Attracting Buyers with Your Product Descriptions
A good mantra for e-commerce sites is: 'if the user cannot find the product, then the user cannot buy it’ (Amy Schade, NNG)
On a large proportion of e-commerce sites, the product descriptions are scant. They may feature an image, but it may not be sized correctly. They may have text describing the product, but it lacks enough detail to convince a user to buy. And there is usually an ‘Add to Cart’ call to action button, but this may not be visible enough or placed in an appropriate place.
I am going to talk you through how to avoid common mistakes in six simple steps, to ensure your e-commerce site is working to its full capacity and attracting more buyers... all of the time.
How Can Optimised Product Pages Benefit Your Business?
- Reaches a wider audience - product descriptions which incorporate your keywords will be easier for your target audience to find in search engines
- Your initial outlay in terms of copywriting will reap a high ROI - good product descriptions will help turn browsers into buyers, by giving them enough pertinent and useful information about your product or service to convince them that it’s what they are looking for
- Prevents ‘task failures’ - where users get so far with a purchase on an e-commerce site then abandon the process before submitting it and proceeding to payment. According to NNG, up to 20% of task failures are due to incomplete or unclear product information
- Making your product descriptions as easy to read and information-packed as possible means that your users’ experience will be a breeze. They almost won’t have to think about buying, because at no point has your product description given unclear or incomplete information. It is these two things that can halt their response to buy and make them stop and reconsider
5 Things Users Want from Your Product Descriptions
Well-written product descriptions are like any type of content on your website. They could be the make or break of the success of your website
- Users like clarity. They like to be addressed in plain English. If you have to use technical terms, make it clear why. You could include a link to another page (which opens in a new tab so that they can easily get back to the product they were looking at afterwards), which gives the user an option to read more about something technical if they don’t understand it and seek clarity
- Users like to be addressed directly - lots of ‘you’ and ‘your’ in your product descriptions can make them feel connected, both with the product and with you as a company
- Users like to see clear benefits - presenting benefits clearly is always best, so they can skim them at a glance. Using bullet points or ticks can be very effective for this
- Users like sensory experience, even online - anything that can simulate or recreate that can help to sell a product - as we will discuss later, even descriptive words that address how a product tastes, feels or smells can make a huge difference to whether an online browser will click on that 'Add to basket' button or not
- Users like text that is easy to scan or skim read - giving them lots of white space on your product pages is not only pleasing to the eye but it gives them a natural breather that means the difference between feeling relaxed and feeling overwhelmed. Bullet points are also useful to break up text and aid scan or skim reading, making information more digestible
6 Ways to Please Your Customers with Your Product Descriptions
1. Answer their Questions
This example from clothing retailer White Stuff perfectly demonstrates how to write a product description which pre-empts customer questions and answers them before they have to pause and search.
- The first question many browsers will be asking when they look at a product online is ‘How much does it cost?’ White Stuff have their pricing in bold, in a darker text than the rest of the product information so that it stands out
- Another question may be: ‘I don’t like the green much but like the style. Are there any alternative colours available?’ Again, White Stuff’s product description answers this question with a handy colour swatch just underneath the price
- People who buy clothes online will usually be wondering if it will suit them and what have they got in their wardrobe that will match an item. In the absence of the sensory experiences available to them when they shop in person, such as touching the fabric and trying on a garment, the product description has to work harder to reduce this anxiety: ‘Will it suit me?’ ‘Will it go with my other clothes?’ These are two major factors involved in making the decision to buy an article of clothing. White Stuff reduces these anxieties with this clever, subtle description: ‘This lovely velvet skirt sits just above the knee and has a side zip fastening. With sweet spotty panels at the hem and waist and it’s great to mix and match with our plain tees.’ It tells buyers what length it is (and therefore they can decide whether it will suit them or not) and suggests matching items. Not only does this cross-sell, but it also reassures buyers that there are items available that will perfectly match it
- Another stumbling block to buying might be: ‘Is it washable or will I have to dry clean it?’ This anxiety is immediately eliminated by the second paragraph of the description: ‘Machine washable’
2. Focus on Benefits
This product description on the Wilkinson’s website gives clear benefits :
- It creates a scenario of how the typical buyer will use the lamp: to focus on a task such as studying, and shows the customer how this lamp fulfils their needs
- It keeps the focus all the time on the customer by addressing them directly with words such as ‘you’ and ‘your’
- It highlights the benefit of the lamp’s adjustability, thus showing that it can be useful for varying purposes (a softer light if directed towards a wall, a stronger beam if directed onto a book or laptop screen / keyboard for studying)
- It is easy to clean, so this presents less effort on the part of the buyer to maintain it
- It is value for money
- In the Delivery and Returns tab, it is clear how much the customer will pay for delivery. It also gives a free option of having it delivered to a local branch
3. Be Clear
Users have a more positive experience if the text of online product descriptions is clear.
