As an eCommerce shop owner, you typically don’t have the opportunity to “sell” to eCommerce customers in the same way that you do in-store. Since this real-time interaction is missing from the online shopping experience, increasing conversions by optimizing your site is the next best course of action. You can learn from the behaviors of previous customers to make changes that make the shopping experience smoother for the next customers. We’ve written about general tips for increasing conversions on your site already, but will take a look specifically at using product descriptions that sell today.

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Customers leave your site all of the time. In fact, eCommerce carts are typically abandoned at a rate over 65%. Many customers abandon their purchases or leave your site due to price: pricing concerns make up the top 4 reasons that customers don’t purchase from an online retailer. While you may or may not have flexibility with respect to price, there are some other strategies we can take to either (a) mitigate other abandonment factors, such as shipping costs, or (b) make price a lesser concern by getting customers excited or comfortable with their purchases.

We’ve already written a bit about creating effective shipping methods for your store, so we’ll focus on ensuring that copy and product descriptions sell effectively and make sure that customers are happy about paying your price while purchasing.

1. Know Your Customers

This is one that should be a no-brainer. If you don’t know why customers are looking for your product, then how can you sell effectively? Use surveys to ask customers why they chose your product, what they were looking for, and if they had doubts or something they don’t like about the product. Offering a coupon or a free gift for the survey should help to ensure that customers will complete it.

Once you have a better idea of what problems your product is solving, you can sell more effectively. You most likely had an idea to start with, but knowing more about why customers choose you is integral to creating your ideal customer.

You should have the ideal customer in your head when you edit your copy – understand his sense of humor, what makes her laugh, what pain points this person experiences, and what hesitations he or she has. You’ll need to know this information to both connect with customers and overcome their doubts before purchasing.

2. Pay Attention to Formatting

Nothing is more intimidating than a giant wall of text. Have you ever gotten an email that took up the whole page with no paragraph breaks? Did you want to read it? I delete emails like that if I don’t have to read them.

Don’t do that to your customers. Be as minimalist as possible in your descriptions – include what’s necessary and not more. Potential customers hate when you waste their time. If you need to include a product FAQ, then do that separate (i.e., in a product tab) so that customers can get to important product information quickly.

You can help this by giving customers digestible “chunks” of text to read – organize your product descriptions using headers and lists whenever possible.

Photo credit: KISSmetrics

3. Use Presupposition and Adjacency Pairs

Give a reader one thing to focus on, then suggest another thing. In order to focus on the first part and answer the question, the reader will have to accept the second thing as true first (this is one of my favorite strategies from Web Copy That Sells). For example, take this question:

How will you react to all of the compliments you’ll get while you wear this shirt?

While I wouldn’t use that question specifically since it’s a bit hokey, the point of this isn’t to get the reader to think about compliments – it’s to make sure the reader pictures himself or herself wearing the shirt. This helps your readers to visualize purchasing the product and how it will make them feel, which is one of the toughest things to accomplish when customers cannot physically interact with your product. You can also do this with presuppositions by using words that suggest truth, such as clearly or obviously.

Other examples of adjacency pairs / presuppositions:

  • What will you do with the time that this saves you every day? (Reader has to accept that the product saves time.)
  • Clearly, flashlights could be a lot cooler. (Implying that flashlights are not cool, but this flashlight will have the aforementioned “coolness”.)

4. Sell, Don’t Tell

Focus on the benefits that customers will get from your product. For example, let’s take noise-canceling headphones. When selling your noise-canceling headphones, it’s easy to tell people about what you did to build or make them. For example, you can tell them the range of sound frequencies that will be canceled or the reduction in sounds, such as, “Blocks 70% of ambient noise and reduces sound by up to 20 decibels!” There’s a problem with this: (a) nobody cares and (b) they don’t know what that means. Tell them instead how it changes their lives.

There are a few major reasons people love these headphones, such as:

  • You can’t hear other people around you as much
  • Audio sounds better since external noises don’t distort it
  • Airplane noises are soooooo loud and I want to make sure I block them the whole flight.

For example, take Bose’s tagline: You’ll love what you hear. And what you don’t. In less than 10 words, they tell you that the headphones help you hear what you want to hear (your music) while limiting the ambient noises that annoy you. Bose focuses on the audio quality that blocking external noises produces in their ads:

Photo credit:

Sony takes the other route, and focuses on the ability to block out undesirable noises:

Photo credit: Ads of the World

So what does this mean for you? In both your images and descriptions, focus on what customers will get from using your product, not what your product does.

