Well-written content and product descriptions are absolutely vital for every online shop. We’ll show you what is important for your virtual show room.
Product texts are often grossly neglected, even though they are the key factor to the customer’s decision to fill his shopping cart. A good shop text has to give the customer all details they need to make a decision. That sounds simple, but in reality, this is rarely the case.
The eternal question: What does the customer want? And why?
We are all online customers ourselves and constantly see product descriptions that raise more questions than they answer. This can even be witnessed in big “professional” online shops with lots of marketing personnel and full-time copywriters. This is where small websites can join the game and score.
The underlying problem here: Things that are self-evident for the sellers, who know about the matter and products, do not have to be clear to the customer. Thus, the most important thing is to think like the customer. It may be helpful to ask yourselves these questions, among others:
- Are all technical product details self-explanatory? Can I help the client with his decision, e.g. through references to explanations on the company blog, a good FAQ area or product comparisons in table form?
- Does the product image make the most important product details clear? Some customers feel better about their purchase if these details are repeated in written form. Plus, search engines will be happy about more text.
- Whether it’s about fashion, furniture or electronics: are details like measurements, weight, material, colors etc. included in detail? And don’t just rely on the manufacturer’s information. Also, even returns can be a blessing in disguise because the given reasons can be considered for the continuous improvement of product descriptions.
- Is the customer sure about the product fitting into his current (technical) environment, its compatibility with other products, the requirements for its use or possible alternatives (think of amazons product recommendations)?
- It should be clear, but with online offers, I often wonder: Is this a one-time price? Or is it monthly? Am I closing a contract? Who is the other party? Not answering this might unnecessarily cause the customer worries.
- Is the text explicit and clear about warranty, included accessories, shipping conditions, payment methods, shipping times, seller and manufacturer information? Some of this information may even be legally required to operate an online shop in Germany and Austria.
Tools for Text Optimization
The points mentioned sound reasonable, but often, they are only followed half-heartedly. Let’s be honest: Adding products is a task that most shop owners consider boring or monotonous, even though it is essential for the success of an internet shop.
There are numerous possibilities to increase sales with the right product descriptions:
- A/B tests on Product and Category Levels
- Including customers with different levels of knowledge (through direct field tests and polls, crowd testing, CRM or support analyses)
- Conversion monitoring and optimization (Warning: watch out for legal pitfalls in Germany/Austria)
- Heat map evaluations
- Analyzing variations of product descriptions in online shops with high sales numbers (like Amazon Marketplace offers in the same price range but with different descriptions)
- Market research with Google Trends or Google AdWords Keyword Planner
In any case, remember to monitor customer and support inquiries for specific products on external platforms (social media, message boards etc.) This is a great way to find out what‘s on your potential customers’ minds, i.e. what the product descriptions provided by the manufacturer and other shops are lacking.
Tip: This is a big opportunity for those who operate their online shop in addition to an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar shop. Conversations with customers in your shop give you the best clues which information must not be excluded online, where customers can’t just ask when they’re not sure, but simply go to another internet shop.
Of course, you have to weigh up the effort for these measures against the actual benefit, but you can’t know about the true effects of optimized texts until you have already made the effort of creating them. Also, it’s a good idea to act selectively by updating the most popular and best-selling products. Optimizing an online shop can only be achieved as a continuous, daily process. That is the only way, small portals can handle this task within their possibilities.
Watch out for Information Overkill
It’s not about simply adding as many details and additions as possible to an product description and only focusing on data. The actual use a product has for the customer is what’s important. In this Google discussion, E-commerce content expert Udo Butschinek names a good example for “information overkill”, which can ruin the virtual shopping experience in no time. This stimulus satiation has customer and seller talking at cross purposes due to a lack of understanding of the problem and situation initiating the purchasing process.
Descriptive attributes can make a shop text more meaningful in that regard. Example: The fashion store from the next image offers help like this: “If you prefer a loose fit, try ordering a bigger size.” (the original here). Fashion enthusiasts will know these pieces of advice, but they can be adapted to lots of other industries and shopping situations.
What makes the shopping experience even more “real” for the potential client is offering certain niche product categories that can be found nowhere else on the internet. In the case of the women’s clothing shop, it’s virtual shelves for different physiques. These categories, explained nicely but to the point, give your shop more fun and personality. (E.g. “Golden Apple” instead of “Figure type A” like in the example in our narrative retailing article.)
What is the right place to present what information? Online customers are usually not very patient, which is made even worse by the masses of shops to choose from. For the shop texts, this means:
- The blocks of information should be sorted and presented according to the expected importance for the reader. That order can also be determined by analyzing support communication and customer questions.
- As already mentioned: You can remove long passages and put them in other places like guides in a blog connected to the shop. This also helps getting the word out over social media.
- Be careful: only include links, footnotes etc. that are really necessary. Too many of these elements can distract attention from the actual goal: The call to action, aka the “Buy” button.
- Tables (not too complex), lists, useful (!) info graphics and the like allow you to keep it short. With the right concept and presentation, they are also much more understandable than endless masses of text.
- A separate help area should be created for the most common questions. The use of this area can be increased if you give it a more descriptive name instead of “FAQ”. In general, you should try experimenting with the wording for all elements , e.g. with A/B tests on a detail level.
One more piece of usability advise for organizing the information blocks: expandable tabs, sliders, mouse over effects and the like may look really fancy, but they are usually used much less than the web designers would want it. “Fancy” should not be mistaken for “efficient”. Simple text elements can be way more useful and productive.
The World Doesn’t Need Another Shop Clone
Which of the possibilities mentioned above make sense for which kind of shop depends on various factors. Industry, product portfolio, target groups, their state of knowledge etc. all play a role. You can only analyze and experiment.
You can also learn from competitors, but creating unique features for your own online shop is more important than simply imitating existing strategies. Especially in a highly competitive E commerce environment, the last thing the world needs is another shop clone. This is something you should always bear in mind when creating product texts.
Title image: © Galymzhan Abdugalimov
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