9 Simple Ways to Write Product Descriptions that Sell

It’s an easy mistake.

Even professional copywriters make it sometimes: Writing product descriptions that simply describe your products.

Why is it wrong? Because product descriptions need to sell your products.

Let’s have a look at nine simple ways to persuade your web visitors with product descriptions that sell.

1. Focus on Your Ideal Buyer

When you write a product description with a huge crowd of buyers in mind, your descriptions become wishy-washy and you end up addressing no one at all.

The best product descriptions address your ideal buyer directly and personally. You ask and answer questions as if you’re having a conversation with them. You choose the words your ideal buyer uses. You use the word you.

This is how Think Geek starts the product description of an LED Flashlight:

You know what's sucky about regular flashlights? They only come in two colors: white or that yellowish-white that reminds us of the teeth of an avid coffee drinker. What fun is that kind of flashlight? We'll answer that: NO FUN AT ALL. You know what is fun? Using the Multi-Color LED Flashlight to cast a sickly green glow over your face while telling a zombie story around a campfire. No campfire? Make a fake one with the orange light!

When it comes to writing your own product descriptions, start by imagining your ideal buyer. What kind of humor does he or she appreciate (if any)? What words does he use? What words does he hate? Is he okay with words like sucky and crappy? What questions does he ask that you should answer?

Consider how you would speak to your ideal buyer if you were selling your product in store, face-to-face. Now try and incorporate that language into your website so you can have a similar conversation online that resonates more deeply.

2. Entice with Benefits

When we sell our own products, we get excited about features and specifications. We live and breathe our company, our website, and our products.

The problem is our potential buyers are not as interested in mundane features and specs - they want to know what’s in it for them. That’s why you need to highlight the benefits of each feature.

This is how Method Home describes one of their hand wash gels:

Sometimes the scent of seasonal hand wash is all we need to rouse our holiday spirits. Available in an array of festive fragrances, our naturally derived gel hand wash will leave your hands soft, clean and ready to be tucked into a pair of fair isle mittens. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Method Home suggests that the benefit of their soap is not just that your hands become soft and clean, but that the soap actually rouses your holiday spirit making the holidays more festive and therefore more enjoyable.

Consider the benefit of each of your features. How does your product make your customers feel happier, healthier, or more productive? Which problems, glitches, and hassle does your product help solve?

Don’t sell just a product, sell an experience.

3. Avoid Yeah, Yeah Phrases

When we’re stuck for words and don’t know what else to add to our product description, we often add something bland like "excellent product quality".

That’s a yeah, yeah phrase. As soon as a potential buyer reads excellent product quality he thinks, yeah, yeah, of course; that’s what everyone says. Ever heard someone describe their product quality as average, not-so-good, or even bad?

You become less persuasive when your potential buyer reads your product description and starts saying yeah, yeah to themselves. To avoid this reaction be as specific as possible. Zappos, for instance, doesn’t describe the quality of a pair of shoes as excellent. Instead they describe each technical detail plus its benefit:

None of the bullet points above mention the quality of the product directly, but each point gives you an impression of quality. Each point also follows an easy pattern of highlighting a feature plus a benefit:

genuine hand-sewn construction (feature) >> durable comfort (benefit)

Product details add credibility. Product details sell your product. You can never include too many technical details in your product descriptions. Be specific.

4. Justify Using Superlatives

Superlatives sound insincere unless you clearly prove why your product is the best, the easiest, or the most advanced.

Amazon explains why the Paperwhite is the world’s most advanced e-reader:

The word patented gives the reader the impression that this is something special. Amazon goes on to quote several percentages to show why the Paperwhite has better contrast and brilliant resolution; and it provides a killer benefit: Even in bright sunlight, Paperwhite delivers clear, crisp text and images with no glare.

If your product is really the best, provide specific proof why this is the case. Otherwise, tone your copy down or quote a customer who says your product is the most wonderful they’ve ever used.

5. Appeal to Your Readers’ Imagination

Scientific research has proven that if people hold a product in their hands, their desire to own it increases.

