Selling products online is tricky. Potential customers can’t touch, smell, or see the item in the flesh. Instead, they rely on copy—the text marketers write to describe product features, the problems it solves, and how it makes buyers feel—all to earn more sales.
Copywriting is a skill that most ecommerce business owners haven’t spent time refining. You have other hats to wear, right?
However, strong copywriting skills have the power to convince more readers to click, sign up, or buy. Stellar copy helps potential customers envision how it feels to own a product. They can visualize it in their hands, solving a problem, or making their life easier.
So, what does good copywriting look like? And how do you write with your potential customer in mind? This guide shares the copywriting process you’ll need when writing any text for your ecommerce brand.
The goal: To write words that pay you back.
Become a copywriting pro ✍️
What is ecommerce copywriting?
Ecommerce copywriting refers to the process of crafting text that convinces your target audience to do something—be that visit your ecommerce website, join your email list, or purchase a product. It’s often referred to as direct response copywriting or sales copy because of this reason.
Benefits of ecommerce copywriting
Persuasive, fluff-free copy is the key to boosting sales without investing more in acquisition, hence why stellar copywriting across every touchpoint is one of the most effective ways to move prospects or buyers through the sales funnel.
“I helped Archer and Olive, a bullet-planner-style ecommerce shop, grow its profits from $72,000 to $1.9 million in the first year of our website copywriting being live," say Kayla Hollatz, freelance copywriter.
"We tweaked the headline to highlight the eco-friendliness of her products. We reminded visitors of the brand’s differentiators on product pages. While this growth can’t only be attributed to copywriting, it played a large role in their growth.”
Where is copywriting applied?
Regardless of where you’re placing this text, copy is a critical ingredient for your entire digital marketing strategy. That includes:
- Homepage. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Strong copy will communicate what you sell and why it’s different, quickly and clearly, so that users don’t bounce.
- Product descriptions. Why should people buy the product you’re selling? Help the potential customer visualize owning, touching, or using it through your product description copy.
- Category pages. Sometimes website visitors hop on your site hoping to solve a problem, but are unsure which product will help them do so. Explain the grouping of products on the page and offer guiding snippets about individual products.
- About page. Website visitors want to see information about the company behind the site they’re viewing. Make people fall in love with the brand behind the website with a copy on your About page.
- Meta titles and descriptions. Search engines pull these snippets of copy and show them on the search page. Copy is the only medium here—there are no images or videos to influence a decision. Intriguing SEO copywriting could be the difference between a potential customer clicking your website or a competitor’s.
- Emails. Every type of email marketing campaign, including promotions, abandoned cart campaigns, and purchase confirmations need to be written with the customer in mind. Reflecting their language in your email copywriting takes them out of their inbox and onto your site through a call to action (CTA).
- Social media posts. The average person spends almost 2.5 hours browsing social media every day. By focusing on the copy in your social media posts, you can drive them away from social media and toward your online business.
- Direct mail. Write leaflets and postcards that get customers in your local area to visit your brick-and-mortar store.
- Advertising. Be it a Google Ad, a Facebook campaign, or a billboard, advertising is really about the intersection of copy and creative. Pair eye-catching visuals with ad copy that makes your target audience stick around long enough to influence a sale.
Bison Coolers’ product description uses persuasive copywriting to make a boring product (a cooling box) seem more exciting.
Really great brands make every word matter, even on something like their shipping policy page. Freelance copywriter Samar Owais explains: “Any time I want to evaluate how seriously a brand takes their customer experience, I check the pages in their footer. FAQ, contact us, shipping and returns—these are the pages customers who’re super interested in your brand will check out.
“Most brands treat these pages as an afterthought. Yes, very few website visitors will visit them, but the ones that do will have a much higher chance of becoming a long term customer or a brand evangelist.”
The bottom line? If you’re losing potential customers at a pre-product page touchpoint, you could have the most amazing copy on them and it wouldn’t matter.
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7 proven ecommerce copywriting tips
- Replicate your customer’s tone of voice
- Sell the benefits, not the features
- Sprinkle unbiased copy
- Avoid meaningless drivel
- Limit adjectives
- Tell stories, not facts
- Have a strong point of view
Good ecommerce copywriting is relatively easy to learn, but hard to master. Great copywriters test and measure their copy to ensure it’s driving real results. It takes time to be great.
