Think of product descriptions as your online sales associate—just like a brick and mortar sales associate. The best brick and mortar stores have selling down to a science. Their products are arranged on shelves and displays to catch your eye and encourage you to buy. As soon as you take more than a few steps in any direction a salesperson is by your side, ready to help. Music and lighting set the perfect mood, and the whole buying process is so simple, you walk out with whatever you needed plus something else.
Your online store obviously can't recreate that experience (hence why your e-commerce content is so important). When a visitor arrives at one of your product pages, your product images take the place of the displays and your product descriptions act as your salespeople. That's why basic descriptions just aren't enough. You need to put just as much thought into creating one compelling product description for each thing that you sell as those brick and mortar stores do with their layouts, mood-making special touches and sales training.
I've been writing product descriptions for so long it feels like I should've been creating copy for horse buggies and ringer washing machines. One thing I can say from experience is most small businesses don't know how to write effective product descriptions. Most of the time, they turn to blog posts and online articles that answer questions. They follow the one-size-fits-all methods for creating persuasive product descriptions and end up with cookie-cutter descriptions that sound just like their competitors.
This article isn't going to tell you some magic secret to writing ecommerce product descriptions. I'm not going to make big claims that I know some secret that will let you describe products perfectly.
Because the truth is, there isn't one perfect product description. A lot of variables determine what's going to work for you, and I'm going to walk you through them all.
Table of Contents
How to master writing product descriptions
- Know who you're talking to
- Start with the why
- Decide if you're a known or not
- Tailor your approach to your why and your known status
- Go back to benefits
- Forget the power words & keep it real
- Make it easy to read
- Write your product descriptions for people, optimize for SEO
- Show your receipts
- Consider it a work in progress
- What to include in product descriptions?
- Product description FAQs
How to master writing product descriptions
To get on your way to writing compelling product descriptions, follow the few tips I provide below:
Know who you're talking to
Do you talk to your grandma the way you talk to your friends? Maybe if your grandma's really cool or your friends are super into The Golden Girls, the answer's yes, but generally, you change the way you talk depending on who's in front of you.
Before you can even begin to think about writing converting product descriptions, you need to know who you're selling to. Take some time to consider your target audience:
- How old are they?
- How much education do they have?
- What's most important to them?
- What does their daily life look like?
- Where do they usually shop?
- What kind of music, movies and TV shows do they like?
- What are some of their favorite brands?
The more clearly you can picture your potential customers, the better. When you know exactly what matters to them, you can make sure you emphasize how your product fits their values and their needs.
Make the profile of your target audience the starting point for your brand voice. If they prefer to buy from a friend, sound like one. If they expect authority and expertise, talk a little fancier. If they'd appreciate a pun or a dad joke, throw some in while presenting the relevant information about your products.
Start with the why
Once you've got the who, you need to figure out the why. In my experience, most people buy a product for one of four reasons:
- They have a problem to solve. Problem-solving products provide a solution. For example, plumping mascara solves the problem of skimpy lashes, and a bigger water heater solves the problem of icy cold showers.
- They have a need to fill. Need-meeting products are something a person requires to complete a job or remain healthy or comfortable. You need a jacket when it's cold in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.
- They just want it. Want-inducing products speak to customers because they suit their tastes or their values. When a person sees it, they feel like they need it because they want it so badly. Novelty items, collectibles, decor and fashion accessories are examples.
- They aspire to it. Aspirational products have something that makes them extra special. They might be cool or buzz-worthy, trendy or indulgent in some way. People buy these products because they want to improve something, fit in with people they want as peers or avoid missing out. A luxury handbag and the latest iPhone are examples of aspirational products.
Sometimes, the lines between these get blurry, and that's okay. Your product may fall into two categories, depending on the characteristics of your target audience.
Decide if you're a known or not
What's a known? A known is a product that customers already is familiar with:
- For problem-solving products, a known is the most common solution for a product. A dishwasher is a known for how to solve the problem of stacked up dirty dishes. If you made the first-ever self-cleaning dinner plate, you'd have an unknown problem-solving product.