You’re selling online, so your web visitors can’t hold your products. Large, crystal clear pictures or videos can help, but there’s also a copywriting trick to increase desire: let your reader imagine what it would be like to own your product.

Here’s how Think Geek stirs your imagination with an description of their grilling multi tool:

There is a person who is the hero of every BBQ or family cookout and that is the Grill Master. We always looked up to our Mom or Dad as they tended the grill and looked forward to the day when we could be in charge of charring the meatstuff and searing delicious slices of fresh pineapple. Now that we're adults, it's finally our turn and technology has smiled upon us, giving us a tool that is destined to impress.

To practice this copywriting technique start a sentence with the word imagine, and finish your sentence (or paragraph) by explaining how your reader will feel when owning and using your product.

6. Cut Through Rational Barriers With Mini-Stories

Including mini-stories in your product descriptions lowers rational barriers against persuasion techniques. In other words, we forget we’re being sold to.

Wine sellers like UK-based Laithwaites often include short stories about wine makers:

The Dauré family own one of the Roussillon's top properties, the Château de Jau. Around the dinner table one Christmas they agreed it was time to spread their wings and look to new wine horizons. The womenfolk (Las Niñas) fancied Chile and won out in the end, achieving their dream when they established an estate in the Apalta Valley of Colchagua. The terroir is excellent and close neighbours of the Chilean star Montes winery.

When it comes to telling a story about your products, ask yourself:

  • Who is making the product?
  • What inspired creating the product?
  • What obstacles did you need to overcome to develop the product?
  • How was the product tested?

7. Seduce with Sensory Words

Restaurants have known it for a long time: sensory words increase sales, because they engage more brain processing power. Here’s an example of chocolate maker Green and Black:

Green and Black’s sensory adjectives don’t just refer to taste, but also to sound and touch: crunchy and smooth.

Adjectives are tricky words. Often they don’t add meaning to your sentences, and you’re better off deleting them. However, sensory adjectives are power words because they make your reader experience your copy while reading.

Dazzle your readers with vivid product descriptions. Think about words like velvety, smooth, crisp, and bright.

8. Tempt with Social Proof

When your web visitors are unsure about which product to purchase, they look for suggestions what to buy. They’re often swayed to buy a product with the highest number of positive reviews. But there are other ways to sneak social proof into your product descriptions.

Online furniture seller Made.com hints at the popularity of a product:

Including an image of a person adds credibility to a quote; it also makes an online company more personal and approachable encouraging customers to call to get answers to their queries.

The above quote carries extra impact because it describes the product as popular. The popularity claim is further supported with a cutting from the press and the phrase press favorite.

Most buyers are attracted to buying something that's popular. When it comes to your website, highlight the products that are customer favorites.

9. Make Your Description Scannable

Is your web design encouraging web visitors to read your product descriptions?

Here’s a great example of product description from Innocent Drinks:

Packaging your product descriptions with a clear, scannable design makes them easier to read and more appealing to potential customers.  

Here's some areas to focus on when designing yours:

  • Entice your web visitor with headlines;
  • Use easy-to-scan bullet points;
  • Include plenty of white space;
  • Increase your font size to promote readability;

How to Write Compelling Product Descriptions

Share your knowledge about your product. Tell stories and explain even the tiniest details. Make an effort not to be boring and instead delight your web visitors with seductive descriptions. Most of all, write with enthusiasm because your passion for your products is contagious. 

About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is a marketer and copywriter. Her book, How to Write Seductive Web Copy: An Easy Guide to Picking Up More Customers, is out today and free to download on Amazon until July 1, 2013.

48 comments

  • Janice
    Janice
    June 27 2013, 09:56AM

    Wow great tips! I really like the idea of telling a story and painting a picture. I think too many people just copy and paste descriptions from a manufacturer. Can’t wait to implement some of this!

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 10:22AM

    Great to hear, Janice. Let me know how you get on!

