eCommerce product description

With the unstoppable rise of ecommerce, and the growing reliance of websites to find, compare, shortlist and buy products, ecommerce owners are facing a complex challenge: How do we replace the senses of touch, smell, sight and taste with written words?

How do you describe a product effectively, informatively, and with enough of a sales twist, so that the web visitor will decide to buy that particular product from YOUR store?

Usually, those copy-paste product descriptions people lift off of Amazon or from the manufacturer’s website converts at around 1%. Then ecommerce owners make tremendous efforts in making the entire financial model work with the profit margin you have, and the expense of making a sale. And for most ecommerce owners, the math makes sense. 

But what if you can somehow boost the conversion rate at 2%? Or 3%. Or even 5%? What makes or breaks the conversion rate (among other things like user experience and imagery) is the product description. 

 

What is a product description

Read-this-slowly-please:
A product description is the text on a product page that explains the features of the product and translates them into benefits for the user, so that the reader will understand what the product offers, and why it’s a no-brainer for them to Buy Now. 

 

The anatomy of a solid product description

For a text to work well as a product description, it will need to cover two types of building blocks, two key stages: 

  • What key features does the product have, 
  • What key benefits does the ideal user get from the product features. 

Most copywriters will find it easier to start from the Features list and work your way to building the Benefits list, and then tie everything up in the WHY it’s a no-brainer for the reader to Buy Now. 

 

The art of writing product descriptions that sell

Writing a product description that sells has to keep the Product and the User in mind, at all times, otherwise you will have a hard time connecting product features to user benefits. 

Naturally, to sell something, you will need to know what it is. That’s at least the first part. The second part is making the leap from features to benefits. To do that, you’ll need to know who your buyer is. 

Putting the two information sets will result with a series of sales micro-stories around each benefit by identifying an existing pain point and how that pain point is eliminated or addressed by a specific product feature. 

The final product of the exercise will be to combine these micro-stories into an arch-story that binds everything together into a text that is technical, informative, insightful and effective. But not salesy. If it’s salesy, you’ve pushed too hard. 

Remember, people don’t want to be sold to. They want to be informed of WHY this deal is a no-brainer. 

 

How to Create a List of Product Features

Let’s say you’re writing a product description of a simple men’s watch. (Random find of a simple watch here)

simple watch

The way you break down the features list is to start with the obvious things, and work your way deeper in details. Creating an exhaustive list of features may not be easy at first, so you’ll usually end up going a few cycles over each subsection of the product, going more granular with each pass. 

So, let’s break down the watch:

  • The watch band/straps
  • The watch itself

So far, so good. Let’s take the straps first and go a few steps deeper.

 

 

 

We’d first list the most obvious elements of the watch band, and then we’ll take a few passes to go deeper and more granular at each pass.

Don’t bother with trying to get everything right the first time around. We don’t have that sort of pressure to get it right the first time. Going granular is a process, so take your time.

Pass 1 Pass 2 Final Version
Leather straps Lightweight, upcycled leather Lightweight, upcycled later straps
Black color Matte black Matte black finish
Top is Alligator-skin pattern Tight-scale, heat-pressed pattern Tight-scale heat-pressed alligator skin pattern facia
Bottom is perforated creme leather Suade-like, soft, water resistant Suade-like, soft, weather resistant leather lining 
3mm thick Sturdy but soft Soft and sturdy 3mm thickness
20mm width Just the right width Standard width of 20mm
15cm long strap, 10cm short strap Has 5 holes, so can fit on any wrist 5-hole 15cm and 10cm two-part strap
Stitching around each hole polyester thread, tight stitching with silver thread Tight stitch using silver double-threaded polyester thread 
Each hole has black glue to hold top and bottom leather layers together Wear and tear resistant  Adjusting holes all protected with elastic leather glue
Stainless steel vintage buckle  Sturdy 2mm wire, rectangular cross-section and 3mm radius at each bend Vintage stainless steel buckle made of 2mm wire with rectangular cross-section and soft 3mm arching at the bends.

