Writing a product description may not command the same glory as putting together a viral blog post, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as important.
In fact, optimizing your product descriptions can positively impact consumer behavior and shape your brand voice. From higher conversion rates and more satisfied customers, to strengthening your brand’s online reputation and ensuring your copy is in line with SEO principles, the benefits make the time and effort required to write quality copy well worth it.
So, what exactly does an effective product description look like? We scoured the web to identify five companies which lead the industry with their strong product description strategies, and analyzed what makes them work.
Read on to discover our five simple tips—complete with real-life examples—which show how business owners like yourself can write copy which entices more customers and increase your bottom line.
<div class="tip">Alternatively, check out our guide on how to write a product description if you'd rather get right to it!</div>
1. Write for (not at) your customers: ModCloth
A post shared by ModCloth (@modcloth) on Jan 2, 2018 at 5:42pm PST
Many companies make the mistake of disregarding their audience when writing brand copy. Such carelessness is most evident when looking at a company’s product description pages. Copy is often written with a vague audience in mind, with the needs of the company, rather than those of the customer, in center focus.
This isn’t the correct approach to take if you want to create effective product descriptions that lead to greater conversion rates. You instead need to write for your customer, rather than at them. Doing so will make a dramatic and substantial difference in your customer acquisition rates, and subsequently, profit margins.
But, before you dive into writing your descriptions, you need to find your target audience—that is, who exactly you're writing for.
A buyer persona, also known as a user persona, represents your target audience, aka the group of people you developed your product for, seek to engage and generate loyalty from, and ultimately, buy your product. In order to do so, you need to work out how they think and what makes them tick.
Writing copy without understanding your target audience is a complete shot in the dark, and carries little chance of success. After all, you can’t expect your target customer to be drawn in by your copy if they don’t feel connected to your company on a personal level.
ModCloth is a great example of a company that has mastered the art of writing “customer-centric” rather than “product-centric descriptions.”
“Our copy combines both creative and descriptive elements in an effort to maintain that lighthearted, aspirational vibe, while still being search-friendly,” ModCloth’s Merchandise Copywriting Manager, Christen Russo, shared with us at Compose.ly. “The reason ModCloth's copy is notoriously playful and fun is because we're having fun, and we want to connect with our brilliantly smart and witty community with our words.”
Should you peruse ModCloth’s product descriptions, you’ll find not only is their copy fun, it’s also functional. Alongside puns and lively imagery, are practical details like potential ways to wear the product, how the product would make customers feel, and specifics about the product’s fabric, shape, color, and fit.
Here are some examples from their sweater collection:
- “Living the local lifestyle of romance, great eats, and effortless sophistication is simple with this sweater in your wardrobe!” (Banned Up to Parisienne Sweater in Houndstooth),
- “Though this cowl-neck sweater offers classic comfort, there's nothing basic about its bold design!” (Open Knit Cowl Sweater with Colorblock Sleeves),
- “This cropped cardigan is truly best in class, thanks to its cozy knit - with improved fabric to avoid pilling - and V-neck.” (The Dream of the Crop Cardigan in Honey).
One example Russo touts as a strong representation of ModCloth’s brand voice is their Icing on the Cape A-Line Dress.
The copy reads:
The neckline cutout and delicate buttons of this black dress from our ModCloth namesake label make this look a delight, but those are only the beginning. This vintage-inspired frock's gorgeous cape—which can be worn draped over the shoulders or tossed behind them—is the signature detail, creating a sweet sophistication meant for indulgence.
Why is this copy so effective? Well to start with, as Russo explains, “The name's pun [Icing on the Cape A-Line Dress] incorporates a nod to the unique cape detail attached to the shoulders of this piece—so, you have a playful pun that doubles as a commonly-searched term, ‘cape dress'—it's the best of both worlds.”
Puns serve a distinct purpose for the brand, with Rosso highlighting how they're “...a way to show the world that there are real humans behind our website, and we're humans who are inspired by the world around us, empowered to make our own style rules, and excited by our community of amazing gals and women.”
Indeed, “humanizing” your copy is essential in order to truly connect with your customer and make them feel valued. This is particularly pertinent for businesses that mainly, or solely operate online, as potential customers who feel disconnected from your company can easily take their business elsewhere—to a company that does know how to make them feel valued.