  • Adrien
    Adrien
    June 27 2013, 10:25AM

    This may be the best “how to write better product descriptions” I’ve ever read. Thanks for not being ‘fluffy’ and getting right to the point.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 10:35AM

    Thank you, Adrien

    I hate fluffiness :)

  • Craig
    Craig
    June 27 2013, 11:02AM

    This is really good info just what i needed, thanks shopify team :)

  • @Shopify Mark Macdonald
    Mark Macdonald
    June 27 2013, 11:10AM

    You’re welcome Craig! Glad you found it useful.

  • Johnny
    Johnny
    June 27 2013, 11:16AM

    Great info, I believe my site needs some working. The product description we used is factual although perhaps boring..Thank you for the guideline.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 11:24AM

    Most product descriptions are boring. You have a great opportunity to stand out by using a few seductive copywriting tricks.

    Good luck!

  • Nathanael
    Nathanael
    June 27 2013, 11:34AM

    This is a very interesting summary, it motivates to go back to my product pages and radically change the tone used to introduce the products. Thanks !

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 11:41AM

    Great! Let us know how you get on?

  • Sandy Hathaway
    Sandy Hathaway
    June 27 2013, 11:41AM

    Great post Mark. Lot’s of excellent points here for us App developers as well. Thanks.

  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    June 27 2013, 04:21PM

    Henneke – I am imagining you helping out with our product descriptions and us increasing our sales. How might we set up a call!

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 05:19PM

    Hi Jennifer

    Sounds good :)

    If you email me we can arrange a call:
    Henneke [at] EnchantingMarketing.com

    Thanks! Look forward to hearing from you.

  • Alanna
    Alanna
    June 27 2013, 05:58PM

    Thank you for this article! Was a good read.Such obvious tips but often we forget. I’ve downloaded the free e-book (THANK YOU!). Just read the first chapter about visualising the ideal customer. I thought I was quite clear in my head about who that was – but then when Henneke asked ‘What keeps this person up at night?’, ‘What car do they drive?’ – made me think perhaps I don’t know this person as well as I should. I am going to take her advice and draw out my two ideal customers and then imagine myself writing to them as suggested. Thanks Team!

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 06:14PM

    You’re welcome, Alanna.

    When you find yourself arguing with your ideal reader, you know you’ve visualized her as well as you can! ;-)

    Hope you enjoy the book.

  • Carole
    Carole
    June 27 2013, 06:28PM

    Great tips. Sometimes we think that are products are to benign to write interesting descriptions for, but the examples for the grill tool and the flashlight prove that anything can be cleverly described.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 27 2013, 06:45PM

    Yep, if even a handwash or grill tool description can sound enchanting, then most product descriptions can!

  • Alanna
    Alanna
    June 27 2013, 11:59PM

    Thank you for this article! Was a good read.Such obvious tips but often we forget. I’ve downloaded the free e-book (THANK YOU!). Just read the first chapter about visualising the ideal customer. I thought I was quite clear in my head about who that was – but then when Henneke asked ‘What keeps this person up at night?’, ‘What car do they drive?’ – made me think perhaps I don’t know this person as well as I should. I am going to take her advice and draw out my two ideal customers and then imagine myself writing to them as suggested. Thanks Team!

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 28 2013, 09:14AM

    You’re welcome, Alanna.

    Once you start arguing with your ideal reader about what you’re writing, you know you’ve visualized her well!

  • Vinod Pillai
    Vinod Pillai
    June 28 2013, 12:15PM

    thanks for the perspective, really need to hit the sweet spot of the customer…love the way your blog help me improve…

  • Derek
    Derek
    June 28 2013, 09:42PM

    Thanks for a great blog post. While I look forward to reading the free e-book, I’ll address the issue that I face sometimes…let’s say you are going to add 6 new products to your website like a t-shirt. You have the same t-shirt design for men, women, juniors, youth, kids, and toddler sizes. If you’re going to have 6 different product pages for this same t-shirt design, what do you recommend for writing descriptions for these 6 products that have the same design in common? When I do this, I’m already maxed out on what I can write by the time I’ve written copy for the third of the six products.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    June 29 2013, 04:45AM

    That’s a great question. I’d write them on two or three different days rather than all in one go (if you can plan it like that)

    Each shirt has a slightly different audience, so I try to get into the mind of the buyer and think about what would make him or her buy the t-shirt. And do they buy it for themselves? Or for their child? Or is it a present? These questions can help you get into a slightly different mindset and picture someone else when you write.