 

(NOTE: I used millimeters because I’m from Europe and have a mechanical engineering background. DO NOT use millimeters when writing for the US/UK market. )

With the straps, we’ve gone deep enough to do about 80% coverage to extract the most visible features. We can go a step further and provide more details on the materials if we want, especially if we can talk about sustainability, recycling, care for the environment etc. Things like upcycled or recycled materials, low carbon footprint manufacturing, water-based paints and so on, all these help in creating a product that boasts friendliness to the environment.  

Let’s do the same exercise with the watch itself, without going deep on all fronts, 

Pass 1 Pass 2 Final Version
Stainless steel housing Mid-size, minimalist shape Mid-sized minimalist stainless steel housing
Flat glass Bezeled edge of the glass Flat, bezzeled-edge glass
Stainless steel back plate Press-assembly Press-assembled stainless steel back plate
Integrated strap holders Lightweight shape Lightweight integrated strap holders
Ridged date/time adjusting knob Stainless steel knob Ridged, stainless steel date/time adjusting knob
White backplate Crystal-white, matte  Crystal-white matte backplate
No-numbers hour markings Fluorescent hour markings Non-digit, fluorescent hour markings
Thick 12/3/6/9 hour indicators double-sized Double-sized 12/3/6/9 hour markings
Stainless steel arrows Minimalist, stainless steel arrows with fluorescent stripes on the Hour and Minute arrows
Fluorescent markings for hour and minute arrows Minimalist shape
Date field Black border Black-border date display
Lightweight mechanism Battery powered Lightweight battery powered mechanism

 

We can go on and on with mentioning the brand, the brand’s history, and discuss at length about the chemical composition of all the key elements like the housing, glass, etc. The point is to have a reasonably lengthy features list because this list will give you the building blocks for the next section, which is tying features to benefits. 

 

Turning Features into Benefits

Armed with a dozen features for the product you’re describing, it’s time to assign one or more benefits to each feature. So, let’s get started.

The Strap

Features Benefits
Lightweight, upcycled later straps Comfortable and environmentally friendly
Matte black finish Elegant, confident looks
Tight-scale heat-pressed alligator skin pattern facia Meticulous, timeless design
Suade-like, soft, weather resistant leather lining  Comfortable lining
Soft and sturdy 3mm thickness Reliable, durable
Standard width of 10mm Standard dimensions, suitable for 99% of the grown-ups
5-hole 15cm and 10cm two-part strap
Tight stitch using silver double-threaded polyester thread  Classy and durable adjustment holes to last a lifetime
Adjusting holes all protected with elastic leather glue
Vintage stainless steel buckle made of 2mm wire with rectangular cross-section and soft 3mm arching at the bends. Elegant, confident buckle suitable for dress-up and casual wear

 

From 10 features, we’re merging things to 8 benefits. You don’t have to merge benefits, but you won’t want to repeat the same benefits over and over again, because then you’re devaluing them. 

Let’s do the watch itself now

Features Benefits
Mid-sized minimalist stainless steel housing Elegant, durable, quietly confident
Flat, bezzeled-edge glass Classic feel
Press-assembled stainless steel back plate Sturdy yet easy to open for battery replacement
Lightweight integrated strap holders Minimalist design exerting quiet confidence
Ridged, stainless steel date/time adjusting knob Classic and comfortable date/time adjusting
Crystal-white matte backplate Elegant, non-reflective crystal-white plate
Non-digit, fluorescent hour markings Minimalist fluorescent hour markings with double-sized marks at 12/3/6/9 hour positions. 
Double-sized 12/3/6/9 hour markings
Minimalist, stainless steel arrows with fluorescent stripes on the Hour and Minute arrows
Lightweight battery powered mechanism Worry-free ownership
Black-border date display Elegant date display

 

The watch itself also got about a dozen features with a few fewer benefits. 

Most of the time you’ll have to be creative with figuring out how to interpret each feature. Our jobs as copywriters will not be to make the watch acceptable to all. We will have to focus on the ideal client and make him/her LOVE the product, while all other non-perfect matches can just as well hate the product. 

With a product description, we will not want to bother about making the product likable by all. We only want to make it likable to a specific group that is most likely to buy the product. 