The first copywriting mistake is writing without research, but we’ve already covered that in depth. The second is making obvious mistakes. Here are eight more steps to writing great ecommerce copy.
1. Replicate your customer’s tone of voice
What good is your copywriting research if you don’t use it to write your copy?
Head back to your research spreadsheet and pull terminology your customers have used in reviews, interviews, or surveys. You’ll likely find each demographic or persona has a specific vocabulary. Including that same vocabulary on your ecommerce website builds rapport. Customers land there thinking, “This brand gets me.”
Harper Wilde is a great example of this. All over its ecommerce website, you’ll find sentences its target audience likely use (or are at least familiar with)—like the idea its bra is so comfortable “you can’t believe it’s not butter.”
2. Sell the benefits, not the features
It’s hard not to fall into the trap of shouting about how incredible your product’s features are. While you may think it showcases your products in their best light, the truth is that most purchases are emotionally driven.
The fact your duvet linen has a 400 thread count doesn’t spark those “I need to purchase this!” emotions. A luxurious, comfortable duvet cover that makes you fall asleep instantly? That does.
Copy and user experience should work together. There are so many ways to distill quick facts that customers care about—using icons, badges, or bullet points—without boring people with the nitty-gritty product spec. So, each time you list a feature, follow it with a benefit.
Eight Sleep clearly communicates the unique selling points of its mattress by listing benefits alongside product features.
That leaves you more space to use valuable real estate, particularly headlines and product descriptions, to sell rather than tell.
There are many benefits to pull on in your copywriting; each depends on the reason why customers are buying the product. Does it solve a problem? Increase pleasure and happiness? Make people feel like they’re part of a community?
For example, your oven might have a fast preheat system. This feature makes you more relaxed about getting dinner ready on time. This benefit is an increase in pleasure (feeling more relaxed) and it makes cooking less stressful (taking away the pain of stress). These feelings of joy and anticipation are proven to increase ecommerce landing page performance.
Outline all of these features and benefits before you start creating your product pages. Planning what you need to write helps you craft more persuasive copy, faster.
Kettle and Fire’s homepage copy is straight to the point on the benefits of using the product.
3. Sprinkle unbiased copy
Imagine you’re browsing two websites. The first is written by a copywriter who raves about how great a product is. The second website does the same, only some of the text is written by happy customers who can vouch for what the copywriter says.
Which one are you more likely to engage with? Chances are, it’s the second. It uses social proof—reviews from other happy customers—to make you trust the product more.
Social proof is a type of content that makes copy feel less biased. Testimonials, reviews, and user-generated content are your most influential ecommerce marketing assets, proven to increase sales page conversion rates by 34%.
Surely creates social proof with its “Over 20,000+ wine loving customers” headline above a carousel of positive customer reviews.
4. Avoid meaningless drivel
Formerly top-shelf words like “world class,” “market-leading,” and “innovative” are used so frequently they’ve lost much of their impact. Now they’re just filler—taking up space without adding meaning.
Put on your devil’s advocate hat and for each sentence and each word, and ask yourself: What does this mean? If you can’t come up with a specific answer immediately, cut or rephrase until your text is concrete and meaningful.
❌ Meaningless drivel: Innovative office chairs from a world-leading manufacturer.
✅ Try instead: Office chairs with lumbar support used in more than 150,000 offices in the US.
Meaningless drivel distracts and wears your reader down. In contrast, facts and figures increase your credibility. Where possible, include numbers and write them as digits (7) rather than words (seven) because numerals stop wandering eyes.
5. Limit adjectives
Adjectives help us to explain what our products look like (appearance), what they do (features), and how they make our buyers feel (benefits).
In moderation, adjectives are useful. They help customers visualize what a product looks, feels, or smells like—most often your unique selling point. But an overdose gives your reader a headache, because it makes your content hard to read. Take this sentence for example:
This relaxed, romantic collection of beautiful cookware has a unique look, up-to-date yet completely classic, with a result that’s perfect for your kitchen.
The problem with so many adjectives is that it slows your reader down and confuses them. What about simply saying:
This romantic cookware collection suits most kitchen styles.
