Say you are shopping for the perfect sweater—something not too scratchy, a bit fleecy, not terribly fickle about washing and drying, sustainably made, etc.
You are surfing around the world wide web, poking in and out of online stores to try and find the comfy sweater of your dreams. To figure out which ones check your ‘perfect sweater’ boxes—where do you look?
The product description, of course.
In it, you can find the relevant details about the sweater in consideration. You start dipping into the product specifications and sizing details, then take in the short prosaic story to see if it moves you to buy.
Whether or not you know it, the product descriptions you use in your store matter a lot.
But, often, they are just taken for granted—something of an afterthought for your product page. It’s time to stop copy/pasting from the manufacturer notes and start putting some real thought into your product descriptions.
For doing so, you will be rewarded with better sales and a deeper sense of wellbeing (well, at least the first one).
We’ll break down the what, why, and how of product descriptions and show you some great examples out in the wild.
In this post, we’ll cover:
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A product description is an elevator pitch for your product or service, describing it in terms of how it solves for customer pain points and makes their lives easier.
It is the marketing copy you use to tell shoppers what your product is, what it does, and why they should buy it. Their purchase decision is largely decided by what they know about the product.
It isn’t just some uninspired litany of what your product is made of and what it does. And, it absolutely cannot be duplicated from the manufacturer’s notes.
It needs to persuade the reader to buy and answer some of the most central questions shoppers may have.
To create a great product description, you have to know what those questions are. Questions like:
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll get into that more later.
Without product descriptions, shoppers would have no idea why your product is so good, even if you have really great product photography.
Remember that there are tons of other stores out there competing for the same share of customer wallets.
Product descriptions push shoppers over the line into becoming customers, giving that last bit of persuasive flourish at the end of their customer journey.
They are also the lowest hanging fruit for optimizing your product pages, with the reward of a potentially high return on that investment.
Whether you are writing them yourself or outsourcing the copywriting, it doesn’t cost much to lock them in.
Beyond that, if your customers are fully informed about the product they buy, they are less likely to return that item.
Nobody likes returns—not the customer and certainly not the merchant.
And, returns are WAY more prevalent online than in brick and mortar stores—a whopping 30% of products are returned online compared to just under 9% for physical shops.
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (22%) cited the reason for returning as the product looked different.
So, great photos and product descriptions could solve that before it became an issue, potentially saving you from a decent number of returns.
That’s why it’s so important not to just plug manufacturer product descriptions in and call it a day.
For one thing, it’s unlikely that the manufacturer put all that much time and effort into making their descriptions really persuasive or even worth reading.
Secondly, duplicate content is a big SEO no-no, resulting in lower rankings for your pages. And we all want that free organic traffic.
As I said, it takes more than just listing out the important information about your product. This is marketing copy, after all.
If you aren’t a born marketer or wordsmith, no need to worry. There are plenty of copywriters out there, even ones that specialize in product descriptions.
What separates a good product description from a bad one isn’t just one thing.
It’s the language used, the readability of the text, the highlighting of core benefits, a keen understanding of the audience, and so much more.
It’s the difference between a great book and a terrible one.
To the degree to which a short description of a product can engage you and make you feel something, that’s what you are aiming for.
Bad product descriptions may tell you about the object, but they don’t do much more. If it isn’t compelling, what’s the point?
Now let’s get down to what we’ve been leading up to this whole time—the how of it all.
The essential elements of a product description lie in the questions you must ask yourself before writing it. Those being:
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to write your product description fully informed of what it needs to accomplish.
These are the things you need to consider as you write.
We all speak differently depending on who we’re talking to.
You don’t talk to your grandma like you talk to your best friend like you talk to your toddling nephew.
They are different audiences and they respond most favorably to specific ways of communicating.
“To make your product description stand out, you need to ask questions about your target audience. Who is the product for? How is your product valuable to them? How is it different from your competitors' product? Knowing how your product addresses your customers' pain points will help you craft content that will be useful to them.”
- Cayla Thurman, Business Reputation Consultant at Rize Reviews
No doubt your brand voice is built to cater to your target customers. With your product description, you are speaking directly to them.
If it helps, create a buyer persona and keep them in mind as you write. That way, you can keep your writing more conversational and natural.
If you know your potential customers, you can start writing your product description with confidence.
You know your audience, but now you’ve got to start writing something. It can’t be idle chatter. They don’t have all day.
So, you want to start with a splash.
