A Guide to Writing Compelling Product Descriptions That Sell
The Importance of Writing Compelling Product Descriptions That Sell
I am sure you have noticed that the global pandemic has significantly changed consumer behavior over the past 15 months. Stores and product brands have realized the advantages of e-commerce over traditional retail. But many of them failed to understand the challenges of e-commerce.
While there has never been a better time to start selling online, there is more to creating an online store than listing your products on your website and waiting for sales to come in. Writing compelling product descriptions that sell is critical for the success of any online store.
Why Do You Need to Write Better Product Descriptions?
Two essential tools you have at your disposal to sell your products are product photography and writing product descriptions that convert online consumers. An online store has to work extra hard to make the products on your product pages tangible for your customer.
Customers can’t handle your products in person. They must make do with a product image or images and powerful product descriptions. Unfortunately, many e-commerce sites don’t take this to heart.
There are a lot of opportunities for online stores to improve their offerings. That also means there’s a lot of room for forward-thinking online stores to stand out from their competitors and dominate their market.
Compelling product descriptions help you:
- communicate benefits more clearly
- establish a voice
- improve customer experience
- increase the chance of ranking your product in the search results
- get higher conversion rates
- get more return customers/build relationships
- create trust
What Is A Product Description?
A product description is the words that describe the features and benefits of a product to a customer. The goal of the product description is to provide the customer with enough information to compel them to want to buy the product immediately.
To write compelling product descriptions that sell, you need to write content that persuades customers to buy. What problem does your product solve? What does your customer gain from using your product? What separates your products from others on the market?
Your product description needs to answer these questions in a way that is easy to read.
What to Say (and Not to Say)
According to David Ogilvy, the 20 most influential words are:
Using the keywords listed above can help captivate your reader and persuade them into action. You can use these words in product descriptions, headlines, email subject lines, and more.
According to Unbounce, there are also several words and phrases that people shouldn’t use in their copy, product description, or anywhere else on their online store.
Poor word choices include:
- and more.
Ultimately, the words are poor choices if they aren’t accurate. Calling your product revolutionary when it’s not isn’t going to make your brand stand out.
A product description writer must be honest and transparent when describing the product. Saying a product is free when it isn’t is deceptive.
Saying your product is of the highest quality when you have countless complaints about the product quality isn’t going to trick people into liking your product.
What Does a Product Description Do?
Many online store owners believe that the job of an e-commerce product description is to describe the product. That makes sense, given the name. But your product descriptions aren’t just there to explain what’s on your e-commerce site. They are also there to:
- Qualify: They help website visitors quickly assess “is this for someone like me?”
- Persuade: They provide compelling, customer-centered reasons to consider the product.
- Surface: They use SEO keywords and search terms in a natural way, so the page shows up in search engine or Amazon results.
Here’s one way to think about it: product descriptions are a bit like 24/7 in-store retail associates for your online store. And just like live retail associates, they can help or hurt conversions for potential buyers.
Your product descriptions, as your virtual retail associates, can have a similar impact. If they do their job well, they’ll draw visitors to your goods and increase conversions. If they do their job poorly, they will frustrate visitors, push them away, and hurt sales.
What are Product Descriptions That Sell?
There are two types of product descriptions. One generates sales; the other doesn’t. Learning how to write product descriptions that sell means understanding the difference, so let’s look at both.
Ineffective Product Descriptions
Let’s start with ineffective, bad, and dull product descriptions. These types of product descriptions make one or more of the following mistakes.
- Don’t exist (as in, there is no product description at all)
- Screenshot or verbatim copy of the manufacturer’s description
- Copy/paste from a print catalog
- Give too much attention to technical details in the product copy
- Rely too heavily on product images or product photos to tell the whole story
- Use self-centered language (brand-focused instead of customer-focused)
- Hurt readability (e.g., small and light-colored text)
Those are all a sure path to being ignored by prospects and search engines alike.
Product Descriptions That Sell
On the other hand, product descriptions that sell invoke a feeling of “I can’t live without having this RIGHT NOW!”
Creating this feeling is where product descriptions that convert do their job (to qualify, persuade, and surface) very well. Your product descriptions need to include the following:
- Descriptive headline: Use a product title that will hook your audience. Bonus points if you connect with them emotionally.