When using adjectives, follow these essential best practices:
- Use only one adjective before a noun. Rather than "relaxed, romantic collection," go for "romantic collection."
- Don’t use adjectives to state the obvious. Don’t describe what a product looks like if you’re showing it in a picture.
- Choose sensory or emotional words. They make your reader feel something. Words like nice, good, or effective are rather bland. Opt for delightful, dazzling, or tantalizing instead.
Copywriting on Studio Neat’s product page strikes the perfect balance between descriptive adjectives and being benefit-driven.
6. Tell stories, not facts
When potential buyers read stories, they forget they’re being sold something. Any pre-existing barriers to your sales messages go down, and your content becomes more engaging and persuasive.
Facts increase the credibility of your product description, but facts on their own don’t make your content persuasive. Facts are cold. Facts don’t have soul or brand personality.
The most persuasive product descriptions include both story and fact. Stories engage your reader, while facts help justify their purchase. Our brains are wired to think in stories. It’s why helping a customer visualize the product in their life is the hidden gem in crafting direct response copywriting that nudges them toward a sale.
A story can be ultra-short. Imagine you’re selling an office chair with lumbar support. You can tell a simple story about a customer who tries different chairs and continues to suffer from back pain.
A simple story can help potential buyers visualize the benefits of your products—especially if they’re complicated; but stories also add personality. You can tell stories about the development, testing, or sourcing of your products to make them more fascinating or to increase the perception of high quality.
So, how do you inject these mini-stories into your online store? Here are three quick tips:
- Learn from investigative journalists. Dig deeper to uncover fascinating details. Talk to your suppliers and existing customers. The more you listen and learn, the more stories you have to tell.
- Keep your stories concise and concrete. Focus your story on just one simple idea.
- Avoid the obvious. Tell unexpected stories to engage, entertain, and sell.
Meow Meow Tweet, for example, gives new subscribers a brief backstory of the brand in its welcome email.
Sometimes, things need to be mentioned on an ecommerce product page because of laws or compliance. In a 1978 Harvard study, researchers found that using the word “because” increases compliance from 60% to 94%. So, when listing need-to-know facts, tell people why they’re important. For example, “This adhesive type is great because it’s required by law.”
7. Have a strong point of view
Many big-box ecommerce sites sound like what they are: big corporations without a soul. They don’t connect, they don’t engage, they hardly sell the value of the products they offer. They simply provide bread, butter, beer, and toothpaste.
But nobody likes chatting with a faceless corporation. Nobody likes ringing a soulless call center. So why create text that sounds like a dull corporation?
Great copy can often change the way people think about a specific idea or problem, along with what role your product plays in the solution.
To connect with your readers, you need a dash of personality on your ecommerce site. Think about your brand voice—if your website was a real salesperson talking to a customer, how would you like them to sound? What stories would they tell? What jokes would they crack? Which words would they choose?
Remember to visualize one buyer and write like you’d talk to them in real life. Ditch the corporate jargon in favor of copy that sounds more like a conversation.
The footer of GREATS’ product page uses phrases its ideal customer knows, including “friends with benefits,” “drop us a line,” and “get first dibs.”
A crash course in ecommerce copywriting research
Copywriting is like a crossword puzzle where the answer key consists of the words your customers use to describe their problem. In order to write performant copy, you need research—you need to know your customers’ motivations and hurdles.
That’s a far cry from how many retailers view copywriting, which is often built on the belief that the most creative copy wins.
There’s a four-step process that professional copywriters use to craft persuasive copy and increase conversions—one that you can steal and use for yourself. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to imagine you’re trying to understand how you can increase initial purchases on your site for the remainder of this article.
Step 1: Define your audience and segments
High-converting copy meets the right person, with the right message, in the right place, at the right time. There’s a vast difference between converting a new user on your homepage versus re-engaging someone who added a product and abandoned their cart.
Here are some common segments you might want to explore and survey or interview:
- Abandoned carts. Identify pre-conversion friction (anxieties, fears, frustrations, etc.) that prevent visitors from buying. Remember, cart abandonment isn’t normal, just normalized. People don’t leave full carts for no reason.
