, reduced EMF pollution and decreased symptoms of allergies, asthma and headaches.
4. Create an emotional connection with stories
Remember that your first task is to engage the hearts of your readers. You can do that by telling feel-good stories about your company/brand or about a particular product. People are also more likely to buy from you when they feel that your values align with theirs.
In this example from Son of a Sailor, they have an entire section dedicated to sharing stories about their team, which creates a friendly connection with their audience. They include references to the team on their product pages too, for example in this one they mention Billy’s Navy days.
You can also align yourself with your customers by speaking their language. Notice the words and tone your customers use in emails addressed to you and in online customer reviews. Then use that same tone in your product descriptions and all communications with them.
In this example, the language makes the customer feel like they are having a conversation with a friend: “A heel you can walk in. All. Damn. Day…”
5. Build trust with social proof
It’s not enough for you to describe your own product in glowing terms. Unless you have a long-term relationship with them, customers have no reason to believe you. It’s much more credible when other people enthuse over your product.
There are many different kinds of social proof you can use on your product pages to back up your claims, for example:
- Number of items sold
- Celebrity or expert endorsements
- Case studies
- Ratings and reviews
- Testimonials and quotes
- Publications, like magazines in print or online, where the product or your brand has been featured
- Social media excerpts
Your aim here is to show that others like them, or others with relevant expertise, use, like and recommend this product, which builds confidence in the product and encourages the customer to buy it.
This example from EnRoute Strut Daypack uses the very common ratings and reviews method:
Another way to do this is to display comments or photos from your social media sites on your product pages. In this example, Modcloth uses both product reviews and images of customers wearing their purchases to provide social proof.
6. Show that your product is special
If there’s something about your product that really makes it stand out from the crowd, exploit that shamelessly in your product description. Characteristics like these are great examples:
- Someone famous uses or was involved in creating it
- It’s hand-crafted
- It’s environmentally friendly
- It’s been tested beyond the average
- It contributes to social upliftment
You can see below how Kap7 uses this:
7. Measure the success of your product descriptions
It takes time and effort to write quality product descriptions that convert, so you’ll want to see proof that it’s worth it. Monitoring some relevant KPIs over time will give you good feedback. Consider starting with these:
Aim to improve:
- Conversion rate
- Organic search engine ranking
Aim to reduce:
- Cart abandonment
- Return rate
- Customer queries and complaints
Go the extra mile
While a compelling product description is essential, it’s not the only thing you need to pay attention to if you want to boost your sales. You also need to:
- Showcase your product with high quality graphics in the form of images and/or video.
- Optimise your product images so they don’t slow down your site – or your visitor may lose patience and click away.
- Optimise your product descriptions, using keywords, so they show up on search engines, attracting new customers. Don’t overdo the keywords though. A good rule of thumb is to have your keyword once each in the page URL, page title, H1 header and alt image tag, and a couple of times in the body copy.
Start thinking about how the product descriptions and graphics should play together right from when you set up your site. Some products benefit from more images, while others need detailed descriptions of specs.
The bottom line…
For many people, buying decisions begin with an emotional response. When you know exactly who your customers are and why they might buy your products, you can align your product descriptions with that. Start by setting the scene in language they
understand, then follow up with specs, and you build both trust and desire. That’s a winning combination for conversion.