How to Write a Product Description Like a Sales Letter
Are you looking to write high-converting product descriptions? You have countless options you can use, but one that has been proven is to write your product descriptions like a sales letter.
Why? Because sales letters are the channel copywriters have used for over a century to sell pretty much anything from candles to insurance to cars and more.
During this time, copywriters have mastered the art of selling through the written word.
All you need to do is use their knowledge to craft product descriptions that convert. In this article, we'll explore how you can do it.
How to write your product descriptions like a professional copywriter
Define the target audience
Who’s your buyer?
That’s a simple question, but do you know its answer? If you don't, then stop and find an answer. By the way, “anyone with a credit card” isn't an answer. You want to know as much as you possibly can about your buyers.
- What’s their lifestyle like?
- What are their passions and hobbies?
- Where do they spend their time online the most?
- What are their goals and objectives?
- What are their challenges?
- What are their favorite brands (i.e., your competitors)?
- What experts or influencers do they follow in your niche?
To craft any marketing message, you should know your buyer as you know a friend or colleague — what marketers call “customer personas”. Their characteristics, needs, and problems should be clear to you.
Don’t answer the question by speculating; research your customer thoroughly with surveys, interviews, and competitor research.
You should be able to answer all of the previous questions before you start writing your product descriptions.
If you have already developed your customer personas, take a deep look at your data. Your copy should speak to one person. The more precise it is your buyer’s image, the better your copy will be.
HVMN sells ketogenic supplements. Their entire website targets people on a keto diet who also take their health and fitness seriously.
If you don’t understand what the keto diet is about or why it matters to eat a primarily fat-based supplement, then their product description is doing its job.
You see, HVMN isn’t selling this supplement to people who aren’t on a keto diet (like you, probably); they only communicate to their target audience and disregard the rest. Although it may seem extreme, this strategy highlights their products’ benefits and communicates to their ideal buyer as if they knew them personally.
Define the message
What’s the goal of your product description? To convince the reader of your product’s benefits.
But that’s your goal, not the reader's. So let’s rephrase the question further:
What does the reader want? To fulfill their basic desires.
According to Drew Whitman, the author of Ca$hvertising, humans have eight basic desires, which he calls the “Life-force 8”:
- Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension.
- Enjoyment of food and beverages.
- Freedom from fear, pain, and danger.
- Romantic companionship.
- Comfortable living conditions.
- To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses.
- Care and protection of loved ones.
- Social approval.
Only when the reader feels like one of their basic desires isn’t met will they take action to quench their desire. But to do that, you need to create tension. Whitman calls this idea the “formula for desire”:
Tension → Desire → Action to Satisfy the Desire
You can create tension by first defining your message. What is it that you are trying to convey? What’s the core idea you are communicating to your reader?
Your branding strategy should answer a big part of that message. You can tailor the message to each product’s unique attributes, but you should always keep a similar message across your product descriptions.
For Monica + Andy, a kids clothing retailer, their message is about delivering soft, eco-friendly, and durable products. They also add a human approach by relating to their target audience, which is mothers. They want to take care of their audience’s loved ones (the seventh desire).
When you write your copy, you want to repeat this message while focusing on the reader’s needs (this idea relates to selling the product’s benefits, which we’ll touch on later).
Here’s another example from Allbirds, which defines itself as a “sustainable shoe and clothing company.” They repeat this idea many times in their product pages by highlighting the renewable materials that make each shoe.
Sell the product’s benefits
A popular copywriting principle is to focus on benefits over features.
A product feature explains what a product can do, whereas a benefit describes how they help the buyer.
Features are rational; benefits are emotional — or irrational if you will.
Since people purchase based on emotion more than logic, it’s best to focus more on benefits than features. Benefits put the buyer at the center of the copy. To find your product's benefits, think:
- What will the buyer do with each of your product's features?
- What is the product supposed to do to the buyer?
- How does it solve their problems and fulfill their needs?
- How is it better than the competition?