 

“Sell me this pen”

Sell me this pen

A few years ago, The Wolf of Wall Street hit the big screens. Jordan Belford, the guy portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio made a name for himself, a career, and a few years behind the bars for pushing the envelope of emotional selling. It is more emotional buying, to be exact. Because he didn’t impose a set of wants. He only recognized them, learned how to squeeze and pinch, and pitch the features that make the pitch a no-brainer. 

Let me put it in another format: A successful sell will always get the heart involved. Information-driven selling will only go so far as the audience is governed by pure logic. One peak at human history and it’s blindingly obvious that people are driven to action by emotions. The logic is there only to justify the choice or action that is predominantly driven by emotions. 

That famous “sell me this pen” line that we see in the movie when Belford is out of jail and into sales training is a suiting illustration that even the humble pen is bought based on emotions that are tinkled by some pain points that are addressed by features in the product. 

Some people will have one set of pain points, while other people will have a different set of pain points. This is why there are pens that you can buy at any store from gas stations to flea markets, and then there are pens that are sold in luxury stores. They achieve the same technical goal of putting lines on paper, but the underlining pains, desires, longings that each sub-audience has, are what creates a market for bargain basement pens and collectable pens. 

But you still have to sell that pen to its ideal customer. With fewer words, because you don’t want to make the Buy Now decision a quantum physics exam. Make it simple. Dead simple. 

Back to the watch. 

Let’s focus on the benefits now, and combine them into a paragraph or two. 

The Straps:

  • Comfortable and environmentally friendly
  • Elegant, confident looks
  • Meticulous, timeless design
  • Comfortable lining
  • Reliable, durable
  • Standard dimensions, suitable for 99% of the grown-ups
  • Classy and durable adjustment holes to last a lifetime
  • Elegant, confident buckle suitable for dress-up and casual wear

Based on these benefits, let’s try to turn the bullet list into a paragraph of benefits. It’s ok to start messy. Give this a few shots:

Take 1:

The straps are made of upcycled leather using recycled materials and water-based leather paint for minimal carbon footprint. The leather straps are embossed with alligator-skin pattern for timeless, elegant looks for men that are quietly confident. Thanks to a soft suade-like perforated leather lining, you will never feel any itch or discomfort from your watch. 

Take 2:

Designed for quietly confident men who value quality and comfort, the straps of this watch deliver on the promise thanks to upcycled and recycled leather and stainless steel, providing maximum confident style with a minimal carbon footprint. Built for men who value elegance above brute presence, the straps exude style thanks to the matte black alligator-pattern face, and a suade-like perforated leather providing sweat-free watch-wearing even if it’s 110F in the shade. 

It can probably get better, but when writing product description, time is of the essence. Pun intended. Period. 

The Watch:

  • Elegant, durable, quietly confident
  • Classic feel
  • Sturdy yet easy to open for battery replacement
  • Minimalist design exerting quiet confidence
  • Classic and comfortable date/time adjusting
  • Elegant, non-reflective crystal-white plate
  • Minimalist fluorescent hour markings with double-sized marks at 12/3/6/9 hour positions. 
  • Elegant date display
  • Worry-free ownership

Take 1:

It’s not just a watch. It’s a timepiece that knows itself and doesn’t try too hard to make bold statements. The quiet confidence of a timeless, minimalist, elegant design of this stainless-steel watch is perfect for men who rely on intellect and class to make a statement. No-gimmicks layout of the watch with a crystal-white plate, non-numeral hour markings and elegant fluorescent arrows help define the style of elegance and confidence. Quality materials and the ease of ownership of a battery-powered precise mechanism will ensure years of worry-free ownership of this watch. 

Take 2:

For intelligent, confident men that don’t need to prove anything to anyone, this elegant, timeless watch is a perfect match. With a minimalist design where form and function merge, and high-quality craftsmanship seals the deal, this watch makes a presence with no chest-pounding required. Men who know their worth will see this watch as a suitable statement simply because it doesn’t try too hard to make an impression. Coupled with high quality materials and the convenience of a battery-powered mechanism, wearing this watch will be a worry-free, liberating experience. 