- For need-meeting products, a known is what people expect to best meet their needs. If they need something to sleep on, innerspring and memory foam mattresses are known. Newer hybrid beds with advanced technologies are unknowns.
- For want-inducing products, a known is something a person can understand the value of with just a glance, while an unknown product's value may not be immediately apparent. Someone can look at a purple throw pillow and figure out it can add a pop of color to their sofa. They might not have as easy of a time understanding why they should want a smart thermostat.
- For aspirational products, a known is something a customer already can picture in their lives. An unknown product is one they need to learn about in order to aspire to it. For example, many people aspire to own a luxury automobile. They may not be as certain about why they would aspire to own a pricey eco-friendly car.
Tailor your approach to your why and your known status
Ready to put it all together?
Writing product descriptions for knowns
If you've got a known product, you're already halfway to a sale. You don't have to convince potential buyers that your product has value. They already know that.
Imagine what you'd think if you were shopping for a dishwasher, and an ecommerce website started explaining to you that dishwashers clean dishes so you don't have to stand at the sink and scrub.
Instead of wasting words telling a known product's story, you need to tell the potential buyer why your product is the best one, the only one that they should purchase. Your job is to differentiate yourself from your competitors to steer your ideal customer's purchase decision toward you.
Writing product descriptions for unknowns
Unknowns are where you need to start with a product's story. Your descriptions need to start off by building desire in the potential customer. You need to prove that your product is the best way to solve their problem or meet their need or that they definitely want or aspire to it.
Go back to benefits
Product descriptions that sell are benefits driven. It's not enough to just state the product features. You need to turn those into real meaningful benefits for your potential customer.
If you're writing a product description for a known, the benefits of your product features help show that your product is that end-all, be-all they have to buy. For unknowns, the benefits increase desire.
So what do I mean by focusing on benefits? Say you're selling an entry-level running shoe, something someone knows they need for their workouts.
Bad product description - no mention of any product benefit
This running shoe has a leather upper, a foam midsole and a rubber outsole.
Slightly better product description - implies benefits
This running shoe has a flexible leather upper, a cushioned foam midsole and a durable rubber outsole.
Great A+ product description - focuses on benefits
With its leather upper, this running shoe flexes as you move, increasing your range of motion. Its cushioned foam midsole absorbs shocks to fight fatigue, and its rubber outsole is durable enough to last through countless workouts.
Forget the power words & keep it real
A lot of articles about writing product descriptions give you a list of power words. They're usually adjectives, and bloggers typically claim that using them in your product descriptions will make your conversions go through the roof.
I'm not going to give you a list of power words in this piece because I don't believe there's any word that works in every product description. Instead, I encourage you to use descriptive words that speak in your established voice and in the language your ideal customer speaks when crafting your product descriptions.
That said, use descriptive words with some restraint. A long chain of adjectives can complicate the text, making your product descriptions sound clunky.
Also, don't go wild when writing a product description. Don't make claims you can't back up or use hyperbolic language. Your customers are likely to see right through that. And if they don't, you run the risk of them purchasing a product and ending up dissatisfied. Save yourself the poor product reviews and possible returns by being honest about product quality and real with your descriptive words
Make it easy to read
Here's a fact no copywriter wants to tell you--a lot of people don't read every product description. They're likely to skim or only read bullet points. That's why sites like Amazon often put those first. That doesn't mean that a robust product description is a waste. The trick is to present it in a way that's easy to read by:
Breaking up the text
Even if you do a great job describing the key benefits of your products, people are unlikely to spend time reading a big wall of text. Short paragraphs make even long product descriptions seem less daunting, increasing the chances that people who visit your online shop will read every word of your marketing copy.
Keep read-ability in mind
When you're writing your marketing copy, don't forget about the buyer personas of your target market and gear your text toward their reading level and preferences.