Most likely, you know your products’ features, so the question is: how do you extract their benefits? Start by writing your product’s features. Then, ask the questions shown above. By making each feature about the buyer, you will extract its benefits.
Another way to boost your copy's persuasive powers is to connect each feature with an advantage. In this context, each description explains what the product does (the features), how it helps the buyer (the benefit), and why each feature matters (the advantage).
One of the largest online mattress retailers, Casper, has a section slightly below the fold where they explain “Why you’ll love it” (“it” being the mattress in question).
Note that around their “Add to Cart” button, they show their product’s features, advantages, and benefits, the first one being the least important in their visual hierarchy. They prioritize the product’s advantages and benefits because that's what the buyer wants to read about.
For example, at the top left, you can read a box that says, “Foam is divided into 3 ergonomic zones that help keep your spine aligned”. The “that” determiner connects the feature (the ergonomic zones) with the benefits (keep your spine aligned).
Kopari structures their product descriptions by explaining what their product is (the traditional product description), what makes it different (its advantage), how to use it (a tutorial), and its ingredients (its features).
The rest of their product description focuses on the product’s benefits:
Tell a story
Humans are drawn toward stories because any information packed through a narrative is easier to understand and believe. Stories engage our imagination and connect us with the moral of the story without having to be told what it is.
You want to sell your products through stories; that is, explaining the benefits of your products in a way that connects to a specific narrative. Ask yourself:
- Why does your product exist?
- How does it fit in your audience’s life?
- What challenges does it help them overcome?
- Who’s their enemy?
- What does overcoming this challenge mean for them?
Your stores don’t have to be like the ones copywriters use in long-form sales letters. Neither do they have to be a fictional narrative like the ones you see in children's books.
A narrative has to elicit a positive feeling in the reader to see how the product will allow them to fulfill their goals.
For example, Snowe doesn’t rely on its products’ features to sell their products; they talk about the feelings that their features stir. The Merino wool is “awe-inspiring,” the texture is “breathable” and “moisture-wicking,” the design is “classic yet on-trend.” These simple words enrich the product description so the buyer can see themselves enjoying it.
You can also structure your product descriptions by showing the three parts that make a story: the background, the challenge, and the journey to overcome the challenger. To make this idea clearer, let's take a look at how Away, a retailer that sells suitcases, structures its product descriptions.
First, their background puts the reader at the start of a trip (literally), when you start packing your clothes in the suitcase.
What challenges can the reader face in this story? Lack of space. We have all been there (as a former digital nomad, I can relate). Then, Away presents a solution: compression technology. They also imply having to pack dirty clothes along with clean clothes, but again, they offer a solution right away.
Once you settle back from your trip, what do you do? You put your suitcase away. Another problem ensues, as for many people, suitcases are hard to store. Away provides a solution: nest each suitcase with one another to save you space.
Such a structured storyline helps the buyer envision themselves using the product. For every problem they encounter along the way, they see a solution. Stories shift the perspective from the sale to the buyer’s life.
Add customer reviews and testimonials
People love social proof because it provides unbiased information about a product’s quality. In fact, the average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision.
Your product pages need social proof in the shape of customer reviews and testimonials. With the help of apps such as Judge.me and Loox, you can easily add them to your store.
Customer reviews will make your product description’s claims more relatable and easier to believe. You won’t have to convince the reader; the reviews will do it for you.
JULEP, a cosmetics company, shows their customers’ overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Not only that, but they also let their customers add photos of their products and the results they get, which is even better.
Testimonials work similarly to customer reviews, with the difference that they aren’t as transparent and casual as customer reviews. However, testimonials compensate by having an authority appeal, which is a persuasive way to communicate a product's value.
The supplement industry is filled with companies that sell snake oil to incredulous people. For this reason, Ritual targets their buyer’s concerns by showing testimonials of skeptics who share their honest opinion of their products.
Whether you show customer reviews or testimonials, you will need to create an email sequence that targets past buyers and ask them to share their opinion, which you can incentivize by giving them a discount.
