Five Features the Best Product Descriptions have in Common

It’s time to put your entire inventory on your website. Where do you begin? Don’t you wish you could just scan the manufacturer’s spec sheet and call it a day? Unfortunately, that won’t work. Each item is now a representation of your business and as such needs to reflect the care with which you handle all your assets.

To the non-writer, crafting a praise-worthy product description along the lines of Lands’ End is right up there with rocket science. To the rocket scientist, making it clever, moving and memorable is akin to being an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil.

Fortunately for all those floundering English majors with no plans post graduation, not everyone can write and not everyone can spell. Fewer still can turn a handful of undifferentiated facts and features into a full-blown fantasy. When all that stands between an eager shopper and their order is a few paragraphs, they better be good. No, they better be spectacular.

Here are 5 things the best product presentations have in common:

1  Nice Shape

A lot has been written about determining the overall look or format to use when constructing an online product description. The range of opinions varies widely depending on the nature of the business. Tests show people like to read descriptions in an “F” direction, several long lines, several shorter lines followed by a bulleted list. Technical products require more measurements while fashion requires more editorial ‘massaging’ of  benefits. The old advertising adage still stands, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

Some questions that must be answered are:

  • How long should the introductory paragraph be?
  • How many bullets balance it out?
  • What typeface is appropriate?
  • How to keep features and benefits parallel?
  • What should go in the conclusion?

How to arrange pictures, logos, callouts, captions, price points, warranties, etc. is the challenge of both art director and developer.

2  Pleasing Voice

Finding your voice is integral to maintaining a brand identity whether you sell nails to carpenters or doorknobs to decorators. Writers for the famous J. Peterman catalog spun yarns of summer romance abroad to sell a simple angora sweater. L.L. Bean practically invented voice positioning by assuming readers were outdoorsman like them, accustomed to battling the elements and handling their hounds. The heaping helpings of technical details (down to the fiber content of coated shoelaces) appealed to their well-heeled, well-educated target market.

When compiling your own product descriptions, think about how you sound to your audience. It’s essential to establish the tone you want to carry through all your communications. Is it chummy, haughty, instructive, formal, down-to-earth, pie-in-the-sky, short and sweet or (heaven forbid) the Great American Novel.

3  Swell Story

The commercials, brochures and product descriptions for Viking River Cruises all tell one story: The Importance of Cruising the Danube Before You Go To Your Grave. If it’s not on your bucket list now, it will be by the time you finish reading about Day 6 in St. Petersburg. The writers manage to make seeing Europe from your very own stateroom less of a slow boat to Branson and more like an odyssey to the fountain of youth.

Every item has a focal point, a key benefit that makes life easier, faster, more efficient, more beautiful, more whatever. If you can tell that story with a pure purpose, your writing will ring true.

4  Stand-In Salesperson

Back in the days of print catalogs, before it became content marketing, copywriters were instructed to be “the eyes of the customer.” Readers can’t feel the fabric, fold the stroller, taste the chocolate or try on the dress. A professionally-written product description brings things like specifications and fiber content to life by calling out the oversized depth of fitted sheets and the soft velvety nap of a shearling jacket.

Anticipate everything a buyer might want to know then go to work describing those features. The lining of a suit jacket has French seams. The mirror has an adjustable wire for vertical or horizontal hanging. The luggage nests for convenient storage.

Leave no stone unturned and no detail uncovered.

5  Extra Credits

Once you’ve got the format and voice determined, and you’ve told the best story you can (even if it’s one excellent sentence praising the best feature), you can feel comfortable knowing your product presentation is ready to be found by customers and search engines alike.

I’ll be writing about product description SEO in the next blog. But for this last point, let’s think about incorporating customer feedback into the product section.

If you have them, here is the place to add five-star ratings and true testimonials. Sometimes these comments can convey valuable product details from the end-user’s perspective. If lots of people are having trouble getting rid of mosquitoes and you’ve got a noiseless, odorless white plastic mushroom lamp that really eliminates them, let the public gush. It’s so much more believable and impressive when a consumer declares, in their own words, how your company solved their problem.

We live in a world of product loyalty and product necessity. When your printer runs out of ink, the cartridge just has to be replaced, it doesn’t have to be lionized. HP 650 Tricolor is already etched on their mind.

Sometimes you just need to give buyers what they need to make a quick ordering decision, whether that’s a bold price point or a model identification number.  Other times, you can take the opportunity to create a burning desire for ownership using any number of techniques described above.

If you don’t have an English major you can enlist, please see the impressive body of work the writers at iwebcontent have produced. We can help with everything from setting up websites to providing SEO content to the great American product descriptions.

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