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How to Write eCommerce Product Descriptions that Sell

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This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of eCommerce .
How to Set Up Your eCommerce Store with Bigcommerce
How to Set Up Your First Magento Store

Sales people spend months or years perfecting their sales patter. They know that words matter, because words build rapport, and rapport sells.

Yet sales people have the advantage of being able to use their body language and tone of voice to build rapport. Online, all you have is the words you write.

That's why as an online trader, writing is a skill you need to work on. It's an art that takes practice. There are principles you can work with to put you ahead of the competition.

After following this tutorial, you'll know how to be the best you can be when writing your product descriptions.

This tutorial focuses on two aspects of creating product descriptions:

  1. The process of writing: I'll show you how to get ideas into your mind and words onto the page. That way, you can stop puzzling over what to write and start getting words onto the page.
  2. The ingredients of writing that sells: We'll delve into the the theory behind good product descriptions, so you can write descriptions that make your products fly off the shelves.

Tutorial Assets

To complete this tutorial:

  • You need writing equipment, such as: pen and paper, a word processor, or note taking software.
  • You should have products to sell. Alternatively, you can practice your writing with fake products invented in your imagination, which is a good way of getting your creative juices flowing.
  • You must have internet access—obviously.

1. Do Your Research

Step 1: Keep a Swipe File of Product Descriptions

In the world of copywriting, you'll find very few writers who start with a blank page. Instead, copywriters keep a swipe file in which they collect examples of copy that work, or that resonate with them.

Whenever you see a product description that works, whether it's in a mail order catalogue or online, rip it out and add it to your swipe file. That way, when you come to start writing product descriptions for your site, you'll be prepared with an arsenal of ideas.

Step 2: Know Your Products

Depending on the range and breadth of your product inventory, it's very possible that you won't have the time to try out every product, or the spare cash to give up one of every product for trial. It's also possible that you won't even get to see or hold some of the products you're writing about.

That's why it's vital to get all the data you can about every product. What does the product do? What are the product dimensions? What's it made of? Which colors are available? What makes it different from similar products? Talk to your supplier to get all the information you can.

That said, where possible, physical interaction with your products will enable you to write better descriptions.

Step 3: Know Your Customers

A good salesperson is charming and builds rapport with her customers. It's more difficult to create rapport across cyberspace, but not impossible. If you know who your customers are, how they think, and what makes them tick, you can write descriptions that connect with your customers.

The good news is, there's plenty of material online that gives you insight into your customers. You can take a look at:

  • Amazon reviews: What do people like and dislike about products in your niche? Reviews give great insight into hot buttons.
  • Forums: People use forums to find answers to problems and to share things they like. This can show you what makes your products special to potential buyers.
  • Twitter: Searching Twitter for consumer opinions can be hit and miss, but occasionally you'll find copywriting gold.

Once you've researched your customers, put together a profile of your ideal customer. You should know their age, gender, job type, interests, passions, and where they live. By the time you've finished, you should have a picture of this person in your mind. When you write your product descriptions, you're writing to this person.

2. Just Write

You've collect a swipe file of descriptions that work. You've got acquainted with your product. You know your customers, and you've created a customer avatar.

The next step is to write your description.

Feels too soon? You're in good company. Many writers procrastinate over getting started. Don't join that crowd.

I recommend writing as fast as you can. You’ve done your research. Now allow this to shine through.

Instead of agonizing over getting it right, just write. The words you put on the page won't be your finished description. But they will become the raw materials which you shape into a description that works. It's always better to start with something than with nothing.

I recommend writing as fast as you can. You've done your research. Now allow this to shine through. Try to write at least a page.

Writing fast encourages you to write like you speak. But remember to keep your avatar in mind as you write. We all change how we speak depending on whose company we're in. How would you speak in the company of your avatar?

Also, enjoy you're writing. If you're having a blast while you write, your enthusiasm will be infectious.

For more tips on writing fast, check out our guide to speed writing.

3. Re-write

Now you've got a first draft, the writing really begins. Since you've already got something raw to work with, you'll find this stage much easier than if you started with a blank page.

Additionally, the more you practice re-writing, the more often you'll get things right in your high speed first draft.

Step 1: Remove Needless Waffle

Writing fast is a great way to inject energy into your writing and to release the gems of inspiration lodged in your unconscious. But you'll also produce some junk. That's totally okay, but now is the time to get rid of it.

  • Remove meaningless phrases: Your product might be "high quality" or "easy to use", but who isn't going to say that about their product? These empty phrases are trigger-words that should prompt you to share more detail. What makes your product high quality or easy to use?
  • Justify your claims: Copywriters are often encouraged to focus on product benefits rather than features. While it's good to show how your product will improve the lives of your customers, you should also justify any claims you make, even if this means including technical features. In fact, many of your customers will enjoy geeking out on technical data, so make sure you include it.
  • Delete clutter: There's no need to repeat the same thing in two different ways. Give the boot to unnecessary words, too.

This is a serious culling exercise. You're distilling the page you wrote to its most powerful essence of three to four paragraphs.

Step 2: Sprinkle in Keywords

Your product descriptions should be as search friendly as possible, as the copy on your site is a key influence on how your site gets indexed by search engines.

Use Google's Keyword Planner tool to find the most searched for keywords related to your product, and make sure these keywords are included in your description. You may have to tinker with your sentence structure so the keywords don't come across as clunky.

For more on finding the right keywords, check out our SEO guide.

Step 3: Buff Up with Punch, Flair and Personality

By now, you've probably got a product description you're proud of. You might be wondering "did I really write that?"

But we're not stopping there. You're going to take what you've got, and make it even better. Go over your copy with a fine tooth comb to find space for any of the following:

  • Sensory Language: What does your product feel like? How is it a pleasure to the eyes? In other words, add dazzle, zest, crackle and buzz.
  • Humor: As all salespeople know, get them to crack a smile, and you're more than halfway to the handshake. When you can make someone laugh, you create a connection, "we get each other, we're on the same team".
  • Slang: Don't use slang for slang's sake, but do make sure you're speaking the colloquial language of your ideal buyer. You want your customers to see you're a regular, down-to-earth guy, someone they can trust.
  • Focus on what makes your product unique: Have you shone the spotlight on what makes you stand out from the competition?

Step 4: Proofread

Read through what you've got to check the spelling and grammar. You might find you're so involved with what you've written that you overlook mistakes, so it can be a good idea to ask a colleague for help, or hire a proofreader.

4. Add Social Proof

The most effective product descriptions are those written by your customers, which explain what your product did for them. These are also known as reviews. All the big-name eCommerce platforms include apps and plugins to allow your customers to leave reviews.

What are your tips?

What have you found works in writing product descriptions? How do you get motivated to get words onto the page?

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