- Research who your target customer is, and write your product descriptions with them in focus.
- Encourage greater customer engagement with your brand by writing copy which makes your customers feel like their needs and desires are heard and accommodated for.
- Add a level of personalization to your copy in order to add a human-element your virtual presence.
2. Get to the point: Apple
A post shared by iSetups (@isetups) on Jan 1, 2018 at 8:21am PST
No roundup of product descriptions is complete without mentioning Apple.
Apple is synonymous with enticing copy which speaks to both their potential and actual customer base. The company breaks down complex concepts into digestible bites, designed to ‘hook’ readers in and stimulate intrigue. Their copywriting is so widely revered, countless guides have been made about how to emulate their no-fuss approach.
When it comes to identifying what makes Apple’s copywriting work, there are few better people to turn to than Wesson Wang. Wang worked on Apple’s PR for 10 years, and helped transform the company’s unremarkable communications strategy to an industry leading one.
Fortunately, he penned his insights in an article for the Harvard Business Review. One of his most notable insights was the importance of writing clearly and simply—even when a product was based on complex ideas and components. In order to do this, Apple would ensure all of their copy, including publications like press releases, scored a readability level of Grade 4 or lower.
“Any hint of jargon, cliché, or techno mumbo-jumbo would be removed in the editing process,” Wang pointed out. “If a “mere mortal” couldn’t understand our language, then we had failed. And failure was not an option.”
Writing clearly and simply is not a revolutionary concept—famous writers from Mark Twain to William Zinsser have stressed the importance of getting to the point. But particularly in the tech industry, where companies all too often get caught up in jargon and buzzwords, Apple’s clean-cut approach was something of an outlier.
Whether it’s their newest technological innovation or an esoteric product term, Apple always manages to explain complex ideas and products in a relatable and comprehensible way to their readers. Their brevity has become so tied to the company’s branding that customers come to expect it with each product launch.
The MacBook Pro’s product description is a perfect example of this.
The beginning of the product description page reads:
It’s razor thin, feather light, and even faster and more powerful than before. It has the brightest, most colorful Mac notebook display ever. And it features the Touch Bar—a Multi-Touch enabled strip of glass built into the keyboard for instant access to the tools you want, right when you want them. MacBook Pro is built on groundbreaking ideas. And it’s ready for yours.
As the most recent (and most expensive) incarnation of the MacBook, its product description is responsible for convincing customers why customers should pay a premium to own it. In order to be effective, their copy needs to highlight not only why this MacBook is better than the original, but also why it’s better than all of its competitors.
The MacBook Pro’s copy achieves this by using:
✓ Descriptive language (“razor thin”, “feather light”),
✓ Adverbs (“more”, “most”),
✓ Short, enticing sentences (“And it’s ready for yours”),
✓ Statements attesting to its superiority (“MacBook Pro is built on groundbreaking ideas”).
Each sentence speaks to the benefits of the product in a succinct and descriptive way, allowing potential customers to understand its purpose and use without confusion. Simply put, it all comes down to Apple’s elimination of “any hint of jargon, cliché, or techno mumbo-jumbo.”
The product description of the MacBook Pro’s Retina Display is an even better example of copy clarity and disambiguation:
Rather than providing an in-depth explanation of the technicalities of the improved display, Apple instead puts the spotlight on what the improvement means for customers.
Below are a few examples:
- “...delivering deep blacks and bright whites”
- “...even more vibrant greens and reds than with sRGB”
- “...more true-to-life pictures with realistically vivid details”
Although Apple’s customers might not know what LED backlighting and a high contrast ratio is, they simplify it, by explaining that it’s linked to “deep blacks and bright whites,” and thus providing customers with a colorful visual.
Same with sRGB—an average customer won’t know what it means or stands for (nor will they necessarily care). All they need to know is that this MacBook supports more vibrant greens and reds than sRGB, so that’s exactly what Apple tells them.
"Good copy is about giving your customers the information they need, while omitting things they don’t—no distractions, no gimmicks, and no chances for confusion."
