The other night, I was at a restaurant with my friend. After checking out the menu, I decided to order the veggie tacos, since they sounded like a pretty safe bet…and my friend said to me in surprise, “Huh. I thought you were going to go with the quinoa bowl” (she knows me well).
I reread the menu description for the quinoa bowl and responded, “yeah, I guess the menu description didn’t really entice me.”
You see, that’s the power of words.
Let me elaborate…
The Power of Words
When you go out to eat, you often don’t know what the food will taste like (unless you’ve tried it before). The only thing that you can use to make your decision are the menu descriptions.
And the way that those menu descriptions are written can make all the difference. One study even found that well written, descriptive menu descriptions “…increased sales by 27% and improved attitudes towards the food, attitudes towards the restaurant, and intentions toward repatronage.”
Bad menu descriptions can do just the opposite. And worst case scenario: They can cost a restaurant its customers.
The same goes for your product descriptions. A good product description can build trust, set high expectations, and increase conversions.
Want proof? Teespring found that a simple change in language resulted in a conversion increase of 12.7%.
Here’s yet another example that demonstrates the power of words: In an experiment, a social psychologist asked to cut a line to use a Xerox machine. She asked the same question in three different ways:
- Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? 60% said yes
- Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? 94% said yes
- Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies? 93% said yes
Simply stating a “because,” no matter the reason, can therefore mean the difference between a “yes” and a “no.”
Now that I’ve presumably convinced you just how powerful words can be, hopefully you know how important it is to have a good product description.
You might also want to find out how to write a product description that sells. If that’s the case, then today’s your lucky day! In this blog post, I’m going to share with you 10 different ways that you can do that.
How to Write a Product Description That Sells
1. Use Power Words
There are certain words that elicit emotion. These are called power words. You can think of them like the superfoods of copywriting.
Want to trigger greed? Curiosity? Fear? Someone’s inner laziness? Believe it or not, there are a number of power words that can help you do all of this.
Depending on the emotion(s) that you want to bring out in your prospects, try sprinkling these proven power words throughout your product description…and watch your conversions increase.
2. Simplify Things
In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg described the social media platform as “Something where you can type someone’s name and find out a bunch of information about them.”
In 2011, Travis Kalanick pitched Uber as “You push a button and in five minutes a Mercedes picks you up and takes you where you want to go.” And now, Uber’s one-liner is even simpler: “Tap a button, get a ride.”
What do those descriptions have in common?
They are uber simple (pun intended) and easy to understand.
Just like Facebook and Uber did, make your product description so simple that in the very first sentence, your customers can understand what your product is all about and what its main benefits are. Steer clear of fancy jargon and convoluted sentences—otherwise you’ll lose your prospects.
3. Speak Your Customer’s Language
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’re going to end up appealing to no one.
You should know your ideal customer inside and out and your product description should be written to that customer and to no one else. Know the words that they use and how they speak on a day-to-day basis—and use the same language in your copy.
Inject a little personality into your writing, if relevant to your audience and brand. Have fun with it, like the men’s short shorts brand, Chubbies, does:
They don’t just list the features of their shorts and call it a day. Rather, they turn something that could be boring to read into something that’s fun to read. The pithy feature descriptions actually make the reader laugh and want to keep reading.
Here’s another one:
Granted, it might not be your style to be that humorous and laid back…what’s important is that you know how your audience talks and speak to them in their language, whatever that may be.
Not sure what language that is? Do a little research to find out. Talk to your customers if you can. Pay attention to the way that they compose their emails and speak about your products. Read reviews (if you don’t have any yet, you could also read your competitor’s reviews). Notice what words they use to talk about your products and then use those words throughout your product description.
4. Tell a Story
Stories captivate and intrigue us. They trigger emotion and allow us to connect with the storyteller.
Take a look here at how storytelling affects the brain:
Given all of that, you probably won’t be surprised to know that stories also sell. In an experiment, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn set out to prove this. They believed that they could resell cheap, mundane thrift store products on eBay at a much higher price, simply by adding interesting stories to the product descriptions.