- New customers. You’ll identify more of that pre-conversion friction. What almost prevented them from buying? Why did they choose you over competitors? What was frustrating during checkout? Plus, you’ll learn about product quality and understand how well you deliver on your value proposition.
- Repeat customers. Get to the heart of what products pair well together, how long the buying cycle is, and what the customer lifecycle looks like.
- Inactive customers. Get to the bottom of lifetime value (which can help with paid ad spend planning) and retention. How many purchases did they make total? Why did they stop purchasing from you? What could you have done better?
These are general segments that could apply to any store. However, you might want to get more specific. For example, isolate customers based on product categories or new customers who purchased from you twice in six months.
💡 PRO TOOL: Organize your copywriting research with this free template.
Make sure the segment(s) you’re targeting are in a position to help you answer the questions you have. They have to be at the right stage of the buying cycle—for example, they need the proper pain or product awareness.
Step 2: Conduct qualitative research
When you know what you want to know and the segments that can help you find out, you’re ready to start diving into qualitative research.
Joel Klettke of Business Casual Copywriting and Case Study Buddy explains why: “If there’s one thing most companies miss, overlook, or ignore, it’s that every single ecommerce conversion is the result of a conversation your lead is having with your copy.
“With qualitative research, you have a chance to look at the answers before you take the test by asking the questions you know your leads are coming into your site asking. You can take their answers, and then turn around and bake them right into your copy, in your customers’ own words.
“I know of no other factor that makes a bigger difference to the results of your copy than the quality and depth of research you conduct.”
So, what types of qualitative data should you collect? This type of copywriting research can be done using these four methods:
- Internal interviews
- Customer interviews
- Testimonial and review mining
Before you talk to your visitors and customers, it helps to figure out which channels they’re already using. Talk to sales and support staff (if you have them) and gather existing data from internal sources, like your CRM.
Amongst some of the most popular include:
- Live chat
- Social media
Getting direct contact with people through their preferred channels—be that email, chat, or phone—means you’re starting things off on the right foot.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What questions are most commonly asked by visitors?
- What frustrations are vocalized most often by visitors?
- What pains do visitors arrive at my site looking to solve?
- What benefits do visitors arrive at my site looking to gain?
- What objections to buying do visitors have?
- How do I address those questions and objections successfully when I encounter them?
Throughout these internal interviews, James E. Turner, founder of SNAP Copy, advises, “Get customers talking for a while, to get past the ‘best business answer’ period and into the ‘but really, this is how it is’ phase.”
It helps to check support logs during this process to prevent biased answers. Go over the logs from the past three to six months. Highlight recurring questions, pains, benefits, objections, and frustrations. Add this information to the Customer Survey Results tab in the copywriting research template.
There are two types of surveys you can use to uncover which copywriting styles your target audience best responds to:
- On-site surveys. Exit or intent questions that pop up automatically at high-value moments.
- Customer surveys. Questions that go out via email to the segments you’re looking to better understand.
Both can help you better understand that initial purchase decision. A great survey truly depends on your unique objective or questions. However, there are some best practices to keep in mind when designing your copywriting surveys.
Customer interviews are valuable to the copywriting process at any stage of growth, but they’re especially useful when you’re small.
The important thing to remember here is to never run out and start interviewing anyone who says yes. You want to spend your time wisely, only interview those who can offer you the most insight. Stay within the segments you’ve selected and screen for specifics (e.g., purchases, purchase frequency, demographic.)
Reach out to these people with a simple email that politely asks for their time in exchange for something. This could be anything from a $20 voucher or free product through to behind-the-scenes HQ visits for die-hard fans.
The questions you ask during an interview are important, so spend time choosing them wisely. Try to strike a balance between:
- Demonstration (“Show me how you would…”)
- Tasks (“Find a pair of skinny jeans for $90 or less.”)
- Behavioral (“What was happening in your life that caused you to start using this product?”)
Treat customer interviews as a cross between user testing and surveys. It’s cliche, but using the good ol’ who, what, when, where, why, and how still works.
Kira Hug, co-founder of The Copywriter Club, shares her interview process: “The most powerful research tool I use to write conversion copy (a.k.a. sales emails and landing pages) is as basic as a 20-minute phone interview.