Commerce is based on the scarcity principle: what’s scarce is valuable. It’s no surprise then that marketers have been using scarcity as one of their favorite and most effective methods to generate sales.
Most often, buyers who are in the final stages of their purchase journey spend a lot of time thinking about the product's quality, reading reviews, looking for discounts, and so on. Although you can’t force people to buy from you, scarcity might help persuade them to finish their purchase.
One way to highlight scarcity is by showing the number of products left in stock. Pact Coffee uses this tactic by selling limited editions of selected coffee.
You can also highlight any time-limited discounts or volume discounts. Aloha shows their discounts for subscriptions to generate a higher average order value.
Shopify apps like Ultimate Scarcity Pro and Sales Pop Up will help you add messages such as “X visitors are watching this product” or “Y customers bought this product last week,” which mix scarcity with social proof.
Add technical information (only when it’s needed)
We have talked about using benefits and stories over facts and features, so this part may look a bit contradictory. Shouldn’t you avoid showing any technical information?
Well, no. You shouldn’t make your product pages all about your product’s technical information, but you shouldn’t avoid it either. Although benefits are the main tool you can use to improve your product descriptions, don’t forget about your features.
Copywriters like to say “sell with benefits, support with features.”
Features are useful late in the buying process, where the buyer is comparing products. So after you have shown all your products’ benefits and advantages, add its features.
Avoiding adding technical information may lead the buyer to set the wrong expectations about your product, which is a big issue you should avoid. According to a UPS survey, 64% of shoppers have indicated they returned a product due to a mismatch between the product and its description.
How much technical information should you add? As much as the reader needs to make a purchase. Some products require little technical information to generate a sale, like those in the clothing and food industries, while products in the electronics industry are often quite technical.
Anker shows their products’ technical information at the end of their product descriptions, just to clarify their input/output voltage and compatibility (in this case, for a phone pad).
Burrow prioritizes their product’s technical information because furniture, like clothing, is sold through its aesthetics. That is, you either love the product or you don’t. Therefore, they use the product’s dimensions as their main selling point.
However, the rest of their product page shows a lot more information about the brand’s product strategy, which does fit with the advice shown before.
Add your shipping and return policies
Finally, we can’t forget about your company’s shipping and return policies. Why do they matter so much? Because 68% of shoppers view returns policies before making a purchase. Similarly, Metapack’s Guide to Returns found that 50% of shoppers had abandoned a purchase due to a lack of choice of returns channels, while 56% didn’t finish a purchase due to a poor returns policy.
Keep in mind that you can either feature your shipping and return policy as a part of your product description, or you can add a sticky banner like this one:
Your return policy should specify the items, reasons, and timeframes that customers can return a product. The same goes for a shipping policy, except that it focuses on the timeframes and costs of shipping a product.
The shipping policy facilitates a purchase; the return policy reduces anxiety over any potential issues.
Whether you decide to offer free shipping and free returns is a matter for a separate article. What matters is that you tell the reader exactly what they are expected to pay for both shipping and return, and the time it will take for the product to arrive.
Brilliant Earth first shows their shipping policy right below their CTA. In this case, they promise free shipping with an estimated delivery time.
They repeat the same message below with the options available and return times and costs.
Delivery times can cause a lot of anxiety in your buyers, so it’s best if you can show your delivery times on your product pages. Two Shopify apps that allow you to add this information are the Delivery Date Range and Estimated Shipping Date.
Final tips for writing product descriptions
There’s a lot you can do to write product descriptions that persuade your visitors. We talked about having a clear target audience, writing with a clear message in mind, and using a variety of techniques such as using stories and showing customer reviews.
No matter what you do, your product description’s fate will depend on your product quality. If you are 100% confident that your product is the best thing in your target audience’s life (for example, because you have received great customer feedback), you won’t have much trouble writing a great product description. Your product description will write itself; all you have to do is find the right way to write it.
Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.
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You're reading Getsitecontrol blog where marketing experts share proven tactics to grow your online business. This article is a part of Ecommerce marketing section.