It's generally a good idea to use shorter sentences and to avoid passive voice. But, you shouldn't make your sentences weird just for the sake of eliminating those helper verbs. You may also need to use passive voice to avoid making claims if you're selling certain kinds of products like dietary supplements.
More complex sentences might be the way to go for a certain customer base. Just be certain that you're communicating in a clear way, and that your grammar is correct.
Use bullet points in every description
I've found that a bulleted format is absolutely essential to writing product descriptions that sell. I feel so strongly about it that I already mentioned bullet points above and I'm going to say it again: you need bullet points with your product descriptions on your ecommerce site.
Here's some tips to keep in mind when crafting bullets for a product description:
- Lead with the best features. Key product details should appear in the first bullets.
- Move onto mundane features next. Once you've dazzled potential buyers with the main selling points of your product, move on to the rest.
- Save technical details for last. Highly technical information that many customers won't understand should go at the end of your bullet points or in a separate technical specs section.
- Use a new bullet for each unique product feature. If you're facing space constraints because you're selling on a marketplace ecommerce website, group features that have similar benefits together in your bullets
- Stay focused on benefits in the bullet points copy. Although you want to keep bullets brief, make sure you touch on product benefits as you list each feature.
Choose a strong product title
Page titles and product titles are part of your product description, too. Write ones that will appeal to your established buyer personas and that incorporate related keywords as much as possible.
Write your product descriptions for people, optimize for SEO
Ready for the big plot twist? I've been using keywords in this blog post the whole time. Do you feel like Bruce Willis at the end of The Sixth Sense? I hope so, because when I write, I do my best to add related keywords as naturally as possible.
Search engine optimization is important for your online store. When you rank higher in the search results, your online store is more likely to rank highly in the search engines' results, and more people are apt to find your site. More visitors means more potential buyers, right?
Having keywords in your product description and product title will definitely help with your optimization efforts, but you should never write strictly for the search engines.
Remember, customers come first when you write product descriptions. You don't want keywords to interrupt the flow of the description or sound strange to your potential buyers, and you definitely don't want to overuse them. Search engines will actually penalize keyword stuffing and place ecommerce sites guilty of it lower than other online stores in the search rankings.
Show your receipts
Adding social proof to your product descriptions can help build trust for both known and unknown products. Some examples of social proof include:
- Quotes from satisfied customers
- Customer-written reviews
- Success stories
- Photographs and videos of real customers using your products
Consider it a work in progress
I started all of this off by saying that there's no single best product description template or format. Remember?
Even if you follow every tip I've outlined, you may not get the results you expect. Consider every product description you write a work in progress. Reevaluate your product descriptions periodically while reviewing the sales results and other analytics for ecommerce websites. Making revisions can help with ongoing conversion rate optimization efforts.
What to include in product descriptions?
So what do you put in a product description? Here are some things to consider:
- Materials or ingredients
- Dimensions and weight
- What's included and not included
- Warranty info
- Power and battery info
- Other technical specs
Depending on the buyer persona and the type of product you're selling determines what information is a must-have for your product descriptions. As a great example, the dimensions of a tote bag are pretty important to have in a product description, while most people are unlikely to care about the length, width and depth of a bag of potato chips.
Product description FAQs
Got questions about product descriptions? I have answers.
How do you write a product description?
Before you begin writing a product description, create a list of all of the features and technical specs for your product. Decide which ones are your product's biggest benefits. Refer to the buyer persona you've crafted as you prioritize the features.
What order you write in is up to you. I personally like to do product titles first. Then, I move on to the bullets to get myself really focused on the benefits I want to touch on in the product copy. I save the text descriptions for last.
What is a product description format?
The format is the layout of your product description. Developing one for your store ensures consistency between each description that you write. Once you establish one, you can create a template that will save you time writing product copy in the future.
Still have lingering description questions? Want to find out about Stretch Creative's description writing services? We'll be happy to give you more information and explain our content creation process. Contact us today.