What are the attributes of your product that will genuinely benefit the reader?
Is it so soft that you’d mistake it for a cloud? Does it make your hair so shiny that passersby need to shield their eyes? Does it defy the laws of physics and actually make you faster?
OK, maybe a bit over the top, but you get it.
Effective product descriptions need to sell shoppers on what makes your products so great.
“A great technique for focusing your product descriptions on benefits instead of features is to ask ‘So what?’. List out your product features. Then go through them one by one as if you're your ideal customer, and ask 'So what?'. This will force you to go deeper than surface level features.”
- Fintan Meagher, Marketing Lead at ReConvert
Outside of the words you use to make shoppers feel some way, you also want to use relevant keywords that will make the search engines take notice.
SEO is an integral part of creating exceptional product pages, and your product description needs to include those critical keywords too.
Kim Herrington, Founder & Creative Director at search marketing agency Orsanna, says “SEO shouldn’t be left as a final step in creating product descriptions. Having great search optimization is more than just sprinkling some keywords into the text.”
“Think through the motivations behind why your ideal customer is searching for a product like yours. If it helps solve a problem they often experience, the words used to describe that problem should be front and center in your product page design.”
“It’s easier for SEO to become a baked-in part of your product description process if you think about how people can discover your products from the start, instead of as a final step.”
Most ecommerce platforms have SEO tools that can help you with keyword suggestions. On Shopify, there are plenty of highly-rated apps that will do the job.
One rule: Make sure you are always writing first and foremost for your target audience.
Including keywords can often happen naturally, and a good product description is one that sounds eminently natural. No keyword stuffing!
Nobody comes to a big block of text and says, “Oh, fun!” When writing your product description, you need to consider how easy it will be to read.
Things that make your description easier to read are:
Your visitors are more likely to take in the information you are dishing when you make the content easy to scan.
While this section didn’t use accordions or tabs, it was simpler to read through the use of short sentences, short paragraphs, a heading, bolded text, and bullet points.
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Humans thrive on stories if you couldn’t tell by the sheer abundance of novels, movies, and TV shows. Can’t live without them.
We connect emotionally to stories, even when they come in the form of short descriptions about products we are thinking of purchasing.
Whether we’d like to admit it, product stories have likely led us directly into the arms of the checkout.
“Product descriptions that tell a story help to generate more sales. When the content is tailored to your audience and is meaningful, it helps your business to have a competitive edge over your competitors.”
- Tristan Harris, Sr. Marketing Manager at Thrive Internet Marketing Agency
Product stories are a subset of brand stories, which help us decide what companies we want to associate with and possibly wear the logo of about town.
So, to create a truly compelling product description that connects with its target audience, use good storytelling.
As they teach in writing classes: show, don’t tell.
When you started your brand, you built a voice to go with it (intentionally or not). It’s part of how you connect with your ideal customers.
Your brand voice needs to permeate every piece of written word across your site.
And your product descriptions are no exception. They are one of the most important places for your brand voice to shine.
As you will start to notice (and evident in the examples below), the biggest brands bring their brand voice to their product descriptions.
And they are rewarded with loyal customers.
Your product images are a big part of the equation here. They work in concert with your product descriptions and vice versa.
As you’ll see later in the example from PANGAIA, your product description can directly point to the images to enhance the power of the message.
Your visuals and descriptions all work together to provide the fullest picture of your product.
Your digital storefront needs to do its best to approximate the in-store shopping experience with all the tools at your disposal.
Also, you can use videos or GIFs to help expand upon the written word and deliver information that you couldn’t otherwise convey.
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Words aren’t all created equal. Some are simply better than others.
Sensory words do more than just describe; they stir the imagination and make us feel a certain way.
Smooth is a fine word that could describe the mouthfeel of a particular type of beverage, but velvety reaches into the brain and evokes a much more specific experience.
For food, you aren’t just attempting to describe the flavors but also the experience of eating it. What’s the texture? Does it make a sound when you bite it?
For apparel, information about the material is important but descriptions of how that material feels against your skin or the way it enhances your comfort are essential additions.
You want your shoppers to be transported. You are already telling them a story; now, you can take it to the next level by using these powerful adjectives to bring the experience to them.
Even if you’ve done everything right, you may still need to do some tweaking to make your descriptions perfect.
So, don’t set it and forget it.
Once you’ve written your product description, measure its success at bringing in new sales and conversions. Set KPIs and regularly assess your metrics.
