Small Business Tips · 26/09/16 21:02 · Arttu Talvitie
This article will tell you how to write product descriptions for your online store. First we’ll go through the basics of product descriptions and marketing and then we’ll share with you 7 concrete actions or strategies of creating product descriptions. Each of these actions will be dissected in detail. We end by recapping the main features of the process.
A product description is a part of marketing, but what is marketing?
Writing product descriptions is one of your most important tasks when creating an online store for yourself. For many potential customers the product page of your online store is the first impression they get of your product. For this reason the page must informative and tell the customer all that she needs to know about the product. Or rather all that she needs to know about the product in order to buy it. It’s not wise to hammer your potential customers with tediously long texts which detail every single aspect of the product. Instead the objective is to create a compact text which tells potential customers why the might want to buy the product.
In essence a product description is a marketing text. Contrary to common knowledge the goal of marketing is not to SELL SELL SELL, but to create added value to both the company and the customer. Only this attitude can lead to worthwhile customer relationships instead of single sales transactions and tedious customer acquisition. Clearly state the added value the product provides and help the customer make the decision to buy.
It’s all about how well one can communicate the value of the product to the customer. Many a sale are lost because the customer didn’t realize that the product is useful for her. There can be several reasons for this. The customer might not have bothered to read through the long product description and is hence completely unaware of the benefits of the product. Or perhaps the customer read the whole product description but was left cold because the description only listed the qualities of the product, leaving the customer without a clue about how these qualities would benefit her. A product description can fail for any of several reasons. Next we will go through in detail some ideas and tips on how to write efficient product descriptions.
7 tips for writing awesome product decriptions:
1) Know your customer
2) Know why your customer is buying
3) Avoid the pitfalls of describing products
4) Create a mental image of the customer using the product
5) Use your imagination
6) Make your text easy to read
In order to know what kind of a product description you are writing you must first know that who it is that you are writing it for. Very few are the sellers who try to cater to the needs of everyone. Even grocery stores target different segments in the population: certain stores offer high quality service with higher prices while others aim for cheap prices and quick availability of products.
Hence the writing process should begin by thinking about your customer. This means that you will be able to write the text in a style that pleases your customer and allows you to come up with the sales arguments that work best.
Also remember that you are not the buyer. You are the seller and hence you know a lot more about the product than most people do. This might hinder your ability to describe the product in a way that is meaningful for your customer. You might for example forget to mention a certain important feature because it’s so obvious for you. It may not be obvious for your customer! For these reasons it’s important to have other people, especially ones from your target group, proofread your texts and give feedback.
Often products are marketed by listing their features. For example the seller of a laptop can list the technical qualities of the product: screen resolution 2560x1600 pixels, weight 1,2kg, color black etc.
It must be noted that the customer is not buying the features. The customer is not buying the laptop because of its 1,2kg weight but because it can be easily carried from place to place. The customer is not buying the laptop because the resolution is that much and that much but because the screen allows her to see more stuff clearly. By using the product the features become utilities and benefits for the customer.
By talking more about benefits instead of features you are making a better job of getting you message through. In order to know what these benefits are you must know your customer. Most of sales boils down to the same question: who is my customer?
Once you have a clear picture of the benefits of your product you can break them down to sales arguments for your presumed customer. These sales arguments should also somehow differentiate you from other seller. If many sellers are using the same arguments the customer will not be able to tell sellers apart.
Product descriptions are often rife with platitudes, banalities and absurd exaggerations. These are of no use neither for the buyer nor the seller. Most often they are telltale signs of lazy copywriting in product descriptions.
Vague praise often cause an unintended reaction in the potential customer. If the seller claims that the product is of “amazing quality” the customer often becomes indifferent: “That’s what they all claim”. Indifference more often than not turns into a search for another seller.
Praise without justification is one the most common mistakes in product descriptions. Without a proper reasoning any claim can sound bogus or downright fraudulent. Every benefit or special quality offered by a product should be justified. If you describe your product as being “easy to carry around”, remember to justify the claim. For example: “The weight of 1,2kg makes the computer easy to carry around!”
Academic research of marketing has shown us that a customer is more willing to buy if she has had the opportunity to touch the product. The future with teleportation and such is not here yet, so touching items is not possible in current web stores. This means that we have to come up with alternative ways of doing things, such as using our imaginatioin!
Most of us have pondered prior an important buying decision what the product will feel like or what is it like to use it. Perhaps you have imagined yourself driving the car full speed on the freeway or wondered what a shirt would look on you. These thoughts have most likely made a positive buying decision more probable. A product description aims to appeal to exactly these emotions.
It’s not easy to appeal to the imagination of a customer. It can be done with product pictures but also with text. By writing stories about the use of a product you can paint the scenario you want with your words. You can for example tell a story which generalizes the user of the product into a universal character. Generalization is not without its risks, but if you know your customer well, you are able to make the text exactly right. If you hesitate you can make the text vaguer by switching words like each to words like most.
