People are looking for answers - Do your product descriptions provide them?

Guy Tucker
By Guy Tucker
16 Jul 2014

Some eCommerce businesses seem to have a strange view of product descriptions. Approaches range from the minimalist, the plagiarised, the fanciful and downright absurd. All of which tells me that some businesses fail to see how good product descriptions can make a real difference to sales conversions, or even what the purpose of them should be in the first place.

Let’s start by clarifying what product descriptions are not for. They are not a way for you to show off your creative writing skills and in most cases, they are not there to entertain or amuse your customers. Their function is simply to inform and to help your customers make decisions about what to buy.

You know better than anyone the type of questions your customers will be likely to ask. Use your product descriptions to answer them.

If that sounds like an obvious point think about the following example. I was recently shopping online for a new washing machine and visited the site of a major online electrical retailer. I found a description of one machine that promised to wash my clothes with efficiency and authority. Authority? There’s a free family sized bar of your favourite chocolate for anyone who can tell me how something can be washed with authority.

The same description went on to talk about ‘a feast of features’ I love alliteration as much as the next person but a feast? Did any of this florid writing help me make a decision? Not a bit.

In fact the whole exercise was counter-productive. How good can this product be if they’re having to try this hard to sell it to me?

Slightly more helpful was the description about how an A+++ energy rating was going to save electricity and money.  What it didn’t tell me was how much I would save. If I’m saving 10p every wash then maybe the extra £80 cost for the machine isn’t such a good investment. The point is I had no way to make that judgement based on the information the eCommerce site provided – however entertaining the prose. 

The easy way outcopy_content

Some businesses take the easy way out with product descriptions and simply copy the product information provided by the manufacturer. A quick way to populate your website with content, that’s for sure.  But not a great approach to eCommerce for two big reasons.

The first problem is that the exact same content is certain to appear on other sites. Google looks for duplicate content and will penalise you if you have it. The way to get good rankings and good volumes of traffic from organic search is to write original search-friendly descriptions based on the search behaviour of your customers. You will have to spend time in Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to understand all of this but it’s worth the effort if you’re serious about getting more traffic and more sales.

The second issue is that you are missing a huge opportunity to deliver superior service and value to your customers.  Good product descriptions can be one way that you differentiate your business and compete with eCommerce giants like Amazon. Use your knowledge of the people who buy from you and your unique understanding of the products you sell to map out and support the decision making process.

You know better than anyone the type of questions your customers will be likely to ask. Use your product descriptions to answer them.

How to write better descriptionsquestions_answer

  • Before writing a product description, think of a few critical questions that your customers might ask. Think of the answers that would convince them to make the purchase. Focus on those points rather than trying to write impressive-sounding sales copy. 
  • Structure your descriptions so people can find what they need easily.
  • Use your expertise to help customers complete the decision-making process while they are still on your eCommerce site. There’s much more chance they’ll stay there to make the purchase too.
  • Be factual and helpful. A simple fact that can be corroborated will be more persuasive than statements like ‘best in class’.
  • Don’t just give descriptions and features – tell your customers why they matter and the benefits they get as a result.
  • Make descriptions as long as they need to be but no longer. Strip out all the waffle and the fancy sounding words and you’ll be amazed how much space you have to say something meaningful and helpful.

And finally…

Ask yourself this question: If somebody has five questions they need answering before making a purchase and you only answer four of them, what happens? Just hope they don’t go looking for answer number five on your competitors’ sites.ogilvy_quote