It’s important to make the distinction between writing clearly and concisely, and talking down to your customers. Good copy is not about “dumbing down”, or patronizing your customers. After all, you don’t want your misjudged copy to end up on Condescending Corporate Brand Page, a popular Facebook group which highlights offenders of ill-thought-out brand copy.
Good copy is about giving your customers the information they need, while omitting things they don’t—no distractions, no gimmicks, and no chances for confusion. Do this, and like Apple, you too can provide customers with a highly-optimized, user-friendly experience that will make them more likely to make a purchase.
- Don’t make your customer waste time and effort trying to decipher your copy. Write with precision and brevity, and work out what really needs to be mentioned.
- Complex terms or concepts that are fundamental to your product should to be written in a clear and manageable way that highlights the most important takeaways for the customer.
- A “less is more” approach to copy is about narrowing down what your customer wants to know, and omitting anything that’s not important. It’s not about belittling them by oversimplifying your copy. Learn the difference.
Here are two of the best resources to check out if you’d like to read more about Apple’s copywriting:
- 'How To Write Seductive Sales Copy Like Apple' by Kissmetrics
- ‘Landing Pages by Apple: Borrow Apple’s Best Copywriting Techniques for Your Own Copy’ by Leadpages
3. Emphasize how your product will improve your customers’ Lives: Hootsuite
A post shared by Hootsuite (@hootsuite) on Feb 9, 2017 at 1:57pm PST
Customers considering buying your products are usually faced with one make or break question: “Is this product worth buying?”
“Worth” is a concept which is subjective in meaning to each customer. However, one commonality between customers is that they want a useful product, and one that makes their lives better.
What’s interesting to note is that sometimes, customers don’t even know what they want until they see it. Or, in the case of product descriptions—until they’re told it.
So, how do you convince customers of a product’s worth? One key way is to make your product descriptions stand out by emphasizing how your product will impact your customer’s lives upon purchase.
It simply isn’t enough to tout how cutting edge this feature is, or how revolutionary that one is. You need to tap into why your customers should find each feature important, and focus on that.
Hootsuite, a social media management tool, does this with their scheduling feature product description. It draws customers in by identifying a problem or concern most have, and also how their product provides a solution for it.
- Keep your social presence active 24/7 by automatically scheduling posts to fill the gaps in your scheduled content.
- Save time and effort by uploading, editing, and scheduling hundreds of social media posts at once, in CSV format.
- Get a clear overview of all of your scheduled social media content—displayed in a list, or shown in a daily, weekly, or monthly view.
Hootsuite piques customer interest by putting themselves in their customers’ shoes, and thus identifying their needs and wants.
Most people considering purchasing Hootsuite care about such concerns as keeping their social presence active, saving time and effort, and having a clear overview of their scheduled social media content.
For customers who landed on Hootsuite’s website without any real purpose in mind, Hootsuite’s copy encourages them to rethink their social media strategies: “Maybe I do need to be more organized with my social media posting,” or “Perhaps I do need to be posting more.”
"The fact of the matter is this: if your copy merely describes what your product does, your customers won’t feel much impetus to buy it. You need to confidently sell the benefits of your product, and tap into your customers’ concerns, needs, and wants."
You, too, can follow in Hootsuite’s footsteps by combining every product feature with a tangible benefit for your customer.
When figuring out what benefits to emphasize, you should ask yourself questions like:
- Does my product make my customers’ lives more convenient?
- Does it simplify a complex process?
- Will purchasing my product lead to more productivity? Or happiness? Or a positive outcome?
The fact of the matter is this: if your copy merely describes what your product does, your customers won’t feel much impetus to buy it. You need to confidently sell the benefits of your product, and tap into your customers’ concerns, needs, and wants. Only then will they feel connected to your product, and consider purchasing it.
- Put yourself in your customers' shoes and identify what about your product will pique their interest.
- Emphasize the worth of your product to your customer and how the impact it will have to their lives upon purchase.
- Your copy can make customers think about their intentions—even before they’ve identified them themselves. Just write in a convincing and engaging manner which effectively taps into their needs.