- Clarity about how what the product is
- Clearly written text that has accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation all adds to a positive user experience - this also helps to build customers’ trust in your products, services and your business in general
- Considering accessibility issues can also benefit your e-commerce site - for example, text that is not readable on smaller screens (mobiles or tablets), is a colour that may appear differently on different browsers, or difficult to read for those who have sight-related issues (for example a light grey text on grey background that has not enough contrast to make it stand out). All of these issues could damage your users’ experience when they visit your website
Users also have an enhanced experience if your product photography is clear. Without being able to hold or use a product as they would be able to in a shop, your users are lacking that sensory experience that can often persuade them to buy. Your product photography is a substitute, so photography that is clear is bound to be a winner on your e-commerce site.
- The Clarks website offers users high quality photography so they can view the shoes of their choice from a range of different angles - it is clear how many angles are available, and each angle is on a user-controlled slider, giving them the choice of which angle they would like to view the product from
- Each photograph on offer has a zoom facility, controlled by the user, so that they can zoom in on an angle of the product. Even when you zoom in very close, the photograph is still high quality (and doesn’t pixellate), so you can get a feeling of the quality, shade and finish of the leather from which the shoe is made. You can even see how it reflects the light, and the attractive nuances in the patina of the leather. This facility is the next best thing the online user can get to actually holding the shoe or trying it on instore
- Using bullet points to highlight product benefits is another clear winner - bullet points or tick lists are simple and effective ways to list benefits, allowing users to skim read, scan the product description to find exactly what they’re looking for straight away - the easier it is for them, the better, in terms of how happy they feel to stay on your website and look at your products further. They are much more likely to buy if they can find information which answers their questions quickly
Jessops use both ticks and bullets to highlight benefits, but tabulating benefits or product information can also be effective:
- Not only does it enhance the user experience when the text and the product photographs are clear, but the way in which information is presented can have an effect too on how likely users are to buy
- Giving users plenty of white space between products so they can easily differentiate between them is good practice - white space in general is a good move online, as it gives users a natural breather, so that they can see everything clearly - cramming in lots of dense information in a small space can be a turn-off for online browsers
- Product information presented in a table form enables users to scan the product credentials quickly and easily
- Tabulating details means that a lengthy description, which may put buyers off, is avoided
- At a glance the customer can see if the product has the properties / qualities they are looking for
4. Be Accurate
'Don’t inflate product descriptions. Be detailed when writing your product descriptions, but avoid hyperbole and exaggeration' - Jimdo blog
Hyperbole comes from the Greek word for ‘excess’: it refers to any word that overblows and exaggerates. Hyperbole is closely associated in many people’s minds with sales-spiel; with empty promises that will not be fulfilled, such as: ‘This amazing product is truly unique’ or ‘Our fantastic flawless face cream will make you look 20 years younger instantly’.
Online customers are generally sceptical about these kinds of wild claims. They generally prefer to be given details about the basic properties of a product, just as we have already discussed. Answer their question: ‘Is this what I’m looking for?’ by giving specific details on particulars such as price, shipping or delivery costs, availability, colour, size, material / fabric, direct achievable benefits and objective customer reviews.
While it is best to avoid hyperbole, using sensory adjectives can really enhance your product description.
What do we mean by sensory adjectives?
It’s any word that describes a sensory experience, associated with smell, touch, taste, colour, texture or sound. This particular class of descriptive words can enhance your users’ experience on your e-commerce site, by bringing them closer to the product through imagination.
