You've seen them before. Product descriptions on an eCommerce website that practically dance off the page, that feel more like a story than boring marketing copy. But when it comes to writing product descriptions for your own store, you stare at a blank screen and…nothing. How, exactly, does someone go from a blank page to captivating copy that sells? Writing product descriptions that sing isn't an easy task, especially when you browse through great examples and then sit down and just expect the words to flow. That's not how it works. Product descriptions may just be a paragraph or two, but there's certainly more involved than the time it takes to peck out a few hundred words. Still eager to learn? Good, because the right description can have a dramatic effect on just how many of your website visitors actually place an order. Start with that blank page, but use these six steps to writing product descriptions that sell and by the end you'll be looking at the copy that practically dances off the page.
Step 1: Identify the audience
Before you even write anything down, who are you writing to? Businessmen with a few different degrees under their belt? Avid bicyclists? A young mom with her hands full? Successful writing projects start by identifying exactly who the audience is. For eCommerce store owners writing product descriptions, the audience and the customer are one and the same. Stores that sell baby toys are going to have a target audience of new parents and grandparents, for example. Go even one more step further—is it classic toys that the older generations pick up for their kids and grandkids? Educational toys that tend to draw in middle-class parents? Identify a broad audience, then get as specific as possible about who is most likely to use (and love) your product. Now, think about this target audience. Do they have a sense of humor, or would they be turned off by copy designed to get a giggle? How do they talk—do they use long sentences and a varied vocabulary, or more of an everyday conversational style? Keep the answers to all these questions in mind as you continue through the next steps, so that you don't just end up with a product description, but the right product description.
Step 2: Determine what should be included
Don't expect to just start off writing actual product copy—take off the pressure and get some of the ideas going by jotting down a few notes. Write down that audience you just identified, then write down everything that should be included in the product description. Include factors like material and construction, but also jot down adjectives or even what customers have said in the past. Take a highlighter and mark the most important aspects.
Step 3: Brainstorm a story, not a product description
You've identified your audience, and what should be included in the description. Now, it's time to brainstorm. But, as you're generating ideas, don't focus on a product description, instead, focus on a mini story, or narrative-style writing. What memories does your product bring up? What experience do people have when they use your product? What are senses like touch, taste, and smell triggered? Don't focus on those technical aspects you jotted down in the last step, focus instead on the experience that your product offers. Here's an example—say you own a candy store and you're writing a product description for a classic lollipop. That could bring up memories of trips to the store with mom or grandma. Someone enjoying that lollipop will certainly experience the taste, but maybe it's also relaxing and a few minutes to themselves, or perhaps they create their own memories with their kids. Writing to the senses will mean jotting down both words like “sticky” and “sweet.”
Step 4: Write without stopping
When you're ready to actually begin writing what could go into your product description, sit down with your notes, start writing, and don't stop. Write down everything that comes to mind glancing over those notes. Don't stop and think something is “too _______” to include, because that bad idea may generate other ideas. Your product description, at this step, will probably a page or two instead of a paragraph or two, but the idea is to get words on the page so you're not looking at that blank screen anymore. Just let the words flow. Keep in mind all the narrative, story-like ideas you jotted down in the last step—great product descriptions will feel more like a story than marketing copy.
Step 5: Condense it into a paragraph or two, and a few bullet points
Now is the time to decide what words and ideas are actually bad, and which ones deserve a prominent spot on the opening lines of your product description. Highlight or underline what works. Mark spots that are okay, but need a bit of rewording and rewrite them. Eliminate the bad ideas until you're left with a paragraph or two, along with a few bullet points that cover the technical necessities. You may have to do some more rewriting to get everything to flow together, and that's okay—good writing often involves a lot of rewriting.
Step 6: Edit it, one more time
Once you've condensed your product description to a paragraph or two, go through and polish it with a few final edits. It's also a good idea to have someone else read it too—they may catch errors that you missed. As you edit, look for these common pitfalls in product descriptions:
- Eliminate any overused phrases. I recently read a description for a dog leash that included the overused “classic, timeless design.” Is a “classic, timeless design” even important (or possible) for a dog leash? Either way, it's overused, so get rid of it.
- Embrace white space. Paragraph separations nicely spaced bullet points and other white space on the page make readers feel like they're not reading as much. It's as simple as breaking up your long paragraphs.
- Double check your spelling. Read through carefully looking for spelling errors. I actually find it helpful to read it backward, so I'm focusing on each word instead of how the sentences sound together. Also, double check for common errors, such as the wrong it's/it's, their/there/they're or then/than.
- Check for redundancies. You only have so much space to sell a product before a potential customer loses interest. Make sure every word matters by eliminating anything that's repeated.
The right product descriptions will have your website visitors browsing without realizing they're actually being marketed to. But to get to those story-like descriptions, you can't just sit down and expect the words to flow (or if you can, you're one of the very few lucky ones). Determine who your audience is, and what to include. Brainstorm a few ideas with a story, not a description in mind. When you write your first draft, write without stopping, then go back and revise and condense. Be sure to check for common errors one last time before finalizing your product description. Writing product descriptions that sell certainly isn't an easy, five-minute task, but the uptick in sales conversions on your eCommerce website certainly makes it worthwhile.