It’s a common mistake to think that product descriptions should merely relay the features of a product to the customer. In fact, your wider conversion rate optimisation strategy should include well-written, engaging, persuasive product descriptions at its core.
A salesperson in a department store is trained to use the right language to persuade customers to make a purchase. The same language should be incorporated into your online copy in order to persuade customers to click on the buy button.
The product page is the final part of the conversion funnel before the customer enters the checkout process. A carefully constructed product description can make the difference between a customer making a purchase on your site or a competitor’s.
It’s also worth pointing out that Google wants to rank high-quality product descriptions highly in search results, especially product copy that’s unique, easy to locate and understand when it crawls a site.
If you’re conducting a site audit or writing product descriptions from scratch, beginning the process with SEO in mind is the best way to start.
In the early days of SEO, keywords were used indiscriminately – cramming sites with keywords to optimise SEO efforts was a mandatory practice. Fortunately, changes in search engine algorithms mean that the practice of keyword stuffing can actually harm your rankings so eCommerce copywriters can now be more creative when producing relevant, search-friendly, brand-focused copy.
Keywords should appear naturally in product titles and descriptions as customers will be searching for these either on your site, in online marketplaces or on search engines.
The cornerstone of an effective SEO strategy is keyword selection. The best place to start writing product descriptions is by finding out what customers are searching for on your site and a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to determine the most popular queries used by customers searching for your products.
As well as taking into account high-volume, short-tail keywords, you should also identify any long tail terms that have fewer searches but convert well on your site and are easier to rank for.
Once the most effective keywords have been identified, copywriters should relay product information using these terms and related synonyms sparingly while using language that resonates best with your target customer while retaining your brand’s unique tone of voice.
It’s very important to ensure that you pay attention to SEO keywords but not to the detriment of your brand identity.
Below are some examples from three sites selling the same style of leather biker jacket. While each product description contains similar keywords to describe the material, fit, texture and features, the three brands have been able to retain their tone of voice which resonates with their target audience.
AllSaints – The trendsetter
“The best-selling Balfern Biker Jacket is cut in a slim fit, crafted from white lamb leather that’s perfect for spring and summer. Finished with classic motorcycle-inspired details including zip cuffs and a belted hem, this biker silhouette is an all-time favourite, loved for its timeless style and flattering fit.”
‘Best-selling’ and ‘all-time favourite’ are the stand out words here for the London-based fashion brand, denoting that the product is popular among its customers. Creative connotations are made using the words ‘crafted’, ‘silhouette’ and ‘finished with’, highlighting the structured elements of a statement jacket.
Miss Selfridge – The young brand
“The Black Elsy Biker is the ultimate wardrobe staple. With its classic fit, gold coloured metalwear and stitch detail, this timeless jacket is an essential buy for anyone who is looking to be forever cool and on trend”
‘Timeless’ has become synonymous with the biker jacket but not necessarily the terminology associated with younger audiences. ‘Ultimate wardrobe staple’, ‘essential’ and ‘forever cool’ are simple, high-impact words that instantly click with a young target audience.
John Lewis – The heritage retailer
“Jigsaw’s Nappa Leather Biker Jacket is crafted from 100% Nappa Leather for an incredibly soft and durable finish. This slim-fitting piece features quilted detailing and gunmetal fastenings for the authentic biker touch. This is a worthy investment for your wardrobe with full lining, a round collar and zips on the sleeves for a timeless item that will age beautifully over the seasons.”
As a well-established retailer since the mid-1800s, John Lewis uses words such as ‘investment’, ‘timeless’ and ‘age beautifully’ to align the biker jacket with its customers who value products of high-quality as opposed being on trend.
According to a 2016 Nielson report, emotions are considered to be central to advertising effectiveness. Ads that achieved the greatest emotional response generated a 23% increase in sales. We can also see this manifested in relation to online content – articles and videos that have an emotional impact predominantly tend to go viral.
These same emotional attachments to online content are also applicable to eCommerce sites. From how a customer feels when they arrive on your site to when they click through to the basket page – emotional language should play a key part in how you describe your brand and products to your customers.
Nespresso is a great example of using emotional connections when describing their coffee pods. Descriptive words such as ‘rich’, ‘sweet’ and ‘full-bodied’ are peppered throughout the site to describe the taste and smell of their wide range of coffee pods, while ‘innovative’ and ‘advanced’ are used to attribute value and quality to their high-end coffee machines.
Descriptive words that aren’t necessarily associated with your products can be difficult to use, but a savvy copywriter that has a clear understanding of a brand and its customers is in a better position to write engaging copy.