4. Create original copy for each and every product description (even if you have thousands of them): Asos
A post shared by ASOS (@asos) on Jan 6, 2018 at 3:44pm PST
Due to its phenomenal growth as an online fashion e-commerce portal, Asos has been held up as an example of the power of smart marketing in the digital age. Their revenue growth has averaged over 30% per year since 2011, and the retailer’s group revenue rose by 27% to £1.9 billion (approx. $2.5 billion USD) in the year to August 2017.
So, how do they do it?
In general, this means taking the steps or adjustments necessary for your customers to have a trouble-free and positive experience with your company.
For an online retailer, investing in customer experience primarily involves ensuring all elements of their website come together to add to—not detract—from a customer’s experience. And as you can imagine, a significant part of this operation involves product description optimization.
Asos adds a colossal 2,500 to 7,000 new products to their site every week. With over 10,000 product descriptions to handle every month, it would be easy to dismiss creating high-quality descriptions for all of them as something low on the business totem pole. But, Asos prioritizes them by creating around 400 product descriptions every day—all of which are original, captivating, and informative.
Asos understands these three factors are paramount to producing high-quality, and in turn, effective product descriptions. This is echoed by marketing guru Neil Patel, who argues that product descriptions should not “sell the customer on pomp and circumstance”, but instead “provide value and information that helps the customer make a decision.” He wrote that descriptions shouldn't be copied from a manufacturer as doing so "shoots down your SEO, shoves you into the mass of other copycats, and fails to produce any differentiation whatsoever."
It’s simply bad business to take a chance associating your brand with lackluster or erroneous copy. Nondescript and poorly written copy can lead to loss of potential sales, clients, and customers. For example, Episerver’s Reimagining Commerce survey found 98% of shoppers have had an experience where incomplete or poorly written copy dissuaded them from purchasing a product.
Every product description should be viewed as an opportunity to demonstrate your company’s passion for its own products, and more importantly, passion for your customers.
Furthermore, Patel notes there are SEO implications for poor copy. Duplicated, thin, and low-quality content is grounds for a Panda penalty from Google, so it’s imperative to always create high-quality and unique product descriptions.
Let’s take a look at one of Asos’ signature products from its namesake line, the CURVE Swing T-Shirt 2 Pack, to see how it follows the principles of high-quality copy.
The main copy reads:
Say goodbye to awkward-fitting plus-size fashion with our ASOS CURVE collection. Giving shout-outs to denim, occasionwear and jumpsuits, our London-based design team nail your new-season fashion goals with new shapes and fits for (UK) sizes 18-30. Work longline tunics and simple shift dresses Monday to Friday, or prep for the party in maxi lengths.
Below are just a few ways their copy fulfills the criteria for high-quality and original content:
✓ Uses a product name, rather than a generic product number
✓ Includes specifics about the product in the “Product Details” section (“Soft touch cotton”, “Crew neck”, “Short Sleeves” etc)
✓ Highlights style suggestions for how to wear this particular T-shirt in the product copy (“Work longline tunics and simple shift dresses Monday to Friday, or prep for the party in maxi lengths.”)
✓ Includes practical information about product usage, care, and quality in the “Style and Fit”, “Look After Me”, and “About Me” sections.
What’s noteworthy about Asos is that it isn’t just mid-range items like the above T-shirt that get such treatment and attention. Even smaller, inexpensive items like socks and trinkets receive the same level of detail and care in their product descriptions.
Can you say the same about yours?
If your company simply focuses its efforts on writing strong copy only for your “star products,” while neglecting smaller items, you need to reconsider your approach.
There shouldn’t be a noticeable quality discrepancy between your most and least popular product’s copy, nor between your cheapest and most expensive ones. If you want your customers to buy your products, going the extra mile to write original, captivating descriptions is equally as important as producing, distributing, or advertising your product.
- Each and every product description needs to be optimized for your customer, as well as for SEO. Don’t just focus on your “star products”, as your site and brand as a whole will suffer if you neglect your smaller products.
- You won’t reap the rewards unless you put in the hard work. It undeniably takes time and effort to ensure that your descriptions are original and of a high quality across the board. But with so much at stake, it’s well worth it.
- SEO-friendly copy will help protect your website against any Google penalties for low-quality content. Just be sure to balance SEO considerations with the needs of your customers.