- Benefits-focused paragraph: Use a descriptive paragraph to explain why the consumer benefits from the product.
- Essential benefits list: Follow the description with a bulleted list of key product details and features.
- Additional motivation: Minimize any remaining purchase hurdles (“will it fit?”; “do others like it?”) with credibility, social proof, product reviews, or urgency, and a call to action.
But how to write compelling product descriptions that sell? Many online store owners I talk to are having a tough time with that. I want to help them and you, to write better product descriptions.
To write better product descriptions, start with the basic outline I provided above.
Then, follow these steps for writing compelling product descriptions to customize your descriptions for your unique customers, brand, and product.
9 Simple Steps for Writing Compelling Product Descriptions
To write product descriptions that sell, you need information about your target consumer, brand, and product to fill it in. Here are the steps you’ll take to do that:
- Know who you’re speaking to and what their pain points are
- Define and refine the voice you talk in
- Don’t use descriptions provided by manufacturers
- Focus on solutions more than features
- Mention all your product’s key attributes
- Write for humans, not machines
- Keep it effective and efficient
- Write as if they’re right in front of you
- Run through a final edit checklist
By the end, you will have a product description that converts potential buyers.
Let’s look at each step in detail.
Step 1: Determine Your Target Consumer
You’ve likely heard the adage, “everyone is not your ideal customer.” That’s important to keep in mind for your product description. Trying to sell to everyone means you will end up selling to no one.
To avoid this mistake, speak directly to your ideal customer and not worry about the rest. Your first job is to know your ideal customer/prospect, what difficulties that prospect faces, and how your product will help the prospect overcome those difficulties.
If you haven’t defined your ideal prospect before, begin by asking these questions:
- Who could most benefit from this product?
- What problems will this product solve — or what pain points does it address — for those prospects?
- What desires will owning this product fill?
- What objections will prospects have during their purchase decision?
- Why should they buy from me instead of a competitor?
- What words or phrases do they use to talk about the product?
These questions will help you create your rough buyer personas. Your buyer personas must be front and center when writing your product descriptions.
One last prospect tip: remember to choose a target persona for each product description on your e-commerce site. Your different products are going to cater to different buyers.
So, identify who can benefit from the particular product you’re working on, then speak to that unique person in your description (that’s the next step).
Step 2: Be Genuine (and Yourself!)
Once you have determined WHO you are speaking to, your next step is figuring out HOW to talk to them. Is this a sales pitch in an office or boardroom? Are you helping a customer at your retail store? Or did you just meet over beers at the local pub?
There are various ways a retail associate can talk with you in a store. And there are many different ways a product description can speak with your visitor. You want to figure out which “voice and tone” are most persuasive for your ideal prospect.
There are nearly as many voice and tone options as there are brands. What’s “right” for your product descriptions will depend on two key factors:
- Your ideal prospect: What’s their emotional state when searching for/needing this product? What kind of language do they use to describe or search for it?
- Your brand: What impression are you trying to make, and how do you want to come across?
Use a consistent brand voice
Even though each product may have its specific targeted prospects, you don’t want to shift your voice and tone between products radically. It’s essential to stay in tune with your brand voice and brand image in every product description.
Getting out of tune might not be a big deal in a one-off email 20% of your subscribers read once. But your product descriptions are different; potential customers see them every time.
Here are some questions that can help you define the voice and tone of your description:
- What are customers thinking and feeling when they find this product?
- What kind of tone and language do they use in reviews, searches, or conversations with peers about this kind of product?
- What tone would a high-performing salesperson adopt with your best prospects for this product?
- What is your company persona? (Is your brand relaxed and humorous, or is it premium and serious? Or something else?)
- What separates you from the competition?
- What company values should be evident in everything you write?
Questions like these help you and anyone else writing compelling product descriptions stay true to the mindset and voice of your business or product brand. Remember, keeping your language aligned with your brand helps build and maintain trust.
Two other voice and tone tips:
- Nostalgia is powerful. Explore how you can include positive memories in your descriptions.
- Likewise, humor can ease the stress of buying– as long as it fits your brand. Give your prospects a good laugh to help create a positive, lasting impression.