As you can see, it’s all about translating a technical specifications sheet into a work of poetry. But to be able to do that transformation, keep in mind that you’re not selling this pen to everybody. Not everybody will like it. And fewer still will want to pay for it. So: Know Thy Customer, and recognize this individual in the product features and design. 

Let’s try to put the two pitches into a single storyline by copy-paste and some editorial clean-up:

For intelligent, confident men that don’t need to prove anything to anyone, this elegant, timeless watch is a perfect match. With a minimalist design where form and function merge, and high-quality craftsmanship seals the deal, this watch makes a presence with no chest-pounding required. 

Built for men who value elegance above brute presence, the straps exude style thanks to the matte black alligator-pattern face, and a suade-like perforated leather providing sweat-free watch-wearing even if it’s 110F in the shade.

Men who know their worth will see this watch as a suitable statement simply because of its quiet confidence. Just like a vintage Rolls Royce. 

Designed for quietly confident men who value quality and comfort, the straps of this watch deliver on the promise thanks to upcycled and recycled leather and stainless steel, providing maximum confident style with a minimal carbon footprint. Coupled with high quality materials and the convenience of a battery-powered mechanism, wearing this watch will be a worry-free, liberating experience.

I basically rearranged the sentences, and made 3 paragraphs. Took me a few minutes to merge the two benefit-summarizing paragraphs for the straps and watch. 

 

Trimming the Features and Benefits List

For any product description, you’ll need an opening paragraph to earn the reader’s attention. Then, you’ll need a list of features and benefits, and finally a bit of extra narrative to hopefully close a sale. 

To do this, we’ll copy the features and benefits lists of the watch and straps, and combine them into a single list. Then, we’ll take the benefit-summarizing paragraphs from the previous section, and combine them into an Intro and a Summary section. 

Let’s get going then. 

The Features List below is a copy-paste of all the product-benefit items from both lists:

  1. Lightweight, upcycled later straps- Comfortable and environmentally friendly
  2. Matte black finish – Elegant, confident looks
  3. Tight-scale heat-pressed alligator skin pattern facia – Meticulous, timeless design
  4. Suade-like, soft, weather resistant leather lining  – Comfortable lining
  5. Soft and sturdy 3mm thickness – Reliable, durable
  6. Standard width of 20mm – Standard dimensions, suitable for 99% of the grown-ups
  7. 5-hole 15cm and 10cm two-part strap 
  8. Tight stitch using silver double-threaded polyester thread – 
  9. Adjusting holes all protected with elastic leather glue – Classy and durable adjustment holes to last a lifetime
  10. Vintage stainless steel buckle made of 2mm wire with rectangular cross-section and soft 3mm arching at the bends. – Elegant, confident buckle suitable for dress-up and casual wear
  11. Mid-sized minimalist stainless steel housing – Elegant, durable, quietly confident
  12. Flat, bezzeled-edge glass – Classic feel
  13. Press-assembled stainless steel back plate – Sturdy yet easy to open for battery replacement
  14. Lightweight integrated strap holders – Minimalist design exerting quiet confidence
  15. Ridged, stainless steel date/time adjusting knob – Classic and comfortable date/time adjusting
  16. Crystal-white matte backplate – Elegant, non-reflective crystal-white plate
  17. Non-digit, fluorescent hour markings – Minimalist fluorescent hour markings with double-sized marks at 12/3/6/9 hour positions. Double-sized 12/3/6/9 hour markings
  18. Minimalist, stainless steel arrows with fluorescent stripes on the Hour and Minute arrows
  19. Black-border date display – Elegant date display
  20. Lightweight battery powered mechanism – Worry-free ownership

Geezers! 20 items is an overkill. For a soft selling product description we should bring this down to about 10. If and when possible. Not a rule though. 

The trimming exercise will be about finding features that are overlapping and benefits that are overlapping. It’s best to stick to the features here, and introduce the benefits. 