<div class="tip">If you're short on time or resources, consider outsourcing your product descriptions! Freelance writers have the know-how to create captivating and SEO-friendly descriptions your customers will love.</div>
5. Use humor to make your descriptions stand out: Cards Against Humanity
Hey y'all it's @brentknepper again. I'm seriously worried most of you would die in a manner similar to this #cahIRL if I left a pack out here in Nowhere, Oklahoma for you to find. The next spot will be a little less challenging, I promise.
A post shared by Cards Against Humanity (@cardsagainsthumanity) on May 11, 2016 at 10:51am PDT
If there’s one company renowned for effectively incorporating humor into their branding, it’s Cards Against Humanity. What started as a $4,000 Kickstarter campaign has transformed into a multi-million dollar business with an extremely loyal following.
The company brands itself as a “party game for horrible people”, and is known for pushing the boundaries (and then some) with its risqué humor and ridiculous stunts. The game requires players to compete against each other to see who can make the most twisted and humorous card combinations.
What’s innovative about their marketing is the humor found in their products, also extends to their product descriptions—and their customers eat it up. Their copy and branding is so successful that they even convinced their customers to pay for a box of nothing.
In order to see how they so successfully integrate humor into their copy, let’s zero in on one of their products, the Back to School Bundle.
The product description reads:
Get the newest edition of Cards Against Humanity plus some other bullshit with the Back to School Bundle! It’s got everything you need for the best four years of your life. Five if you’re an idiot.
- Comes with the brand-new College Pack, with 30 cards about learning and throw up.
- Also includes a copy of Cards Against Humanity 2.0 (updated with over 150 new cards), a protractor for your studies, a poster for your dorm, a condom, and more.
- Won’t put you $300,000 in debt.
So, what can you learn from their humorous copy? Although we’d usually recommend against jokingly insulting your customer base, the whole premise of Cards Against Humanity’s branding is to be as politically incorrect as possible. The irreverent style of humor matches that of their customer base.
While your brand may not be as cutting edge as Cards Against of Humanity (and probably shouldn’t be!), there are countless reasons why you should consider adding a touch of humor to your product description copy.
Kim Speier's HubSpot’s article, "7 Boring Big Brands That Used Humor to Amp Up Their Marketing," highlights how even conventionally “boring” brands can use humor to strengthen their marketing.
"Humor is a way to sell your brand without outwardly selling something, and consumers certainly don’t want to feel like you’re taking money right out of their pockets," Speir explains. "By appealing to a consumer’s emotions you’re able to engage them and make them remember you."
Humor will help your copy, and by implication, your products, making them stand out amongst your competitors’. In highly-competitive industries, even a small point of differentiation will give your company an edge and an increased share of the market.
HubSpot points out that injecting humor in your marketing efforts can transform customers’ perception of your products. Companies which employ humor can transform so-called “ordinary products” into the most exciting—even if there’s little difference brand-to-brand, or price-wise.
All you need to do is find the right type of humor to match your brand’s tone and customer base. If, for example, your product and customers are more conservative, adopting edgy humor similar to Cards Against Humanity probably won’t work. Identify the type of humor your customers identify with, and suits your brand voice.
There are many ways you can incorporate humor into your copy. Here are a few ideas:
- Puns (check out ModCloth above),
- An inside joke with your customer base to create a sense of understanding and bonding with your customers,
- A reference to a recent popular meme or event,
- A common experience your customers will find relatable,
- Some light banter.
- Adding elements of humor to your product descriptions can have a positive impact on your customers’ experience, and also your branding as a whole.
- Humor can give your company an edge and set you apart from your competitors. It’s an easy way to make your brand memorable in a sea of similar products or services.
- Make sure to hone in on the right type of humor which matches both your customers and your brand’s voice. Incorporating the wrong type of humor will make you seem out of touch, and have the reverse effect than intended.
Writing a killer product description requires time, effort, and a bit of forward-thinking. While it might not have been a priority in the past, your business needs to start optimizing each and every one. With such things as customer retention, brand reputation, and even your site’s content marketing strategy on the line, it’s well worth putting in a bit of grunt work to make high-quality, original, and captivating product descriptions.