Step 3: Don’t Use Manufacturers’ Descriptions
It’s easy to use the descriptions provided by manufacturers. The content is already there, so why not use it? Well, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t use that default description.
One, many other online stores sell the same products. Two, many of the stores selling the same products use these descriptions.
And voila, you have duplicate content! And duplicate content presents problems for search engines and site owners.
It’s hard to stand out if you are like everyone else. Of course, it is more difficult for some products to come up with a description that accurately describes the product in your unique way.
Plus, you might have many slight variations of a product, causing much frustration in writing those individual descriptions. Still, if there’s only the slightest possibility of writing something that stands out, go for it.
In researching, search for your product in Google and see which competitor comes up. Analyze their writing and see how you can top that.
Step 4: Focus on Solutions Over Specifications
Your target audience is less interested in your product than what they can achieve with your product. Potential customers are interested in how buying your product makes them more awesome.
This interest is something you can help customers visualize in your product descriptions. And an easy way to do that is to frame product features and relevant information as must-buy benefits.
- Encourage prospects by applauding their aspirations.
- Help prospects visualize what they can achieve with your product
- Help prospects imagine the product is already in their possession
- Use sensory language to explain how the customer will feel using the product by; tap into the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell)
- Help them imagine how using your product will meet their current needs
- Highlight the problem before you sell the solution
- If you want to sell giant mousetraps, turn the mice into rats (magnify the problem)
Are product specs obsolete now?
Does focusing on benefits mean the new rule of thumb is “no specs lists”?
Not quite. Specs are critical decision criteria for many products. Including specs is less of a “yes/no” question and more of a “where are they most effective?” question.
The answer is this: as supporting material.
Step 5: Cover All the Basics
Make sure to mention all your product’s key attributes. Missing a critical piece of information can cause customer misunderstandings and a bad user experience.
Remember that your customers can only rely on your product photos. It’s important to highlight things like product dimensions and size compared to other objects familiar to them.
Some of the critical attributes you may want to mention are the following:
- Product’s actual size. Knowing the size is especially valuable for jewelry or other small items. The image size can be deceiving, so it’s helpful to use silhouettes or models to give an idea of the product measurements.
- Many online consumers abandon product pages due to a lack of information about the product’s content or materials. Unclear product information can make it seem like there is something to hide or that the quality may be undesirable.
- Care instructions. Set your customer’s expectations by letting them know your product’s care instructions.
Step 6: Don’t Write for Search Engines (But Do)
One of the most important things to remember is that you are writing for humans, not machines. Of course, writing a good product description makes it easier for search engines to understand it, but that shouldn’t be your goal.
Your goal is to communicate the product’s value to customers and sell it as a solution.
Doing keyword research will give you an idea of which terms a product ranks for and what terms other people use to describe it. Combining these will show you how to write product descriptions that appeal to search engines and consumers alike!
Step 7: Keep Your Descriptions Simple (and Comprehensive)
Once you’ve figured out what benefits to lead with, you want to balance saying too much with too little.
On the one hand, you can deliver tons of information that is useful piecemeal but overwhelming as a whole. This “wall of text” approach can paralyze a visitor.
On the other hand, you can include too few details or information to be helpful. Providing too little info is one of the common mistakes many product descriptions make.
Aim for one paragraph of valuable benefits. You want to structure your product descriptions so visitors can scan them. Bullet points, short paragraphs, and relevant headings are all ways to help with readability and make your product description easier to digest.
You can also follow this format for your product description:
- Introduce the product
- Set up the problem
- Describe the solution in a persuasive way
- End with a call to action (move the prospect closer to becoming a customer)
Step 8: Focus on One Person
Some of the best copywriters have a trick for writing persuasive copy, and it’s one you can use, too:
Write directly to ONE person.
For you, this means writing like you were selling and describing the product to the ideal prospect you identified back in step 1.
Imagine they’re standing right there in front of you. Focus on being persuasive and energetic. Use the second person “you” to address your target customer directly.