- Users visiting this site obviously cannot sample Pie Minister chutney, but they get a sense of how it tastes from powerful descriptive words such as ‘aromatic,’ ‘sweet’ and ‘salty’ - think about your products and which senses they can appeal to - and make a list of some appropriate descriptive words to enhance your product descriptions
- The use of alliteration ‘sweet and salty stimulate appetite’ is quite sensuous language - even though what we are actually reading about is mundane. The powerful language is hypnotic and lulls us into actually feeling like we want to try this chutney - it is stimulating our taste buds from a distance! Think of words to use in your product descriptions that can paint a picture for your customers - because they cannot actually feel, smell, hear or taste a product, a good description can evoke some of the sensations - so if you’re selling audio equipment, words to describe the sound they will get such as ‘crisp’ or ‘clear’ will help them imagine what your product is like
- Note that these descriptive words are specific and simple - they are not exaggerating or making wild claims - they are simply stating and accurately describing what the product is like to taste - doing some market research and getting feedback from people about your products could be useful, to record some of the words they use to describe the product - for example, if you are selling soap, instead of words such as ‘gorgeous aroma’ (which is erring on the side of hyperbole), you could use words such as ‘fruity’, ‘zesty’ or ‘fresh’
- Note also that within these descriptive sentences that stimulate the senses, there are clear and concrete benefits - the spices to aid digestion and the balance of sweet and salty flavours to stimulate the appetite
5. Make Comparisons Easy
If you’re selling a range of products in the same category, it helps customers viewing your page if they can easily see comparisons.
Take a look at Ikea’s range of basin taps:
- At a glance, browsers can see clear photographs of all products on offer - many like to have the option of ‘View all’ so they can see all products in a category on one page: this means they don’t have to keep clicking on the ‘Next page’ button at the bottom of each page they view. This is especially helpful for those using mobile devices, where tapping on a small ‘Next page’ icon or number might be tricky
- The taps on the Ikea site each have a link from the name and brief product description so that if the browser chooses, (s)he can click through and read more before they make the commitment of adding it to their basket. Giving browsers this option is a good move, as it leaves the comparison page free from the clutter of long descriptions, whilst not skimping on description if the browser clicks on the link. Enabling the ‘back’ button / arrow so that if the browser is not satisfied with that product they can return straight away to the comparison page, provides a positive user experience. It gives the user autonomy but also allows them a clear path home to their original search
- Having prices clearly stated in line with each product is good practice too. Ikea left-align the prices on their comparison page so that it is clear to which product they are referring and there is no danger of browsers mixing them up
Giving users the ability to control and refine their search is always a great feature on e-commerce sites. Ikea allow users to customise their search in a number of ways: name, price and how recently the product was added. If users feel that they have all the tools they need to find exactly what they want in the quickest possible way, they will be happy. They are more likely to return to a site that has allowed them this ease and autonomy
6. Include Customer Reviews
Heard of social proof?
‘The goal is to increase conversions by giving evidence that you are accepted by others. Visitors, influencers, subscribers, and buyers all trust you. This kind of “informational social influence” is a simple and powerful way to improve the initial value judgement of your landing pages, your site and your company. Social proof makes any decision other than using your company seem outside the norm’ - Andy Crestodina, unbounce.com
So how can you leverage social proof and steer people into trusting and buying your products?
- A great way of harnessing social proof is by giving customer testimonials / reviews a prominent place on your product pages: if people see that lots of others have bought and liked the product, they are more likely to buy it
- Waterstones do it well by allowing the browser to choose whether they want to read the reviews, but in a prominent place (and in a standout colour : red), showing the star rating of the particular book
- Reviews on websites are easy to fake, but in the long run it probably won’t do you any favours if you’re tempted to go down this route. Building up a steady stream of happy customers might take some time, but it’s always best to be authentic as it helps to build trust
So we’ve looked at six different ways to optimise your product descriptions to attract more buyers. Giving buyers a stress-free and rewarding user experience is what e-commerce sites are all about. Having good product descriptions lays the foundations for happy customers, more purchases and loyal buyers who will keep coming back!
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