Hop, skip and jump aren’t typically associated with shampoo at all. However international hair care brand Aussie, have been able to utilise the playful trio of words in a modest but fun piece of product copy for its popular Mega Shampoo.
Sensory words can prove to be powerful tools to help your customers experience your product while they’re reading copy. Words which convey texture including ‘crunchy’ and ‘fluffy’ can be used to describe food and ‘silky’ or ‘smooth’ for clothes and even beauty products.
The trick is to strike the right balance between choosing the right emotive language and simplicity in order to highlight your products USPs. Overpopulating your product description with too many emotional or sensory words could leave your customers baffled and your copy devoid of any true meaning.
Highlighting urgency or exclusivity can be used to your advantage to minimise any buyer’s guilt. ‘Limited edition’, ‘low in stock’ and ‘online exclusive’ are just a few common phrases many eCommerce sites use in order to entice their customers into adding a product to their basket.
When writing product descriptions, it’s important to always have your target audience in mind. Broad, lacklustre descriptions aimed at wider audiences tend to be ineffective as they fail to address any specific group.
Product descriptions should not only convey your brand’s tone of voice but also answer common questions about the product to instil confidence and stimulate a positive purchase decision.
For apparel and beauty brands in particular, storytelling is a key practice that should be used in all parts of your site right down to the product page. Understanding your customer – even the language they use – will play a key part in how you produce engaging and relevant product copy.
The most common storytelling technique is showing how products can fit into customers’ everyday lives.
The North Face consistently use familiar situational references in relation to its products – product descriptions for waterproof hoodies contain phrases such as ‘…keeping you dry and fresh as you venture through severe downpours’ and ‘ ideal for backcountry adventures’ for insulated jackets.
While it may be tempting to indulge in writing long descriptive copy, it would be wise to keep in mind how lengthy descriptions would look on mobile devices. With Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages becoming more prevalent in search results, creating short, creative and relevant copy would work in your favour – especially for your ongoing mobile optimisation practices.
If you’re planning to expand into international markets, it’s also worth considering how your brand’s storytelling will be perceived in other countries. Consider setting aside time before you localise your site to research your target audience, the local culture, how customers search for your products online and how they use them once they’ve bought them.
When Nike released its special edition Air Force 1 shoe in China, the US sports brand added embroidered customised characters 發 (‘fa’) and 福 (‘fu’) on the heel. Viewed separately, the characters mean ‘prosperity’ and ‘luck’. Unfortunately viewed together in the ad, the pair of trainers sent a very different message to its Chinese audience – ‘get fat’.
Investing in transcreation services with a reputable translation agency as part of your overall site-wide localisation strategy will ensure that your brand is communicating to multiple markets in their everyday local language while avoiding any embarrassing mishaps.
Avoid Lazy Language
Simplified, nondescript and overused words can create a massive disconnect between your products and your customers. Ultimately your aim is to get customers to click the ‘add to cart’ button – a lacklustre product description just won’t cut it.
Words such as ‘like’, ‘actually’, ‘really’ and ‘nice’ are just a few examples of filler words which should be avoided in commercial product descriptions. Even using the word ‘sorry’ when a product is out of stock can have negative connotations.
An experienced eCommerce copywriter should naturally know the art of avoiding lazy language and use the appropriate descriptive words, keywords and tone of voice in order to create commercial, engaging and easy-to-read product copy.
Essentially, your brand identity shouldn’t just stop at your homepage or email marketing campaigns. Product descriptions should be written with the same tone of voice as every other piece of customer-facing brand copy on your site.
It’s common practice to inform customers of additional details of your products by highlighting technical specifications or key features. This information should sit alongside your main product description, either highlighted underneath or on a separate tab depending on your product page layout.
Technical specifications should always be written in a scannable and easy-to-read format – most commonly bullet points – and should highlight any stand out key features of your product. It’s also the best place to answer common questions that relate to your product such as fabric composition and care instructions.
Again, The North Face is a great example of how a brand is able to showcase each product and display a suite of technical information without intimidating customers. Each product has technical specifications split into two parts under the product description. The first containing easy-to-read bullet points detailing the products key features. The second highlighting product specifications, including fabric composition, style code and even the measurements of the model wearing the product.
This layout enables The North Face to easily communicate technical information to its more sophisticated customer, answers common questions about the product, while informing new customers that the brand is an expert in the market.
Regardless of your organisation’s industry sector or target audience, improving your product descriptions can have a huge impact on your conversion rates, revenue and profits. However, quality is in the eye of the beholder, so you need to make sure that you’re testing different descriptions before selecting the most effective messages and formats.
And remember to do this independently on your international websites because when it comes to writing effective copy for a given target audience, a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be successful.