5 Ways To Write Better Ecommerce Product Descriptions

Last updated Sep 8, 2018

Reading time: 5 minutes

A product description is a basic and boring piece of marketing copy with the sole purpose of accurately explaining what a product is — at least, you might think so from visiting bad ecommerce sites.

In truth, it’s an incredibly important thing to invest in, because a powerful piece of product copy can greatly boost your conversion rate.

But how do you actually write a great product description?

You’re unlikely to have access to any features or statistics that your competitors can’t also mention (because the vast majority of ecommerce stock is non-exclusive), plus everyone has different tonal preferences.

What style do you go for?

How can you choose?

Well, in this piece we’re going to cover 5 general tips for writing better ecommerce product descriptions. They won’t give you all the details (those will vary with the circumstances) but they’ll give you a solid framework for figuring them out. Give them a try, make an effort, and you’ll be convincing customers to click that “Buy Now” button in no time.
 

Define your tone of voice and stick to it

When it comes to digital marketing, tone of voice is crucial. It’s how you communicate your brand’s personality to the world. If you’ve ever put time into building a social media profile for your store, you’ll be aware of how differently people will react to the slightest tonal subtleties, and how easily they can sense inconsistencies.

And tone of voice isn’t just important for social media work, PPC ads, marketing emails and homepage copy — used well, it filters down through every part of your online presence, including your product descriptions.

For a great example of how you can extend a brand style to product copy, take a look at Aussie Hair. This Australian company manages to combine a light-hearted approach with technical know-how, establishing a brand tone of voice that’s laid back, fun and distinctly “Aussie”, right down to the product descriptions:
 
Product Description

Image credit: Aussie Hair

 
Having a consistent tone of voice across all channels of communication makes customers feel at ease and builds their trust in your brand. Whether you’re writing a 200-page annual report or a 100-word product description, that tonal throughline will demonstrate your commitment to your business and ensure that work stands out from that of your competitors.

A very common mistake in the world of online business is allowing product descriptions to become strongly technical and full of jargon, often resulting from a misguided effort to sound more professional. This doesn’t work, obviously — it just confuses people and makes you seem oblivious. Instead, go for a soft-sell approach with wit and verve, providing the necessary data but keeping it accessible.
 

Build around the five Ws

Journalists use the Who, What, Why, Where and When method for quickly getting their stories across, and for good reason — it’s a tried-and-tested storytelling tactic that cuts to the heart of what people are interested in.

Used as a structuring tool, it’s also exceptionally useful for quickly assembling solid product descriptions. Ask (and answer) the following questions:

  • Whom is the product for? Are you targeting a particular gender, age group or demographic? Make it clear in the description.
  • What are the basic details? These are technical attributes such as dimensions, functions, and materials.
  • Where would it be used? Is it meant for outdoor or indoor use? At work, at home, or in the car? Explain the circumstances.
  • When would the product be used? Is it seasonal or can it be used throughout the year? Is it for everyday use or special occasions?
  • Why is it useful? Think about the unique product benefits (UPBs) and explain why it is better than comparable products on the market.

You don’t need to follow this specific order, of course, or use a five-paragraph structure. It’s just a matter of making sure that you always cover the most important elements, giving you a strong foundation to build on.
 

Use storytelling to capture the customer’s imagination

A successful product description doesn’t just convey what a product is — it makes the reader want to buy it. Your instinct when writing a product description might be to only think about the details of the product, but look beyond that. It’s ultimately about benefits, not features — think about the experiential positives.

When you’re trying to get someone to feel something, storytelling is incredibly powerful. We’re naturally drawn to stories, using them to share wisdom and advice, and a really good narrative will capture the imagination and make a product seem more meaningful and valuable.

For a great example of how an origin story can make a product sound much more captivating, look at how leather and apparel store Son of a Sailor uses its product descriptions to add character and get readers interested — its Bravo Notebook description is pictured below.
 
Product Description Story

Image credit: Son of a Sailor

 
Think about the impact of that brief story. “Drawing from Billy’s Navy days, each piece in Supply has been named from a letter of the phonetic alphabet. Focused around longevity, these pieces are meant to be passed down from generation to generation.”

Reading this, the customer can imagine the thought and care that went into making the product, and get a sense of the long-lasting quality of the finished item.
 

Optimise your descriptions for SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is enormously valuable for long-lasting ecommerce success, and achieving great rankings for your product pages will hugely increase how many visits they get, in turn leading to more sales. Since product descriptions have prominent positions, they’re very significant for this.

The algorithms used by search engines to rank pages are intended to place the most useful websites at the top of the rankings, and there are countless factors that play into this determination. In general, you want to show originality, authority, and relevance in your content — improve those areas and your rankings will rise.

Before you write your product descriptions, do some keyword research to give you an idea of the terms most relevant to buyer/searcher intent, but be careful not to rely too heavily on keywords. The goal is to use them very naturally. Write descriptions that potential customers will find useful (making them as informative as possible, including all the benefits, details and features) and you’ll cover most of the important keywords in the process — you can add in a few more keywords afterwards if you need to.

I mentioned in the preamble that most products in the ecommerce world are non-exclusive, so there are going to be a lot of search results for any given product name. When you’re drawing from a stock pool that many sites use and can’t afford to alter the profit margins for, having the best-optimised descriptions and getting the top spot can make all the difference — if you look at businesses for sale in Australia with solid revenue streams, you’ll see just how massive the profit gulf can be between two websites with very similar inventories.
 

Use social proof

Social proof is all about using the psychological phenomenon of people conforming to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are “correct” in a social sense — and it’s extremely powerful.

Studies show that nearly 70% of customers look at a product review prior to making a purchase, and that product reviews from customers are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions or pieces of sales copy from manufacturers.

It’s important to include social proof in your product descriptions to demonstrate how much previous customers have enjoyed the products. Social proof can come in the form of a direct quote or review, or as a statistic taken from a customer survey.

Naked Wines makes effective use of this by asking its customers if they would recommend a particular wine to others, then displaying the number of people who responded and the percentage of those who said yes.
 
Social Proof

Image credit: Naked Wines

 
If you want your ecommerce store to be a success, you have to cover all your bases — and that includes writing useful, entertaining and SEO-friendly product descriptions. Get them right, and you’ll bolster your brand identity, building trust in your store and converting leads into sales.

Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene

Victoria Greene is an experienced ecommerce writer who is passionate about online selling. She takes a particular interest in the value of social media in the ecommerce world (most notably Twitter and Snapchat).