    I don’t know how standardized your product descriptions are, but you could try using different formats. For instance: start two or three with a question; and the others with a statement. Maybe try to start one with “Picture yourself…” or “Imagine if you…”.

    Setting yourself creative challenges can help to keep your writing interesting. E.g. use a metaphor in one description or try some rhyme or alliteration in another.

    I hope you enjoy reading the book!

  • Rory
    Rory
    June 30 2013, 11:22AM

    Inspirational as always , ideas that are creative but most of all , give us the potential to be poets of our descriptions , changing a dull engine part into a piece of fine art . Thanks again to our Shopify mentors :-)
    Rory euroasiaclickshop.com.hk

  • Kevin
    Kevin
    July 02 2013, 10:38AM

    Outstanding article, Henneke.

    You didn’t just explain the 9 ways, but you backed them up with practical examples to demonstrate the point, and make sure we understood exactly how to use them.

    Very well-written article.

    Keep it up.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    July 03 2013, 10:21AM

    Thank you, Kevin :)

  • Adeel Vanthaliwala
    Adeel Vanthaliwala
    July 03 2013, 03:59PM

    Henneke,

    This is a great list of tips. What are your thoughts on “pain” focused descriptions of product. We all respond to removing a problem or an annoyance and I’ve found that when your product zeros in and identifies the real pain and how you solve it, tends to convert quite well.

    Adeel Vanthaliwala

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    July 04 2013, 11:09AM

    Yes, great point, Adeel.

    “Pain” focused descriptions can be great. If you can address a problem or fear your target audience experiences, then you’re on to a winner! :)

  • Sam | lifestylebyps.com
    Sam | lifestylebyps.com
    July 04 2013, 03:18PM

    Henneke, You nailed it..
    Really, truly informative post with some great actionable advice and examples. Totally loved the way Thinkgeek guys are doing it.
    We’re all designers at our office and we follow and get inspired from designer’s e-comm store (like Neil Barrett, Marc Jacobs) and they write very less almost nothing for their products (May be they don’t need to) so for our most of the products we do the same.
    However, I’ll share your post with every one on the team and shall try to get descriptions right.
    Huge shout for Shopify for enabling people to share great content.
    thanks again for sharing.

  • Henneke
    Henneke
    July 08 2013, 05:16AM

    Designer clothes are interesting. I’d say that someone like Marc Jacobs doesn’t have to write product descriptions because he sells purely because of his brand name and the looks of his products.

    If your brand is not so well-known, you can still benefit from product descriptions. From a design angle – what was your inspiration for a particular shirt, how did you design it? From a quality perspective – how are they made? what materials are used? In subtle ways this information (in addition to great product photography of course) can help justify the price you’re asking for your products.

  • Maryum
    Maryum
    July 08 2013, 11:29PM

    Really nice article. It helped me to track my mistakes in writing product descriptions.

    Thankx!

  • Yessi
    Yessi
    July 19 2013, 12:23PM

    Well written and helpful. Thanks!
    I think I’m going to write my cover letter using these tips — uhh, minus the use of sensual words.

  • Chanelle
    Chanelle
    October 04 2013, 06:48AM

    Very helpful! Always looking for ways to bring my product alive online.