5. Handling Free Shipping

The next tips is one that comes from Copyblogger. We’ve already advocated for free shipping in our article on effective shipping methods and suggest that stores implement this whenever possible. The power of free is often underestimated even though it’s a huge motivator for customers. Even if you’re only offering free shipping for orders over a certain amount, your store will benefit – 75% of people are willing to add items to an order to get free shipping.

Free shipping also eliminates one decision in the checkout process. Customers already have to ask, “Am I willing to pay the price for this product?” Free shipping eliminates the need for them to ask, “Am I willing to pay the shipping costs?” as well, which reduces barriers to purchase. If you’re offering this option, let them know on each product page (you could add this to the product page template).

Since you’re using free shipping already, the way this is presented should have maximum effect. Test rewording shipping notices to say “We’ll pay your shipping” instead, i.e.:

If you’re order is over $50, we’ll pay the shipping!

This way, customers feel as if they get something directly from your business – you’re paying it for them – rather than some nebulous free gift that’s descended from the heavens.

Photo credit: Copyblogger

6. Use Sensory Words to Describe

Most adjectives, comparatives, or superlatives can be deleted from your copy. If you have to tell people that your product is the best or that it exhibits excellent craftsmanship, they probably won’t believe you. After all, who tells people that their product is bad? (Though keep reading, you should in some cases!)

If you have something to back this up, such as a customer review, then let them say that for you – leverage the social proof that this creates. However, there are some adjectives you should use if possible: sensory words. These words help customers visualize and imagine what it’s like to have or use your product.

For example, if you’re selling chocolate, describe the flavor and texture: “These dark chocolate truffles perfectly pair the crunch and slight bitterness of the outer chocolate shell with the velvety hazelnut filling.” If you’re describing clothing, tell people how it feels: “Our 100% cotton shirts are so soft it feels like they’re kissing your skin.”

7. Use Reframing to Acknowledge Flaws

Always acknowledge what people see as flaws or shortcomings of your products. It builds trust with customers, and allows you to define the frame of reference through which they view your product.

Reframing typically means posturing what could be seen as negative attributes instead as positive features. For example, let’s take WordPress themes, which all too often include tons of options that most users won’t need. Quality themes shouldn’t include about a million bells and whistles, as options are better when added as needed to reduce bloat.

For themes that don’t include options (which users tend to like), reframe this lack of options. Hook your users by telling them about why this perceived negative is actually positive:

Does this theme include 4 choices for sliders? No.
Do we include 11 different page layouts? Nope, don’t have that either.
What we do have is a flexible, extensible solution that’s build for maximum performance. We eliminate options simply because they don’t belong here – you can always add sliders if you need them, or build your own homepage using widgets and our shortcodes plugin. We give you a lean, lightweight, high-performance codebase with the ability to take options with you when you switch themes.

You can also use this tactic with pricing. Let’s use WordPress plugins this time. For example, let’s say that you create a plugin that sells for $249 – as far as WordPress plugins go, that would be on the high end. Before introducing price, tell customers about (a) how much it would cost to custom-develop the plugin, which would probably be in the thousands of dollars, and (b) how much time the plugin could save them or what increase in sales it can yield. This sets the frame of reference for the customer – rather than comparing the plugin to other plugins, they now compare it to custom development and the value of their own time.

Does reframing work on everyone? Of course not. However, it does help to overcome some of the more basic objections that customers may have to purchasing.

8. Empathize

It’s incredibly important to make sure that your customers feel that you understand them. Look at all of the great tips from The Oatmeal on writing great headlines and viral posts: readers want to identify with you. Show customers that you understand their pain points, and that your product is best geared to solve them.

For example, almost everyone that’s used a computer has had issues with using a printer. The headline “Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell To Make Us Miserable” captures this perfectly, provides something most people can identify with, and creates a connection between the writer and reader. Now imagine if you’d written about why printers are awful and had the easiest printer in the world to sell.

9. Tell Stories

Stories can be one of the easiest and best ways to create empathy and connection. Take a look at this example from Shopio – creating a story around a product makes it easier to visualize using that product and identify with the characters in the story.

Rather than connecting to the product, stories ask customers to connect to the people using the product, which is a far easier connection to make. This also takes customers a step closer towards purchasing, as they can imagine what it would be like to own this product.

Read More

Here are some other recommended resources on writing product descriptions that sell:

Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.