“While I find a lot of value in surveys—because you can collect a ton of data from hundreds (or even thousands) of people—I find nothing beats two people chatting.”
Kira continues: “Typically, I follow every survey with at least eight to 10 customer interviews. This gives me a chance to go deeper into an individual’s story, challenges, desires, goals, objections and more. It’s amazing what a stranger will share with you in only 20 minutes when you ask the right questions.”
Record the session so you don’t have to worry about taking notes, which can take away from your interview flow. Then organize and cluster responses into your spreadsheet:
You’ll get better at customer interviews over time, so don’t worry if you don’t knock it out of the park the first time. As you continue, you’ll learn how best to communicate with different types of people and how to ask smarter questions.
Testimonial and review mining
Third-party sites are full of customer testimonials, reviews, complaints, etc., that you can tap into. They’re usually less biased than if they were solicited.
But even on sites where only happy customers post reviews, it’s useful to see which things people continually mentioned as the reason they loved a product so much. That’s a lot of voice of customer goodness to make your copy stronger and more persuasive.
A quick Google search can tell you how you’re perceived and specifically what people are saying about your site/products.
James offers a word of advice on testimonial/review mining, encouraging you to lean into the negative feedback: "Make sure you take a look at both positive and negative reviews—and if you only have a chance to look at one type, go for the negative. This is where you’ll find the angst/pain that drives people to frustration.”
You can also track sentiment data from third-party reviews and feedback in our copywriting template.
Step 3: Identify and document patterns
By this point, you’ve collected your copywriting research in a spreadsheet with lots of data from lots of different sources. Next, you’ll need to dive into the data and begin identifying patterns. At this stage you’re looking for:
- Words and phrases that stand out to you, that were particularly memorable, or that were often repeated
- Objections, products, benefits, questions, pain points, points of friction on the site, etc., that were often repeated
Of course, you’re also looking to understand the way the segment speaks and the words/phrases they use. This will help you write the way the audience speaks, in words and phrases they identify with.
It can be helpful to take data from the spreadsheet and organize it based on the exact page you’re writing copy for. Here’s what that might look like for a product page:
💡 Note: If you uncovered any on-site points of friction during your research, you can go ahead and implement UX fixes at this stage.
Step 4: Define the messaging hierarchy and wireframe
Whether you’re crafting copy for a product page or a Facebook ad, you’re now better equipped to write data-informed, customer-driven copy that converts. Next, we need to turn the data into solutions.
Rely on a messaging hierarchy for this—a graph that helps visualize the importance of each message. The more frequently a pain point or benefit or question comes up during your research, the higher it should be on your messaging hierarchy.
Assuming you’re writing copy for an ecommerce website, once you have that high-level concept, you can start building a wireframe using tools like Figma or Sketch. This is another graph that shows the design of the page, including spaces available for copy.
I audit any of my client’s current messaging and determine what’s working and what’s not. From there, I create simple wireframes (with formatting and layout in mind, but without the design) so I am able to craft a copywriting strategy that’s easy for visual thinkers to process.
Kayla Hollatz, freelance copywriter
Wireframing isn’t just for websites that are being redesigned. Do this even if you already have your design nailed. Chances are, you might see certain elements that could be moved around on your website depending on the benefits and features you’re communicating.
Good copy can make your ecommerce site
As you can see, there’s more that goes into the copywriting process than listing your product’s best features. The secret to high-performing copywriting is to listen to your audience.
Great copywriting is great research and great editing, more so than clever writing. So, ditch the assumptions and get your hands dirty with the research process. Survey potential customers, interview existing ones, and mine competitor reviews.
It’s only when you reflect existing customer stories and provoke emotions in your copy that you create words that do their job: Sell.
Illustration by Islenia Milien
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Ecommerce copywriting FAQ
What is an ecommerce writer?
What are the 6 core copywriting skills?
- Research: Knowing your audience, product, and competition
- Clarity: Being able to craft a clear, concise, and memorable message
- Creativity: Developing unique and compelling copy
- Storytelling: Crafting stories and narratives to engage readers
- Persuasion: Understanding how to influence and convince readers
- SEO: Optimizing copy for search engine algorithms