So you want to write some product descriptions. Or maybe you don’t want to write them, and you’re trying to figure out if you really need them. Maybe you came here looking for a blog post to tell you that you don’t need product descriptions…
… this is not that blog post.
Product descriptions are important. Yes, they take time to write—and even more time to write well—but at the end of the day, they’re one of the most critical parts of merchandising your products and running a successful online store.
In this post, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process of writing successful product descriptions, showing you why they’re important, how to go about writing them, and some examples of great product descriptions in the wild.
What even are product descriptions?
As the name suggests, product descriptions are the words you use to describe your products. In ecommerce, specifically, they’re the little pieces of text on product pages that tell customers about the product. A good product description will describe your product’s features and benefits, and convey to customers the problem your product solves and why it’s the best product for the job.
Okay, but do I need them?
Yes! You do! And your customers need them, too! Anyone who sells a product online should at least consider writing product descriptions. They make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable for the customer.
In brick-and-mortar stores, there are employees to provide customers with basic product information. As a shopper, you can physically interact with a product and get more information from an associate before you decide to buy it.
Online, it’s a little different.
In online stores, product descriptions try to imitate the experience of browsing and interacting with in-store products. When done well, they take away the guesswork, ensuring customers aren’t left wondering what a product is really like.
Why are product descriptions important?
It’s safe to say that any good online store shows photos of its products. It’s also safe to say that most shoppers are drawn to products because of photos.
So why do you need product descriptions when your photos are already working so hard? Because product descriptions fill in the holes that photos can’t. They help customers make better decisions about whether a product is right for them. In a lot of ways, your product descriptions can make or break a potential conversion.
Yes, writing descriptions for every single one of your products might seem like a huuuuuuge task. But you wouldn’t sell a product without pricing it or adding photos, would you? In the long run, having good product descriptions will save you time. If your product descriptions answer potential questions, customers won’t need to email you and ask. Plus, there’s a lesser chance they’ll get annoyed by a lack of information and straight up abandon their cart.
Product descriptions written with a bit of strategy behind them have the added benefit of boosting your SEO. That means more people are going to be able to find your products and become customers! Can you think of anything better?
How do I write one (or 50) of these things?
Tackling an entire store’s worth of products descriptions might seem like a daunting task. So, we’ve broken it down to make things a little easier.
Figure out your target demographic
Start by asking yourself: who is going to buy this product? Once you have an idea who your target customer is, you can craft your product description to fit that demographic’s lifestyle, interests, and needs. If you’re selling baby toys, you’ll want to write your description in a way that appeals to new parents rather than single and childless university students.
Determining customer profiles is not only valuable for product descriptions. They can help with marketing, product development, and store design.
Gather basic information
What are the basic pieces of information you want to convey in your product description? If you’re selling clothes, you may want to include any pertinent information on materials, manufacturing process, place of origin, etc. Does a garment fit small? Does it use natural dyes? Any basic information that can’t be answered by photos should be covered by the product description.
What are your customers’ most frequently asked questions?
Can this go in the dishwasher? What will happen if I forget it in the trunk of my car for a month? Is this a good present for my mom?
Making a list of your frequently asked questions and including answers in your descriptions will make life easier for you and your customers. With proper product descriptions, you can expect the number of customer support inquiries to decrease. Get in the habit of combing through your FAQs and see if there’s any information that you can add to your product descriptions as time goes on.
Decide on a format
There are a lot of different ways to format product descriptions—not every method works for everyone. Whichever format you choose, it’s important to find a way to include both product benefits and details in your description.
If possible, you should also try to make your product descriptions scannable to allow for a quick read. Most shoppers don’t want to get bogged down in heavy paragraphs of text. Of course there are always exceptions—only you know what’s best for your customers.
One of the most popular formats goes as follows:
First, you write a few sentences. This lets the customer know the benefits of your product. If you use a product description like this, you can have a bit of fun incorporating some branding and different scenarios to help the customer imagine using your product. This section shows the customer why your product is the best for them.
- Then there are some bulleted points.
- These points include additional product details.
- Material, size, or answers to FAQ’s are details you’ll want to include here.
- Make these bullet points the most important information because bullet points are the most scannable part of your product description.
Some product descriptions don’t include a bulleted list and instead communicate that information in sentence form. This isn’t as scannable—but perhaps your target demographic is a little more prosaic? For example, a lot of online bookstores include the synopsis as the description in a longer paragraph.
On the other hand, there are a lot of product descriptions that are only bulleted points, and some don’t even have any description at all (we certainly do not condone this). You’ll find a lot of these on Amazon.
Our friends at HOLD General essentially use a bulleted list for their product descriptions. All of their products are very clean and simple, so they’ve created product descriptions to match. The short phrases work well with their brand and online store but still provide the necessary information.
