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How to write memorable copy for your ecommerce site

May
1
2013

This article was originally written for Retail IT and appeared on their blog in February 2013.

In all the excitement of getting your ecommerce site up and running it’s easy to overlook product descriptions. Surely the images are enough to sell the product, aren’t they? And one line of text copied from someone else’s site will do the trick won’t it? Well, actually no.

Good quality product descriptions that are unique to your site can transform conversion rates by anything from 30-100% according to Deepak Goyal co-founder of eZdia marketing. “By writing quality e-commerce copy,” he explains, “a business can differentiate itself from the pack, and create a huge competitive advantage.”

Getting down to the writing

So how do you write compelling copy for your products that will have your visitors rushing to click add to basket?

1. Know your audience

Men are different from women; retired people are different to teenagers; techies are different from arts and crafts lovers. And they all need copy that speaks to them directly. The trick is to get one person in your mind’s eye that represents your ideal audience, create a back-story for them, and then write only to that person.

Joan, 63, retired school teacher, loves dogs, member of WI, drives a new Mini, makes handmade cards for family members.

Got a good of understanding of Joan’s likes and fears? Great. Now write only for Joan.

2. Keep it simple

It takes 25% longer to read online than it does offline. So keep words simple, sentences short and paragraphs shorter. Avoid jargon, marketing-speak and clichés. You’re not offering a solution. You’re offering a picture frame or software or a piece of jewellery. Avoid technical language. And if you really need to talk about compressor efficiency, power output or ionic functions create a separate technical section or page.

3. Benefits before features

It’s tempting to simply describe the nuts and bolts of your product. But don’t. Let your audience know how they can use it, when they can use it and how it will make them feel.

‘This cream wool shift dress is perfect for the office when worn with opaques and flats. But add spikey heels and a statement jacket and it’s ideal for a night out on the town. Whether you’re an athletic shape or have an abundance of curves, you’ll find this beautifully cut shift dress fits in all the right places and gives a great silhouette.’

Then go on to describe the features: length, lining fabric, colour and sizes etc.

4. Tell a story

Don’t be scared to have a little fun with your copy by including team members or creating a story around your product. It breaks down barriers and helps visitors get to know your brand.

“When Kate, in our PR department, was small she used to visit her grandpa on the Isle of Wight every summer. Together, they used to collect pebbles and bits of driftwood on the beach and bring them home in a shoebox. These handmade personalised cufflinks are for special grandpas everywhere.”

Below is copy written for the ZPM website, a well-known brand for bathroom and cosmetic products.

“It’s a mini adventure: our mini zip bag is the perfect zip bag for life’s essentials: make-up, tissues, keys, mobile and money. Oh, and a millionaire boyfriend with a villa on the Italian lakes. Sigh. If only he would fit. Made from easy-to-clean coated cotton it comes with a zip top.”

 5. Optimise for the search

When it comes to optimising your copy with key phrases such as handmade leather holdall, use them naturally throughout but don’t be tempted to keyword stuff. Google and other search engines take objection to keyword stuffing and it makes uncomfortable reading for your visitors too.

An example of keyword stuffed copy is given on the Google Webmaster blog:

“Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.”

Avoid this. And write naturally as if you’re talking to someone.

6. Be original

If you’re a reseller, it’s tempting to just cut and paste the descriptive copy that comes with the product. Don’t. Chances are your competitors will do the same and you’ll end up with exactly the same content on all your sites. Google will struggle to know which site to rank higher and your visitor will get bored reading the same copy on every site.

Make the effort to have original, compelling copy for your products and you could see a healthy increase in your sales figures.

What happens if you haven’t got the time?

If you have the budget, get a copywriter to write your product descriptions for you. They’ll get it done in a fraction of the time it will take you, and you’ll have well crafted creative copy for each of your products. If you haven’t got the budget, set yourself a target of writing five or 10 product descriptions a day or as many as you can do in an hour. Or write a small style guide that includes the above tips, then persuade friends and family members to donate some copywriting time to the cause.

And a final word of advice: Before you start writing copy for your ecommerce site check the technological limitations of your CMS. Nothing is more frustrating than producing three paragraphs of carefully crafted copy only to discover you can only fit in a short heading and 150 characters!

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