So they spent $129 at a thrift store on a variety of ordinary products. The average cost of each product? $1.25.
They then hired a team of writers to craft captivating stories for each of the items, which they resold on eBay.
One horse bust, originally purchased for 99 cents, sold for $62.95 (a 6258.58% increase!).
All of the items reeled in a similar profit margin; in total, the project ended up making a whopping $8,000. And all thanks to great product stories.
But all of that being said, you don’t have to share a novel in your product description. You could tell people how the idea for the product originated. Or you could come up with a story where your reader is the protagonist, like drunkMall does.
drunkMall is a website that curates different products from around the web, promotes them, and then gets a commission on products that are ultimately sold.
What makes the site interesting and fun to read are the product descriptions. Take a look at this one for example:
And compare that to the original product description:
drunkMall takes something that could be totally boring and unremarkable and turns it into something cool, fun and exciting.
Check out this one too:
Unless it’s Halloween, you might look at that costume and think: What use do I have for a squirrel costume? When would I ever wear that?
drunkMall addresses that hesitation right off the bat. Reading that product description, I can actually visualize showing up at a bar where my friends are one night and randomly surprising them by wearing that costume. Can’t you?
The original product description on Amazon, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have the same effect…
Research has found that even just imagining owning a product can increase the desire for that item. So paint a picture for your audience. Help them imagine what it would be like to own your product and how they might use it.
5. Focus on Benefits, Not Features
If you really want to write a product description that sells, then you’ve got to focus on the benefits of your product, not its features. Because benefits are what ultimately sell.
What’s the difference? Features are the characteristics of your product, while benefits are how your product provides value for your customer. Benefits answer the question “what’s in it for me?”
So a few features of the iPhone X are:
- True tone display
- Liquid retina HD display
- 1792-by-828-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
But who cares about all of that? Personally, I don’t really know what all of that even means (except for Facetime).
Now let’s take a look at the benefits of those features:
- Being able to connect with family and friends from around the world (Facetime)
- Being able to work longer without feeling as much eye strain (true tone display)
- Having a more enjoyable screen experience (the latter two)
Much more convincing, right? Wouldn’t you be more inclined to buy the iPhone X knowing all of the ways that it can actually better your life? I know I would.
Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s important to mention your features somewhere in your product description. After all, features help to increase credibility. But for each of your features, try and think of at least one benefit. And focus primarily on those benefits when writing your product description.
Check out how Bose does it on their product page for “hearphones”:
The first half of the page focuses entirely on the benefits of the product and how the hearphones will better the lives of its users. It’s not until halfway down the page that they mention the features of the product. And even when the features are mentioned, they are only mentioned in relation to the benefits. They don’t talk about the features without saying how those features will benefit the user:
Notice also how often the word “you” is used. “You” is one of the most persuasive words in the English language, so use it in your product description…and use it frequently.
6. Solve a Problem
Every good product solves a problem. For some products, this problem might be more obvious than others. The hearphones mentioned above solve the problem of listening in loud environments. Sunhats and UPF clothing help solve the problems of sunburn and skin cancer.
But what about a Louis Vuitton purse, for example? What problem does that solve?
Louis Vuitton is not a cheap brand, by any means. So we know that a Louis Vuitton purse isn’t utilitarian. Some might say, however, that it solves the problem of feeling excluded. It makes people feel like they are of a higher status and a part of something exclusive.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, everyone is always trying to achieve one of the following needs (starting at the bottom):
So a Louis Vuitton purse would fulfill the esteem needs, higher up on the pyramid. The Bose hearphones might help meet the belongingness and love needs (since they help people to hear better and have better conversations). Sunhats and UPF clothing help fulfill the safety needs, since they keep people safe from sun damage.
Think about what needs your product is fulfilling and the problem that it is helping to solve.
See how ThinkGeek does it for their “Stake-Grilling Multi Tool”:
Notice how ThinkGeek turns their reader (and potential customer) into the hero of the story (they even use the word “hero”). They speak directly to their audience’s pain point (not knowing how to use a grill) and explain how the product will help solve that problem.
