How to write product descriptions that actually sell


Copywriter Rory Stobo shares his tips on writing product descriptions that help people find your products (and part with their cash).

At Sookio we’ve written descriptions for everything from sewing supplies to sideboards and we’ve picked up a thing or two. Just describing the product isn’t even a quarter of the job, you’ve got to sell it and you haven’t got much space in which to do that.

Describing exactly what it is you're selling can be tricky. With limited space and a lot to shout about, you need a clear winning structure to get noticed. People shopping on the internet are pretty impatient too - you only have a few seconds to grab their attention before they click away! So how do you craft an eye-catching description that's going to keep them on the page?

Sell! But to who?

The first step lies in knowing who you’re talking to. A product description which is strongly enticing to a specific set of people beats one which is vaguely attractive to many.

Sure, you’ll probably have metrics and customer profiles identifying your ‘target demographic,’ but the second you make someone feel like part of a ‘target demographic,’ they’re gone.

Who has this product actually been designed for? Stop thinking in terms of data and imagine what a conversation with that person would actually be like. I promise you’ll have met at least one person in your life who fits the description.

Get into character as Games Workshop have done above. Figure out what makes the reader laugh and keeps them engaged. Use that to help craft your writing. Writing with one specific person in mind will keep you from wandering into vague, wishy-washy territory.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak

Once you know who your description is meant to appeal to, tell them a story! People aren’t looking for any old table, they’re looking for the table that’s going to transform their lives.

It’s about the benefits, not just the features. Talk about how your product fits into the ideal lives of your audience, what problems will it make go away? What new heights of convenience and as-yet-undreamed-of luxury will it unlock?

For example: It means nothing that your new table is made of magical self-cleaning wood, that presupposes that the reader knows what this wood is, how it was developed and why it’s such a big deal in the scientific community. All they really want to know is that they’ll never have to clean a table again, so tell them that.

Avoid using words like ‘quality’ and ‘value.’ Anything can be quality and anything can be great value, if your product wasn’t both of those things you wouldn’t be selling it… right? Instead you’re going for product-specific words which convey the idea of quality and value.

The devil is in the details

Have you ever heard your friend droning on about the engine in their new car or the rotation speed on the blades of their lawnmower? It means so much to them, but you’re not as invested in the product as they are so the excitement doesn’t translate.

Numbers without context have no meaning, so save the technical details of your product for last. Once you’ve connected with the audience and convinced them that your product is something that will enrich their lives, then tell them exactly why.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but on the whole people tend to engage with ideas and then find the ‘proof’ to back them up. You decide you want a new washing machine and then decide whether the one you want will fit in your kitchen.

Size dimensions, materials, colourings and optional extras all fall under this category. Also consider links to related products which readers might like. If you've got an app, this is the place to put a link as well. You've spent all this effort drawing people into your brand, why not leave them with somewhere to go from there?

We love what Firebox have done with their Star Mug (above). There is so much information in there but it never feels crammed in. The benefits are clear to see at the top, it's surrounded by testimonials and a lively product description and with the nitty gritty about dimensions at the bottom. 

Don't neglect the window dressing

The body of your description is, by now, looking pretty snazzy. But it's the extras which will put you ahead of the competition.

You'll no doubt have done some SEO research to understand what terms your customers are searching for, but take care to use this information wisely. Aim to include one important keyword in the title and at least 2-3 throughout the description.

So if your product is champagne (above), you want to make sure that 'champagne' is in the title. Sounds obvious, but some retailers overthink their product descriptions and may be tempted to put 'the finest fizz' to make it different to all the rest; however, this means people are less likely to find it on Google.

Don't skip including a keyword in the metadata when it comes to images either. Alt text is your friend when it comes to making your images work as hard as possible.

Speaking of images, take the time to ensure your picture is one which works with your text and the overall layout of your site. Research from Caltech shows that, when pressed for time, customers will choose a product with the most visual appeal even if this contradicts their own personal preference. This also applies in cases where the number of choices seems overwhelming so in a crowded marketplace, your pictures need to work hard.

In the final analysis, a good product description should be lean, engaging and as emotive as it is descriptive. By following this narrative structure you ensure you're saying the right things to the right people and still showing your product in the best possible light.

Get expert help with your product descriptions

We offer copywriting for retailers to help them get the most out of their product descriptions so customers find their products on the web...and buy them too. To find out how we can help, do get in touch.