  • moha
    moha
    October 27 2013, 02:54AM

    Give three examples of products that are particularly suitable for selling over the
    Internet

    . Why may the Internet work better for replacement buys for new purchases?

    help plz

  • David Robertson
    David Robertson
    December 02 2013, 04:50PM

    Fabulous article – thanks for publishing.
    My primary sales areas are eBay & Amazon, so half the battle is getting people to actually find and then click onto your listings.
    The second part of the battle is, of course, then converting that initial interest or curiosity into a sale…..
    These tips are going to be of massive help to me in taking my business to the next level. I have been incredibly guilty of producing utterly bland & generic product descriptions previously, and not actually putting myself in the potential buyer’s shoes.
    Our new business plan is very much focused on quality – rather than quantity. However what is the point in me sourcing excellent products in order to then do them a complete injustice by not fully appealing to the buyers senses. I want the buyer to be left feeling that they absolutely 100% NEED the product, and i believe your advice will be of great assistance in doing so.
    I reiterate a huge thanks for publishing this article.
    Kind Regards
    Dave

  • Lisa Ann Tani
    Lisa Ann Tani
    December 25 2013, 08:34AM

    Fabulous informative article. Made me realise how much work I need to do on my product descriptions. Just purchased the ebook for further information.

    Thank you for sharing for knowledge,

    Lisa

  • Paul
    Paul
    April 17 2014, 06:37AM

    What would you recommend when a product is listed on a website in around 30 different colours, each colour being a separate product?

  • tteacherspks
    tteacherspks
    May 08 2014, 05:58PM

    Thanks your for this information. This will help update my seller profile on Fiverr http://www.fiverr.com/tteacherspks I’m definitely saving this article!

  • Jenniza Estillore
    Jenniza Estillore
    May 20 2014, 08:54AM

    Thanks for sharing, simply useful ideas just what i need.

  • Ingird
    Ingird
    May 26 2014, 07:07PM

    Hi Henneke,

    Can you give me some examples for our alternative chiropractic clinic, we are different in that we use a combination of different treatments that no one else uses, but I can’t get my head around how to word it. Many thanks, love your tips. Ingrid.

  • Carla green
    Carla green
    June 05 2014, 03:42PM

    Dear Henneke,

    First,I found your articles to be quite informative. Instead of the hows and don’ts , I want to thank you for being encouraging to new and experienced entrepreneurs. Your many examples helped me to see that even as a large and experienced company you must be intone with your target market at all times. lastly, I would like to say thanks for taking the time to consider others in the field of business who might not of known that there are still people out there like you,who care and are not out to discourage people who are still trying to get ahead.

  • Ange
    Ange
    June 15 2014, 11:07PM

    WOW! This is the first time I’ve ever left a comment on a blog post.
    Thank you for this information. So open and honest!!!
    I’m impressed and inspired by the tips you’ve given. I’m going to start working on my website right now! Lol :)

  • Philipp
    Philipp
    June 20 2014, 10:06AM

    Hi,

    would you have presentation material of shopify which I could use so that I would be able to present shops,its design, look and feel, and usability in front of one of my clients?

    I am looking forward to hearing from you

    Cheers,

    Philipp

  • Younes
    Younes
    July 11 2014, 07:40PM

    Jumping on this , thank you

  • premierhomeandgifts
    premierhomeandgifts
    July 31 2014, 02:29PM

    Thank you for this reminder. Enticing descriptions are important for uniqueness with SEO and an overall branding strategy. Gonna improve some of my plain descriptions!

  • Katherine
    Katherine
    August 07 2014, 11:38AM

    Such a useful article, thank you. One piece of advice I was searching for and didn’t find was how long your product descriptions should be. I have a habit of writing too much (I think – but is this helpful to the customer?). I wonder based on your advice about using bullet points and lots of white space whether you would recommend keeping it short and punchy? Thanks!

  • Roving Jay
    Roving Jay
    August 08 2014, 06:37PM

    I stumbled across this article looking for tips on how to improve my product description copy writing. There’s some fabulous tips here. Really useful – thanks for sharing them. Jay

  • eion
    eion
    October 06 2014, 03:26AM

    Hey thanks….
    nic and easy and various examples blogs

  • Lank Simmons
    Lank Simmons
    December 12 2014, 08:19AM

    I love this, it really gave more insight on how to describe my products..

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