Selling your products and services online is a great way to expand your business beyond a single physical location. Having an online storefront saves time and resources, and broadens your customer base to include online shoppers and customers looking for additional conveniences. Since you can’t be there in person to sell these products and services online, they are completely dependent on the content placed alongside them: written product descriptions.
Product descriptions are more work than they seem, though. They need to be written with specific market research and optimization strategies in mind, and they need to not only describe your item, but also the value and benefits of the purchase. Good product descriptions can increase sales by grabbing attention and truly selling a product. Bad product descriptions, however, will often turn potential customers away and can impact your bottom line.
Here are some typical mistakes made in bad product descriptions, and how you can avoid them.
Bad Spelling and Grammar
This no-brainer has been beaten into our heads since grade school, but it still trips business owners up. Bad spelling and poor grammar in product descriptions reflect negatively on the seller. Communication is everything in marketing, and your product descriptions are part of your marketing materials. Errors express laziness and unreliability, and make potential customers suspicious of your services.
Always double and triple-check your content! If you aren’t the best writer, ask someone else to check your content for you. It’s better to learn from your mistakes before they impact your sales.
Customers feel deceived and disappointed when a product turns out to be completely different than the description they read online. Remember: your customers are buying sight-unseen online, and the product pictures and description info are the only research they can rely on before making a purchase.
Not only that, but if you do business on eBay, Amazon.com, or other seller/reseller sites and your product descriptions are inaccurate, customers will blast your products and your business in comment and user review sections. These comments are permanent and can severely damage your online business’s reputation, if not shut it down entirely.
Content without flavor is content that doesn’t sell well. Small business and individual, personal sellers will often write product descriptions as a transcription of what they might tell customers directly. You see this on personal seller sites like Etsy and Craigslist all the time: short, choppy sentences with simple descriptive words that only communicate the basics.
Don’t be afraid to ham it up a little. If you’re selling nice clothes, don’t just say “these are nice clothes.” Discuss how nice they are, how they feel, how they look, who they would be perfect for. Give your customers something they can relate themselves to the product with, and they’ll be more likely to buy in.
Generic product descriptions drive generic results: product descriptions that attempt to speak to anyone and everyone end up truly reaching no one. You need to perform a good deal of marketing research when you write content for your blog or website, and that same marketing research can and should be applied to your product descriptions as well.
Optimizing product descriptions should follow the same rules for SEO content strategies. Include specific keywords that engage your customers and attract search engines to your products at the same time. Market research also helps you focus your description wording and appeal to a specifically targeted customer profile, meaning you will reach them more effectively and they will be more willing to buy.
Excitement! Mystery! Act Now! The Infomercial Pitch
When I say “ham it up,” I don’t mean overdo it. People are naturally inclined to emulate others, and it shows in bad product descriptions. Copying infomercial sales tactics is a popular, almost embarrassing trend that shows up all over the internet. “It slices, it dices, it does it all! Act now and your life will be better! If you liked this, you’ll definitely love our newest model!”
Writing this kind of bouncy, overly-enthusiastic sales pitch hinges your sale on excitement, and doesn’t leave room for actual facts about your product. Your descriptions end up being vague and ridiculous, and will chase sales away. Instead of using tired sales clichés, write honest content that expresses true value relevant to your customers.
The Robot Pitch: All Facts, No Value
Facts are great for product research, and although grocery lists of product facts don’t necessarily discourage sales, they don’t encourage them either. Many customers can’t take facts about your product (especially if you deal in specialized fields) and implicitly understand the value they’ll gain from them. Thankfully, fact-filled product descriptions are super easy to fix. Behind each fact is a reason for why it’s valuable enough to mention in your product description.
Apple is a perfect example of a company that understands the value behind their facts: Retina displays on the new MacBook Pro and iPad have a much higher pixel density and overall resolution than other products. Okay, sounds great; but why is it valuable to consumers? Because images are clearer, high definition content looks incredible, and the user experience is more beautiful and pleasing to the eye. Apple never touts a product’s technical benefit without tacking intrinsic value directly afterwards.
Zero Purchase Incentives
If you can afford it, incentivizing your purchases and including the incentive as part of your product description can help drive sales. Return customers love being rewarded for their continued business, and purchase incentives detailed ahead of a first purchase or repeat buy can encourage conversions.
You don’t have to give your business away, but customers appreciate any additional value included in a purchase, and are more willing to act on it if they know about it ahead of time.
Web Development: Dead Ends End Sales
Your overall web development and store design is something worth thinking about when you’re developing product descriptions. After your product description has encouraged a purchase, does the rest of your purchase process encourage the sale? Customers can bail out of your conversion funnel at any time, and if minor mistakes cause major problems, customers will abandon their purchase.
Don’t let the purchase process come to a grinding halt if customers forget information or encounter an error in the online buying process. Make sure your alerts and error notifications are noticeable, but not discouraging, and are quick and easy to fix by the user. Turn dead ends in your conversion funnel into a friendly heads-up that’s easy to pass.
Learn from mistakes other businesses have made—and suffered for—instead of making them yourself. Use these seven tips as a guideline for writing great product descriptions, and your online sales will be better off for it.
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