To buy or not to buy? That is the question (that anyone who makes it to your product page will eventually ask).
There are many factors that go into the buying process, but one underrated factor in the equation is your product page copy.
While the other factors are undoubtedly important, far too often a company will neglect product copy and simply write down the standard manufacturer’s description. Or worse, they write nothing at all.
As Big Commerce points out, your product page copy should address the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How method for getting across the facts:
- 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.
But this is just the beginning. To write truely comopelling copy for your product page, follow these eight principles. Write product copy that establishes trust and sells, and you will increase your e-commerce conversion rate in no time.
Principle 1: It’s Contextual, So Do Your HomeworkEverything you write on your product page is contingent on one thing: you understand your audience.
This article can’t tell you about your audience and understanding your audience is key to increasing e-commerce conversion rates. However, you can start with qualitative research - including surveys, voice of customer research, interviews, etc.
In fact, the most important part of copywriting is the research. It should take the longest as well. Ideally, you’ll have enough research to craft detailed customer personas to help you write your product descriptions and with the rest of your marketing as well.
Principle 2: Use Your Customers’ Own Words
Once you do a bit of research, you’ll find that your customers can write copy for you. As Joanna Weibe from Copyhackers said in an Unbounce article, there are many places that they are already writing copy, including:
In support emails
In raving-fan emails
In tweets, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, in YouTube comments
In online forums
In LiveChat transcripts
In fact, she did just that, taking a customer’s exact words from a testimonial:
To create this variation, which beat the control conversion rate by 103%:
This is the core idea of Frank Luntz’s approach. He does in-depth market research (mainly using a unique type of focus group) to elicit emotional responses from target audiences. Through his process, he finds words that his audience is already using about the product (or candidate) and tests their emotional valence.
Principles 3: Clarity Trumps Persuasion.
You might be tempted to write hyperbolic, witty, humorous, and convoluted copy - but the best sales copy gives buyers enough information so they can convince themselves this is the right product for them. A bit of fun is fine and encouraged if it fits with your brand, but distorting your message in the process is not.
Many of the principles from Words That Work also relay this message: use short sentences, use small words, etc.
I think BeardBrand does it well with their product descriptions:
Principle 4: Communicate Benefits
We’re all aware that benefits sell. As Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Yet, this is still something marketers frequently get wrong. Kexino says, “it’s not about the how. It’s about the what,” but I’d take it one step further and say it’s about the ‘why.’
As Copyblogger found, writers often end up writing fake benefits. Here’s their 4 step process to extract true benefits:
Make a list of every feature of your product or service.
Ask yourself why each feature is included in the first place.
Take the “why” and ask “how” does this connect with the prospect’s desires?
Get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the prospect at an emotional level.
It works when done correctly, as WiderFunnel found out when working with Sytropin. They tested aspirational, ‘emotive’ copy and images against a product-focused approach. The end result? The emotive variation lifted their conversion rate 50%.
Winning Test Page - 50% uplift in conversions:
Principle 5: Use Active Voice
We’ve given the passive voice a lot of grief over the years. As Orwell said in 1946, “never use the passive where you can use the active.”
Why the bad rep? The active voice is often powerful and vivid. Passive voice has given rise to awful phrases like “mistakes were made.” It’s definitely not an immutable law; you can use passive voice without killing conversions. In general, though, active voice is easier to read and is more vivid and strong.
UGMonk usually features great active language in their product copy:
Further reading: Stephen King on why the passive voice is bad.
Principle 6: Trim the Fat
“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain
Most people understand this principle, but few people obey it. We intuitively and comprehensively intuit that superfluously touting incredibly useless and redundant adjectives and adverbs results in confusion - right?
Again, clarity trumps persuasion, so go easy on the adjectives.
Superlatives are a beast of their own. Should you say that you’re the best? No. Instead, be specific. Check out this example from ThinkGeek. No unnecessary adjectives or adverbs, no superlatives, just clarity:
Principle 7: Tell a Story
Have you heard of the ‘significant objects’ project?
Their website describes it as a literary and anthropological experiment where demonstrated that “the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.”
Basically, they bought trinkets from thrift stores and ebay then hired writers to craft stories about the items. They then sold the items for much, much more than they purchased them.
The lesson here is that good storytelling sells. Chubbies Shorts, a marketing powerhouse, is the master at telling stories in their product page copy:
Principle 8: Bring Your Product to Life
We’ve gone over many ways to make the words on your product pages pop. But content can also include videos, which has been shown to increase conversion rates:
ao.com found that that when someone watches their video reviews they’re 120.5% more likely to buy, spend 157.2% longer on the site and spend 9.1% more per order.
A Search Engine Land case study found that product video increased revenue per visit (but dropped overall conversion rates)
Video can also reduce your return rates, as Diamond Jewelry Limited discovered. And of course, Zappos was one of the original success stories. In 2009, they experimented with videos and the videos were “said to have a sales impact of 6 to 30%
All said, video is definitely a good thing to experiment. Since people are buying online, they can only see your product in two dimensions. The more you can show your product in action, the better. Videos help clarify a product’s appearance and purpose.
As you can see here, Brooklyn Brewshop is using videos on their product pages:
Be Better Than the Manufacturers Description
The worst thing you can do for your e-commerce conversion rate is neglect to write product page content at all. The more common mistake—leaving the manufacturer’s’ description—is almost as bad.
After all, writing product page content should establish trust, clarify your offering, and persuade the customer to buy. It’s tough to do that with jargon and marketing-gobbledygook.
So in summary, here are 8 principles to make your product page descriptions compelling enough to sell:
1. It’s contextual, so do your homework.
2. Use your customers’ own words
3. Clarity trumps persuasion
4. Communicate benefits
5. Use active voice
6. Trim the fat
7. Tell a story
8. Bring your product to life
As with anything, it’s imperative to test what works on your specific site, but these principles will help guide you to more compelling product pages and increased e-commerce conversion rates.
Learn more about how we think about optimization, product, and e-commerce at Granify by downloading our free e-book below or if you have questions, just reaching out to us directly.