You can even A/B test your product descriptions to see how slight changes affect performance.
Once you’ve started to nail down what works and what doesn’t, you can build out your own winning product description templates.
Later, we’ll build out a simple template to get you started. But first, some examples.
If you choose to write up your own product descriptions, you may need some help to make it sound just right.
“If you are not a natural writer, then maybe record yourself talking about the product and use that as your first draft. Your natural enthusiasm can then come through where it can be more stilted when presented with the blank page. This can be a great way to get going and set a conversational tone for your description.”
- Chloe Addis, Head of Marketing at Headley Media
Here are a few helpful tools for helping you write your best product descriptions:
Creating a great product description sometimes comes from great inspiration from brands that do it well.
Here are a few examples of product descriptions that do a fantastic job of selling and informing their readers.
This example from Beardbrand’s Beard Oil begins simply and confidently with the headline, “The world’s best Beard Oil just got better.”
It then pulls out the most compelling details—like its lack of DHT-inhibiting ingredients, its exotic-sounding blend of oils, and how it’s better than the original—without going super long with it.
The first paragraph goes like this:
#cta-paragraph-pb#Reformulated with no known DHT-inhibiting ingredients, Beardbrand delivers a brand new, game-changing Beard Oil. Our blend of Abyssinian, Babassu, Jojoba, and Castor oils is like nothing else on the market. It absorbs faster, lasts longer, and is even less greasy than the original (crazy, right?).
But, if you want more detail, you just have to expand the accordion to reveal specifics about DHT and how to use the product, as well as thorough notes on the ingredients of each fragrance variety.
And Beardbrand’s brand voice stays consistent throughout the copy.
They understand that maintaining their brand voice across all written material is vital to creating a powerful customer experience.
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We’ve gushed over PANGAIA’s minimal yet colorful aesthetic before, and their product descriptions don’t disappoint either.
For their track pants, they focus heavily on sustainability with their use of fundamental words like recycled, organic, responsibly sourced, and repurposed. They round out the description by speaking to its luxurious coziness, making you imagine the experience of wearing it.
If you weren’t already sold on the sustainability factor, they also show off the positive climate impact of this piece of clothing in terms of emissions, water use, and landfill diversion.
The description starts like so:
#cta-paragraph-pb#These Signature Recycled Cotton Track Pants are made with a responsibly sourced, high quality, recycled and organic cotton mix. The Stone color is created using a recycled water system. The fabric weight is a thicker, heavyweight recycled cotton that’s perfect for days you want a cozier feel. The material is brushed on the inside with a luxuriously soft, fuzzy, plush handfeel.
When you click over to the SIZING & CARE tab, you get super helpful information about caring for your new garment, what it’s made of, and how to choose your size.
It works in conjunction with the images, telling readers how tall the model is and what size she’s wearing.
They do their best to leave no questions unanswered, ensuring fewer returns and happier customers.
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You know when a brand is invested in the details of their products because the product descriptions are top-notch. Of course, this is true of the uber-popular Allbirds.
They don’t lead with a text block, though. They start with the highlights and provide an accordion to reveal the core features, descriptive text, shipping and returns info, and care guide.
The description section is super simple but evocative:
#cta-paragraph-pb#Our breathable, silky-smooth sneaker made with responsibly sourced eucalyptus tree fiber treads lightly in everything you do.
If shoppers still want to learn more about the product, they simply need to scroll to find more description paired with stunning photography.
Allbirds builds out their product pages like marketing landing pages in an effort to drive conversions.
They then end the page with customer reviews to help boost the social proof factor.
Every business and industry differs, so there isn’t one perfect template that will guarantee success.
The above points will give you powerful ammunition to create incredible product descriptions and continue to iterate on your most successful creations.
But, you can start to build the skeleton of a powerful product description so that your writing process becomes repeatable.
Here is a simple template to get you started:
As you build your own template from this basic skeleton, you will start understanding what works best for your brand and your products.
The best product description template for your brand is the one you ultimately forge from experience.
Now that you have the essential tools for building your best product descriptions, it’s time to get to work.
Creating the most fantastic product pages is vital to driving sales.
Shoppers that have made it that far are on the precipice of buying, so you need to do your utmost to make those pages convert.
Stunning images and great page design do a lot to increase interest in your products, but product descriptions bring your product pages over the line and help you increase sales.
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Sean is one of Shogun's tireless content marketers. When he isn't creating exciting ecommerce content, he's probably biking or at the park.