As our division of features is already done, the trimming exercise will be fairly straight-forward to complete:

  1. Lightweight, upcycled & environmentally friendly Leather straps
  2. Matte black finish using water-based paint for elegant, confident looks
  3. Meticulously designed heat-pressed alligator-skin pattern facia
  4. Suede-like, soft perforated leather lining for comfortable, sweat-free wear even if it’s 100F outside
  5. Fits-all-arms standard dimensions for comfort and durability (3mm thick, 20mm wide, up to 25cm long)
  6. Luxurious tight double-stitching using polyester thread for maximum durability
  7. Adjusting holes all protected with elastic leather glue to ensure years and years of worry-free wearing
  8. Vintage-style stainless steel buckle made of 2mm plate and elegant 3mm arching at the bends. Suitable for dress-up and casual wear
  9. Mid-sized minimalist stainless steel housing and back plate, ensuring lasting, quiet confidence
  10. Flat, bezzeled-edge glass for a classic feel
  11. Elegant, non-reflective crystal-white back plate
  12. Minimalist non-digit fluorescent hour markings with double-sized marks at 12/3/6/9 hour positions. 
  13. Unobtrusive stainless steel arrows with fluorescent stripes on the Hour and Minute arrows
  14. High-contrast date display for added elegance
  15. Lightweight battery powered mechanism with press-on back plate for worry-free ownership

I should go on to trim some more features, but as the aim is 80/20, spending more time on trimming may bring diminishing results… sooo… moving on. 

 

Assembly time

eCommerce salesy product description

With the building blocks done, here’s the final outcome. Notice that I’ve taken the two benefits-summing paragraphs, did a bit of rewording, split them in an Intro and a Conclusion, with the Features List in the middle:

For intelligent, confident men that don’t need to prove anything to anyone, this elegant, timeless watch is a perfect match. This stainless steel watch with black leather straps commands respect, no chest-pounding required. 

  • Lightweight, upcycled & environmentally friendly Leather straps
  • Matte black finish using water-based paint for elegant, confident looks
  • Meticulously designed heat-pressed alligator-skin pattern facia
  • Suede-like, soft perforated leather lining for comfortable, sweat-free wear even if it’s 100F outside
  • Fits-all-arms standard dimensions for comfort and durability (3mm thick, 20mm wide, up to 25cm long)
  • Luxurious tight double-stitching using polyester thread for maximum durability
  • Adjusting holes all protected with elastic leather glue to ensure years and years of worry-free wearing
  • Vintage-style stainless steel buckle made of 2mm plate and elegant 3mm arching at the bends. Suitable for dress-up and casual wear
  • Mid-sized minimalist stainless steel housing and back plate, ensuring lasting, quiet confidence
  • Flat, bezzeled-edge glass for a classic feel
  • Elegant, non-reflective crystal-white back plate
  • Minimalist non-digit fluorescent hour markings with double-sized marks at 12/3/6/9 hour positions. 
  • Unobtrusive stainless steel arrows with fluorescent stripes on the Hour and Minute arrows
  • High-contrast date display for added elegance
  • Lightweight battery-powered mechanism with press-on back plate for worry-free ownership

Designed for men who value elegance above brute presence, the straps exude style thanks to the matte black alligator-pattern face, and a suede-like perforated leather providing sweat-free watch-wearing even if it’s 110F in the shade.

Men who know their worth will see this watch as a suitable statement simply because of its quiet confidence. Just like a vintage Rolls Royce, the housing is built to last, using recycled stainless steel and sustainable bezzeled glass. The back plate and arrows provide high visibility even at night time without sacrificing class or confidence. 

Built for men of quiet confidence who value quality and comfort, but also care about the environment. Maximum impact with minimal carbon footprint. 

The recycled and upcycled high-quality materials combined with the convenience of a battery-powered mechanism makes wearing this watch a worry-free, liberating experience.

The end result is hopefully web-ready without being a salesy product description. 

Disclaimer: Writing product descriptions that sell isn’t a walk in the park. It is actually the most critical point in your entire client engagement. So don’t rush this. While this How To text may create the illusion that writing product description is easy, in reality, it takes years and years of practice to make perfect. This is why professional copywriters charge hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars for a product description.
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