How to Write Great Product Descriptions

July 16, 2015

When you’re selling from an online storefront or catalog, your buyer can’t feel the richness of the fabric or smell the aroma of your special blend coffee beans. They can’t tell that the expensive camera fits in the hand with precisely designed comfort, while the less expensive one is a little boxy and hard to hold.

Your product descriptions need to convey these important persuaders, because the product can’t sell itself. You may not be an experienced copywriter, but you can write great product descriptions following these tips:

You may not be an experienced copywriter, but you can write great product descriptions with these tips. (Tweet this)

Never use the manufacturer’s description

The most important attribute of the product description should be that it makes the buyer want to buy this product, and to buy it from you. If you slap the manufacturer’s description on your website and call it done, you will have done nothing to make the prospect want to buy this product from you rather than a competitor.

If the product on your site uses the same pictures and the same description as every other vendor, the potential buyer will shop for the best price rather than the best experience. You definitely don’t want to put yourself in the position of struggling to be the low-cost site in order to win business. To protect your margins, you must ensure that your descriptions rise above the sameness of the market, even if you are selling a commodity product.

Another reason to avoid the manufacturer’s description is that it will hurt your page rank with Google and other search engines, since search engines will perceive the description as duplicate content. It’s worth the time and effort to create a unique, compelling description for your products.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes

As you sit down to write the product description, focus on who is likely to buy the product. Decide what they will want to know most, and make sure that you feature those aspects prominently in the description.

Even if you’re selling a technical product, the buyer wants more than the specs. Listing the chip and letting the buyer reach the conclusion that it’s a screaming machine won’t do. Tell them it’s a screaming machine with blazing fast performance because of its state of the art chip.

Never assume that the buyer understands the significance of a feature or specification. Tell them. Consider what you would want to know if you were buying the product, and make sure you include that in the description. It is possible to have short, punchy descriptions that help you sell the product, but product descriptions are like the letter Blaise Pascal wrote in 1627. He said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

It takes time to write great product descriptions, so give yourself proper bandwidth to write good ones, however long it takes.

Appeal to all the senses

Even if you are writing technical descriptions, appeal to as many senses as you can to help your product stand out. You may be selling industrial components, but you still need to appeal to the senses as well as the engineer’s need for facts. Talk about the smooth, seamless finish as an indicator of quality, or the satisfying “kathunk” sound of the machine.

When you’re selling apparel or footwear, describe the rich colors, the smell of the  leather, the beautiful hand-sewn seams that lay flat against the body, the flow of the silk or the durability and warmth of the wool.

Consumer products may have sleek designs, or an intuitive user interface, or a wonderful aroma or secret emollients that put a glow in the skin. The more senses you can address, the more desirable the product will seem and the more your product descriptions come alive on the screen.

Create a motivation

Your descriptions should help the buyer reach a purchase decision easily, so try to impart a sense of urgency or exclusivity. That doesn’t mean your site should be the one with the flashing red “Buy Me Now!!!!” banners on it, because that’s as much of a turn-off on the Web as it is in a physical sales situation.

It does mean that something as simple as the “Only 1 left in stock” or “Each item is handmade, so no two are alike” statement motivates the buyer to act before they lose out on this desirable product.

Stress benefits, not specs

While your buyer is interested in specifications, they buy for the benefits. A dry as dust list of specs appeals only to the most diehard techie. There’s a reason the manufacturer created the product with those specs, so make sure you draw the line from the feature to the benefit, because most potential buyers can’t make that leap on their own. The statement, “This lightweight solid-state hard drive enables fast booting and reliable performance in a compact form factor” is more compelling than “500GB SSD” will ever be.

Skip the obvious

Don’t use meaningless terms such as “high-quality” or “user-friendly.” Have you ever seen a product described as poor quality or difficult to use? Of course not. Show the prospect the product’s quality through the description itself. “Hand-tooled, vegetable tanned leather” is a better descriptor than “high quality leather.”

Support your claims

csdashIf you can have customer reviews of the product, be sure to post the best excerpts where the prospect will see them quickly and offer an easy way to read all reviews. Don’t be afraid of one poor review. No product is perfect for everybody, or maybe the reviewer works for a competitor. The important part of making reviews available is that it adds to the perception that your site is one that it is safe to do business with. By the same token, if a trusted source has reviewed the product, include links to the review or thumbnails of the article.

In addition, if you claim that the ABS system on this vehicle has superior stopping power, add “capable of stopping in X feet from a speed of X MPH” so the reader understands what makes it superior.

Short and to the point

Similar to the concept expressed in Pascal’s statement quoted earlier, it’s easy to write long, glowing descriptions that make the reader search for the information they need. It’s much harder to write short descriptions that make the information stand out. Consider using bullet points to draw the eye to key information. In a paragraph, bold or color the keywords differently so they pull the reader in.

Try using multiple pictures of the product so a shopper gets a sense for the product. If you sell handbags, a photo of the interior helps the buyer get a sense for the organization of the interior and the color and quality of the lining without having to read the words. Seeing the tablet held in someone’s hand gives a better sense of how comfortable it will be to hold than simply listing the size.

Writing compelling product descriptions is an art, like writing haiku. The rules are not as rigid as the rules for haiku, but the best product descriptions evoke a similar emotional response in the reader.