Conversion rate optimisation (or conversion optimisation, sorry Brian!) isn’t just running off a list of things that might  be preventing a website’s visitors from converting. It takes a lot of patience, it takes a bunch of planning, and it takes some serious analysis.

Other than the elation I feel when I report back to my clients when the latest a/b test we’ve run has resulted in an uplift in engagement with their website, picking apart a site’s analytics is probably my favourite part of the process. Interpreting visitor behaviour and identifying sticking points in the user journey is both interesting and insightful as it often reveals problems you perhaps weren’t aware of in the first instance.

What’s difficult about the analysis process is communicating back to a client who has likely been working with their website for years, and so knows it inside out – and then telling them that visitors hate a certain part of it. Recently, I had the job of explaining to a client that the exit rate on their product pages was high because their product descriptions sucked.

I know, I know. “Here she goes again” – website copy, website copy, website copy. Here me out, though. Take a look at some of these product description sins, then nip back to your own site and tell me you’re aren’t making at least one of them.

1. Your writing’s a snore-fest

Your descriptions are boring and you can’t bore people into buying your product.

A list of facts, maybe scraped from the manufacturer’s site, does not a product description make. It’s not that that stuff isn’t important, it just isn’t very persuasive, is it?

I love Betabrand’s copy, and their product descriptions don’t disappoint either. You have to admire a brand that can make corduroy sound interesting…

Go check out these pants.

Go check out these pants.

Finally, Horizontal Corduroy Pants
Praise science and the incredible times we live in!
Through sheer scientific marvel, Betabrand has fabricated corduroy that goes sideways instead of up-and-down, lowering drag coefficient by an amazing 16.24%!
The result are Cordarounds, our famous horizontal corduroy pants. Finally, aerodynamic cords to keep up with our fast-paced lives — even accelerate them!
But that’s not all they do! Unlike vertical corduroy pants, which produce friction that can heat your crotch to uncomfortable, even dangerous levels, Cordarounds’ horizontal wales mesh evenly, lowering the average wearer’s crotch heat index (CHI) reading by up to 22%.
We’ve always thought our Cordarounds were cooler than common corduroy pants. Now we have the data to prove it.
All Cordarounds are made in limited batches, with uniquely designed buttons and pockets. We think they’ll be some of the most sublimely small-talkable trousers you’ll ever buy.

And oh-my-gosh, have you ever been so provoked by a cup?!

KeepCup Brew product description

via KeepCup.com

Be human in your copywriting. Imagine you’re talking to a friend about it – cut the crap and get to the point, but don’t be afraid to show a bit of personality, or introduce a joke or bit of sarcasm. I should note that I’m, not entirely sure that cup one is supposed to be funny, though…

2. You don’t back up your claims

You’re making sweeping, sales-y statements that visitors to your site simply don’t believe.

Consumers are savvy. Consumers are skeptical. Consumers are being sold to all the time. They won’t believe everything you tell them and they will quickly lose interest in broad statements about how great your product is if you can’t back it up. Wanna know how to back it up? Social proof!

One of my favourite examples of social proof recently is from Rent The Runway. They invite their customers to submit photos of themselves wearing the clothes they’ve rented complete with their vital statistics such as height, weight and body shape as well as the size they wore, the size they usually wear and the occasion they wore the item to.

rent the runway social proof example

via renttherunway.com

So I’ll rephrase: Consumers are skeptical of what you’re saying about your products, but are far more likely to relate to a fellow consumer who’s already used your product. Get some of that priceless customer feedback on your product pages and tailor it to that product. Smashing.

3. You’re too big for you boots

Your product is a revolution in the industry, is it?

Thing is, there are a lot of revolutionary retailers out there. Claims of being the best on the market just don’t work any more if you can’t prove it. Similar to the point I’ve made above, the savvy consumer simply won’t believe you because they’ve heard it all before!

Be specific about why you’re the best choice. If your product is the most advanced, explain why. If yours is the most efficient, throw some stats out there. If yours is of the highest quality, break it down.

zappos product description

via zappos.com

This isn’t just a scarf. Oh no. This is way warmer. “Omni-Heat™ advanced lining…” (what the heck is that?) “… keeps your body heat insulated” (ah, it’s thermal technology, of course!).

Zappos isn’t just claiming this scarf if extra warm, it’s explaining what makes it extra warm.

4. You skimp on the benefits

You might find the features of your product fascinating, but your visitors are fixed on just one thing: how will it benefit them?

Back to Zappos for another example of listing the benefits of a product as well as the features:

zappos product description (2)

via zappos.com

features and beenfits on zappos

Shut up and take my money!

5. You’re bombarding the reader

Reams of tiny text is a great way to put off visitors.

The vast majority of web users scan when they read, so make it easy for them with these handy tips for attractive-looking content:

  • Be clear
  • Be concise
  • Be descriptive
  • Consider bullets/lists
  • Choose your font wisely

Oi Polloi offer a lovely example of all of the above:

oi polloi product description

via oipolloi.com

… and they’ve made an arguably dull item of clothing (it’s a brown jumper, guys) sound jolly good fun.

6. You don’t tell a story

Evoking emotion in your copy will better engage visitors

It’s all very well listing the features, and more importantly the benefits of a product, but inviting your site’s visitors on a little journey taps into their own experiences. They’re more likely to genuinely enjoy reading about your product, and if they enjoy it, they’re far more likely to convert.

It can be tricky spinning a yarn for your products, but as an example, The Naked Ape offer a nice tale about how they came to stock their own coffee:

the naked ape product description

via thenakedape.co.uk

They took their time conceiving it (because they care), they take their time creating it (because they care) and they chose sustainable sources (because. they. care). And they even include a picture of the thermometer-guy!

the naked ape's thermometer guy

Meet The Naked Ape’s Thermometer-Guy!

To write your own descriptions, start by answering a few questions like;

– Was there anything noteworthy about the production process? A failure? A success?

– What would life be like with your product in it? How will it improve?

Consider using customer feedback as inspiration if you hit writer’s block. There may be a story in their review just waiting to be told.

Time to throw down the gauntlet

While there’s no foolproof way of writing product descriptions, setting up an AB Test with your original, fact-based list of features versus your fancy new storified benefit-fest will identify which version drives conversions more effectively.

Different markets will call for varying degrees of creativity, humour and professionalism, which can make this process a little more daunting, but I’m confident that with the right mix of the tips above, it’s possible to write a persuasive, seductive description for any product.

Still in doubt? Contact Browser Media for a chat about how I can help you improve your product descriptions.