One might argue that a grill tool would meet a human being’s basic needs (since it helps to make food), but the product description doesn’t really talk about how the grill tool will make tasty meat. Rather, it focuses almost entirely on the fact that it will help the user to be the “star of the cookout” and impress everyone. It therefore fulfills the esteem needs (or at least one would think that it does after reading the product description).
7. Cut Out the Fluff
Ernest Hemingway once made a bet with his friends that he could write a six-word novel. His friends didn’t think he could, so he wrote on a napkin the following: For sale: Baby shoes. Never used.” And his friends forked over $10 each.
You know what those words mean together; nobody has to explain to you why there are unworn baby shoes for sale. You know that it can probably only mean one thing. You might even be able to imagine and feel the loss of the person who posted that ad.
Hemingway’s “novel” relied on the iceberg theory, which is the idea (coined by Hemingway himself) that there are some things that go without saying. You don’t have to explain every little thing to your reader…there are certain obvious things that they will pick up on naturally.
So you could say something like “This will taste as refreshing as a tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day,” and your readers will know what that tastes like. You don’t have to elaborate further or explain what a hot summer day feels like.
Consider the iceberg theory as you’re writing your product description. Cut out the fluff and leave out any unnecessary details. Let your readers connect the dots themselves.
8. Address Objections
Many of your potential customers are probably going to have a few hesitations about buying your product. They might be thinking well, this looks great. But does it…? Or But what if…”
It’s your job to find out what those objections are and address them in your product description. Are you selling clothes? Your customers will probably be concerned about the fit and might be reassured by the fact that you offer free returns. Or you could offer a size guide, like the swimwear company, Andie does:
Is the price of your products very high? Let your customers pay in monthly installments or offer them a free trial period of your product.
The prescription glasses and sunglasses company, Warby Parker, recognizes that a big hesitation in their customer’s buying process is the fact that people can’t try the glasses on before buying. So they offer an at-home trial period for their customers:
Like the aforementioned brands, discover what hesitations your customers have in the buying process, and then address those objections in your product description.
9. Repeat Often
According to the illusion of truth, the more that we hear something, the more believable that information becomes.
Take advantage of this in your product description. Think about the main benefit of your product and the principal point that you want to drive home. Then try mentioning this several times throughout your product description. Chances are, your customers will come to believe it.
10. Improve Readability
Let’s face it: When it comes to your product description, nobody wants to read huge chunks of text.
In fact, one study found that 79% of online users scanned content; only 16% read each word. So to improve readability and increase the chances of people actually reading your product description, you’ve got to make them scannable.
What does “scannable” mean exactly?
- Use a large, easy-to-read font
- Include bullet points
- Bold important words or phrases that you want your readers to pay more attention to (like your product benefits)
- Add headings throughout your content (if you have more than a few paragraphs)
- Break up your paragraphs so that you only have a few lines per paragraph
- Make sure that you have plenty of white space throughout
- Rely on the inverted pyramid (share the most important information first, followed by less important information; and finally, share the least important information last)
Conclusion: How to Write a Product Description That Sells
Getting your prospects to make the leap from website visitor to customer isn’t easy. It requires well-written, enticing product descriptions, along with a little eCommerce product page optimization.
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to write a product description that sells, hopefully this blog post has provided you some helpful tips on how you can do that.
But before you even think about writing your product descriptions, spend some time really getting to know your audience. Understand exactly who they are, what their pain points are and how you can help them solve a certain problem they’re having. Find out how they talk, taking note of the words and phrases that they use.
Then when you sit down to write your product descriptions, keep all of that in mind.
Tell your readers a story. Think about how you can connect with them on an emotional level.
Stress the benefits of your product and make your audience understand how their lives will change after owning it.
Address any hesitations and concerns that your prospects might have in the buying process.
Be descriptive and use power words to get your point across.
But more importantly, speak their language.