If you are finding the “be persuasive” piece tricky, here are a few extra tips for writing compelling product descriptions:
- Keep sentences short and to the point
- Make an emotional connection with your audience
- Highlight what the prospect will feel after using your product
- Empathize with the challenges your customers face
- Agree with their pain and emphasize how your product relieves it
- Sell a lifestyle that will keep them coming back
Read Your Product Description Out Loud
An excellent way to test how your description is coming along is to read it aloud. Ask yourself if it sounds like a real conversation you’d have with your target audience.
If you find yourself stumbling over certain words or phrases when you do this, pay attention to that. It’s a sign a part of your copy doesn’t sound or feel natural. Keep tweaking and reading it out loud until you don’t stumble.
Also, ask yourself:
- Does it flow without dragging out into long sentences, big words, or anything awkward?
- Does it sound persuasive and energetic?
- Have you included all the features in the form of benefits?
If you answer no to any of those, revise what you have. Then move on to the step below.
Step 9: Double-Check Everything
OK, you have written a first (or revised) draft of your product descriptions. You’ve made a lot of progress! But you are not done yet!
Your last step is to run through a few checklists that help you check and make you’ve got all the big-picture pieces in place and haven’t gotten sloppy with the nitty-gritty, like grammar and SEO.
Let’s start with some big picture checks. Have you:
- Used a descriptive and compelling headline?
- Made your product come alive to the prospect?
- Highlighted surprising or unconventional benefits of your product?
- Led with benefits and pain-busting solutions, not features?
- Used language that’s familiar to your ideal prospect but consistent with your brand’s voice? (No jargon, confusing acronyms, or clichés.)
- Made your descriptions skimmable with headers, bullets, icons, videos, or another method?
- Included social proof – are there relevant influencers, technologies, or brands you can reference to help increase credibility?
- Used relevant SEO keywords and Amazon search terms naturally in the heading, subheads, and description paragraph? (Remember not to overdo it; write for real people first and SEO second.)
If you’ve done all those things, move on to some of the nitty-gritty refinements:
- Are you using positive words that evoke trust and security?
- Do your sentences start with action verbs? Or just passive statements?
- Did you use future and present tenses to help your customers feel like owners?
- Did you proactively include relevant directions to anticipate and prevent returns?
- Have you avoided “lazy” writing words such as: actually, literally, honestly, just, nice, sorry, that, very, kind of, maybe?
- Have you checked for correct grammar using a free tool like Grammarly?
- Avoided hyperbolic words such as market-leading, breakthrough, innovative, stunning, ultimate, revolutionary
Writing Compelling Product Descriptions that Sell
As you can tell, there is a lot that goes into writing compelling product descriptions that sell. They need to be both accurate and enticing, all while portraying the right brand voice. Product descriptions are perhaps the most critical feature of a product page.
They will sell the customer on the item because the purchaser can get an idea of what they will be receiving and what it will mean to them, and how it can help them.
A truly great product description does not only describe the product. It provides a snapshot of that product used in the context of the brand and, more importantly, in the context of the everyday life of that individual customer.
Start Writing Better Product Descriptions Today
If you have time now, go ahead and evaluate your current product descriptions using the steps and examples I listed above. It takes time, but the potential improvement in conversions and sales is well worth the investment.
Writing compelling product descriptions takes a bit of experimentation. The most important thing you can do is start working on your product descriptions; the sooner, the better.
We have experience optimizing e-commerce sites and writing compelling product descriptions that sell. We know that even minor incremental improvements to product page copy can accumulate into long-term measurable gains.
This article shows that writing compelling product descriptions is not complicated. Of course, there are many more ways to write effective product descriptions. But with these simple steps, anyone can learn how to write better product descriptions. We are here to help.
Not Sure How to Write Product Descriptions (Or Increase Online Sales?)
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Why not get started by requesting your free no-obligation estimate?
And if you are still not sure how to write compelling product descriptions, don’t worry! Simply reach out and contact us. Our expert team will determine the best way for your e-commerce site to provide the information consumers expect.
Are You Writing Compelling Product Descriptions?
Did you learn how to write better product descriptions? Did that increase your e-commerce engagement and conversions? If not, what is preventing you from writing compelling product descriptions that sell? What is the biggest challenge for you?
Do you have any tips of your own you would like to share?
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