Think back to the last time you had to have something. Perhaps, it was that ostentatiously priced hoodie you now wear everyday, the Tinder Plus subscription you hide from your friends, or those microfiber dust-mop shoes you pretend to clean the floors with. No matter what the item was, what did you do before you bought it? Besides hem and haw at the price, the short answer is, you imagined yourself owning it. There was a kind of story in your mind, in which you were already the owner of the thing, and your life was better as a result.
Whether you created the story yourself, borrowed the story from the manufacturer or store, or a combination of both, you pictured yourself benefiting from this product. And once you decided your life would be substantially better for possessing said item, price was no longer a deterrent. In fact, if the story was seductive enough, you may have even been willing to pay twice as much for the item (after some additional price deliberation, of course, so you still feel like a fiscally responsible human being.)
This is part of the science of advertising: Creating stories people want to live in. Traditionally, business owners have gotten away with painting broad strokes when describing products, while relying laregly on the physical experience of actually handling products to sway consumers toward purchase. But not anymore! Today’s buyers increasingly want the convenience of buying online. As recently reported by Bloomberg Business, sales on e-commerce websites increased 3.5 percent in the first three months of 2015 from the previous quarter, reaching a record $80 billion worth of purchases.
This is why the words you use to describe your products really matter. This is actually good news for you, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, programmer, or artist. You’re already a creative person, so you can put your talent to work, turning this challenge into an opportunity. In this post, we’re going to go over some things to consider when writing product descriptions. These tips will help you help your customers decide to buy your products.
Whom are you writing for? Millennial Manga maniacs? Time-starved, tech-savvy dads? Women who worship at the altar of Eat Pray Love? While it’s impossible to put anyone “in a box,” it’s important to identify the specific traits shared by your average customer. In doing so, you’re able to reference their needs, wants, and cultural sensibilities in your product descriptions.
Some words of advice: Just because you know your product, that doesn’t mean you know your customers. In a Harvard Business Review Column, Adam Richardson writes:
“Most companies are the centers of their own universes. It’s a natural enough impression; after all, the products and services they offer are on their minds 24/7.”
The trap? Talking to your customers using a tone, style, and vocabulary they can’t identify with. You can avoid this tendency by surveying past customers (with a mixture of qualitative + quantitative questions), “stalking” them on social media (What types of content do they share? What type of music do they listen to? Who do they follow?), and/or conducting focus groups.
Once you know whom you’re writing for, consider organizing your findings in a “voice guidelines” document. Reference it each time you begin writing or until it becomes second-nature. Write for your audience, not yourself.
Buyer’s remorse. We’ve all been there. We buy something we think will meet our needs, only to end up disappointed. While in some cases a product just plain sucks, often inaccurate product descriptions are to blame, and the item didn’t end up being exactly what we hoped it was. Other times, we get frustrated by a lack of detailed information and don’t buy at all.
You can prevent your customers from experiencing both of these issues by clearly listing all product details. When listing specifications, use bulleted lists instead of paragraphs. Never assume your customer knows what to expect. List all product capabilities, requirements, dimensions, features, and purchase/delivery details.
For example, if you’re selling music, be clear about track length, file size, codec, bitrate, and how the customer will receive their download link. If you’re selling software, make sure you are clear about the software platform, the terms and method of product support, and anything else your customer should know. Your customer will benefit and so will you.
People don’t want to read stuff that’s boring! If you don’t consider yourself a natural wordsmith, you can hire someone, or just start practicing. Like most things in life, you will become a better writer the more you do it. Here are some tips for producing high-quality product descriptions:
One of the reasons America fell in love with Mark Twain is that he kept things simple. Until Twain, it was common for American authors to spend up to 2 pages describing the descent of a single leaf from a tree! When it comes to e-commerce, even though you need to be detailed when you describe your products, no one wants to read a dissertation on them. Edit and re-edit your copy to eliminate extraneous verbiage.
In addition to listing the functional details of your product, you’ll want to describe the experience of interacting with it. Compare the following two descriptions for a pretend product called Bubbzlr:
Ex 1: Bubbzlr allows you to collaborate with coworkers, share files, and take notes.
Ex 2: Not only is Bubbzlr feature-rich, it’s sexy as hell. We worked with top designers to create a sleek, sophisticated interface. The Caribbean color scheme provides a relaxing backdrop for brainstorming with colleagues, sharing files with your team, and effortlessly keeping track of ideas.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with example no. 1. It’s clear, brief and efficient. But it’s just not as vivid as example no. 2. Remember, you’re “painting a picture,” and “telling a story.” You want the customer to be able to imagine owning and enjoying your products.
BANG! Be Surprising. Be Novel.
Stand-up comedians often invoke the element of surprise in their acts. By finishing common anecdotes with uncommon punchlines, they catch their audiences off-guard and generate major laughs. And while it probably isn’t often a good idea to use comedy as your primary strategy for standing out, standing out, in general, works a lot like jokes do.
Most of us live fairly predictable day-to-day lives. The result is that anything out of the ordinary really catches our attention. This kind of attention is what makes ideas and products seem novel to us. Use this to your advantage by infusing your copy with exciting plot twists. Just remember to keep it aligned with your audience. Make the story of your product compelling. This way, when your customers imagine themselves owning your product, the story will be an exciting one, a step up from their normal hum-drum daily life.
Follow these three tips and you’ll be writing copy for your product descriptions ‘like a boss’ in no time!
Stay tuned for more e-commerce tips to help you increase your sales and succeed in your vision.