“Every little boy has at one time sat in a car next to his father and watched as the father drives confidently along the highway while sunbeams glitter on the car’s shiny paintwork. Many of us have at that point dreamed of the moment when we ourselves get to steer the car into the sunset.”
By adding word which describe sensory experiences such as “shiny”, “loud” or “soft” you can bring the use experience a lot closer to the customer. He gets to “fiddle with the smooth leather steering wheel of his brand new car.”
This technique can be quite difficult to execute, and unless writing text like that feels natural to you, you might want to avoid such methods at least on a grand scale. If you do decide to write stuff based on these instructions you might want to ask for outsider opinion before publishing your text.
Instead of using a fictional story you can also use real user experiences. They don’t come with the risk of getting carried away with your writing or getting over-imaginative. User experiences also give the reader a real person to identify to. An outsider comment or story is seen as being a lot more convincing than the sellers own texts. If you use user experiences in your product descriptions the person should be either widely known or you must make the person familiar to the reader by text or a picture. Introduce the customer and bring her closer to the reader by adding a complimentary facial photo.
It is not enough to activate the imagination of your customer. It is also important to let your own imagination fly! Start the task of writing product descriptions by brainstorming either alone or in a group. You can start by creating a mind map alone and then discuss the ideas freely in a group. In the beginning it’s important to let your thoughts soar free instead of concentrating on your competitor’s way of doing things. Borrowing from you competitor’s seldom leads to doing things the optimal way. You can of course learn from your competition but you shouldn’t let that handicap you. Generally speaking it is a good idea to acknowledge what the competition is doing so that you know your own position in relation to the market. This way you’ll be able to know which sales arguments separate you from the rest of the pack.
By using your imagination you’ll be able to create your company a tone of voice which separates you from the competition and helps create a personal brand image. This doesn’t mean that one should aim to create text which is very unusual or bizarre, but that one should write in a way which comes naturally for the company.
You can also create storylike narratives about your company. For example many wine producers use the labels of their bottles to tell a romanticized story of the history of their company. This is often a good way of fostering an image of high-quality and to make the customer feel connected to the product on an emotional level.
Most internet users skim through texts and pages instead of painstakingly reading through them. Hence it is important to create text which makes its main points clear quickly. A potential customer will read the text more carefully once she has become interested in the product.
Things that make a text easier to read:
- Use sub-headers which strike out
- Use lists and numbering
- Leave enough white space inside and around the text
- Remove everything redundant
Iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal. In this case it means that a product description is never ready. Once you have written one and started the sales it’s worthwhile to every once in a while return to your old product descriptions. Once you have spent time away from your text you’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes. It might be a good idea to read through it and think about the text based on these instructions. You might have acquired thoughts or experiences which can be used to improve the text. Once you’ve finished writing a text you’ve automatically acquired knowhow and viewpoints which can only be gained by doing. This is why iteration works.
There’s no shame in asking for feedback for your texts. Feedback can be received from your customers but it can also be asked for. If from nowhere else then your family or friends. Alternative viewpoints widen your perspective and improve your text. You can also monitor how your customers respond to your text: if many people find their way to the product page but nobody is buying, the product description might be at fault. Hopefully not the product itself…
We conclude by listing the teachings of this article so you can use it as a checklist while writing you product descriptions:
7 tips for creating top-notch product descriptions:
1) Know who you are selling to
- Engage with your customers so you know what they are like
- Knowing your customer well enables good marketing
- Create profiles for your example customers
- Personalize your marketing according to these profiles
2) Know why they are buying
- Sell utilities instead of qualities
- Break down the utilities into sales arguments which separate you from the competition
3) Avoid the pitfalls of product description
- Avoid platitudes and vagueness
- Reason the quality and utility of your product with its features or with customer use experiences
4) Create a mental image of the customer using the product
- Portray the customer using the product
- Use sensory words in the portrayal
- Tell stories about the usage of the product or employ customer use experiences
5) Use your imagination
- Let your thoughts soar free!
- Acknowledge your competitor’s way of doing things but don’t let it constrain you
- Make use of stories and literary tricks
6) Make the text easy to read
- If necessary use sub-heading which strike out
- Use lists and numberings
- Leave enough white space in and around the text
- Remove everything redundant
- Step away from your text and return to it later with a fresh pair of eyes. Do this regularly.
- Gather feedback and monitor your texts effectiveness
The instructions and tips presented in this article are fairly universal and hence one must take into account the peculiarities of one’s company and field of business. They tend to vary a lot. For example in certain expert-oriented fields of operation the customers are willing to read a lot longer product description than usual. For these reasons the advice offered here should stand as a starting point rather than a final truth. Only you know how your product is sold best. That’s why each of us should grow as a seller.
We hope that these advice and tips help you write better product descriptions and achieve higher sales!
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