Establish your tone/voice
Establishing a tone essentially means speaking to your intended customer while using your brand’s voice. Try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What kind of communication style is going to put them at ease and make them feel most comfortable with your products?
TUSHY (who uses our Handy Shopify theme) sells attachable bidets. They understand that not everyone is open to “bathroom talk,” so they ease any potential discomfort by having fun with descriptions across their entire website.
TUSHY’s voice is fun and approachable. It fits their brand and could appeal to a wide variety of potential shoppers. The product description for the pink bidet attachment includes the phrase “From millennials to baby boomers, sparkling butts all around.” And the description for the black bidet says, “Add a little sexiness to your morning dump with the TUSHY Black and Gold Classic.”
TUSHY has successfully made their product descriptions playful and informative, thanks to their unique voice. They’ve turned something that might make people uncomfortable into something fun.
Think about what makes your business and products fun or unique. Descriptions are an opportunity to bring out your brand’s personality and create an enjoyable shopping experience for your customer.
Keep your language accessible and cohesive
While your product descriptions may be intended for a specific audience, you still want to be sure that anyone who visits your store can understand what the product is. Everything should flow in a logical order. If it doesn’t make sense to you (the expert), your customers definitely won’t know what you’re talking about.
Don’t forget SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s something you’ll want to pay attention to. Strategically written product descriptions include keywords that make it easier for search engines to find your products.
As a rule, always write the product description first—and then edit it to include keywords. No one likes to read through a description so bogged down with keywords that it’s on the verge of complete nonsense.
It’s time to get writing!
Now that you know what should be included in your product description, you’re ready to put pen to paper (or perhaps fingers to keys) and get going.
Writing products descriptions will take time. You’re going to want to make sure that everything is working. Preview the text in your online store. Does it make sense for your product and your brand? Make as many drafts as you need until you feel comfortable with what you’ve done.
Get a friend to read it
This can be super helpful if you’re used to doing everything yourself. When you’re working on something for a long time, it’s easy to start filling in the blanks with your own pre-existing knowledge.
By asking a friend or someone who’s unfamiliar with your products to read your product description, you can identify gaps you would have otherwise missed. Take their suggestions and adapt your product description accordingly.
Edit, proofread, and post
You did it! Once you’re happy with your product description, give it a final proofread (don’t skip this step!) and then hit publish.
Don’t be too discouraged if not every description works. Take it as an opportunity to learn what your customers want and what works best for you and your products. The great thing about having an online store is that it’s super easy to edit and improve any of your written content.
At the end of the day, you want to know that your product descriptions are showing the customer why your product will make their life better.
Let’s check out some examples, shall we?
Take look at Skinnydip London’s ecommerce site, which is powered by Shopify. By breaking down one of their product descriptions, we can examine what they’re doing and why they’re doing it:
You’ll see they’re using the popular method described earlier in the post: using a few sentences to describe the product’s benefits. According to Skinnydip, in addition to storing the essentials, this bag will help you stand out from the crowd. This appeals to their projected demographic of young women who in a world of Instagram and crop-top ubiquity just want to express themselves.
Below, they have specific details that customers might want to know. For example, people who are ethically opposed to wearing fur will probably want to be sure that their funky new bag isn’t made of real animals. Skinnydip likely anticipated being asked if the fur was real, so they made sure to include the bullet point “soft faux fur” in their details. You see what we’re getting at here?
Anorak is a homeware and lifestyle store. They sell a lot of different kinds of products, but the product description for this sleeping bag is noteworthy.
Similar to Skinnydip, Anorak has a short paragraph followed by bulleted points.
We know how horrid it is when your sleeping bag feels like a straight jacket. So we’ve made sure our badger sleeping bags are super soft, 100% cotton and wide enough for the most fidgety of feet.
They’ve clearly addressed a common customer concern in this paragraph, which functions as their “benefits” section. They’ve also incorporated their voice by using a little bit of humour and casual language.
Below, in their bulleted details, they’ve noted that the sleeping bag is machine washable. This is probably an FAQ and a huge selling point for shoppers who don’t have time to get their sleeping bag specially washed.
Go browse some other online stores. What techniques are your favourite stores and/or competitors using, and how do you think those methods are working? Emulate what you admire by working it into your own product descriptions.
Not every ecommerce store is the same—what works for the next guy might not be best for you, and vice versa.
Spend as much time as you need to get your product descriptions working for you, and don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings.” It sucks when you spend time on something and it doesn’t work, but if it’s not working don’t keep it around. Try out a different format or a different tone. It might take time, but you’ll get there!
Do you have some tips or tricks for creating kickass product descriptions? Any favourite examples? Let us know in the comments!