Product Descriptions: Are You Romancing Your Features?

Back when I was hostessing at a casual dining restaurant, we were always told to “romance the features” after seating our guests. This meant saying a thing or two about the monthly featured items or the daily feature. For example, our cedar planked salmon was “so soft you don’t even need teeth to eat it.”

I’ve shared my shoe store war stories here before, but that was another trick up my sleeve when selling shoes. I made sure I always had something unique or positive to say about the shoe in the customer’s hand. If I didn’t have anything good to say about it, I would steer her to something that did have a selling feature to “romance.” Did you know that you can throw your canvas Keds in the washing machine?

Most product descriptions do not sell at all. They’re impersonal. They say nothing about why someone should buy something, only what they would be buying. They don’t tell customers why they are going to love this product and wonder how they ever lived without it, how they can use it for so much more than a typical [widget], how this model’s unique features make it the best choice.

But occasionally I come across some very well written descriptions that give me a glimmer of hope for online retail. I’d like to share a few with you.

Typical product description:

Indie Dress

The Indie Dress features a cross-over neckline and empire bodice. Made from 18.5 micron New Zealand merino wool. Side slash pockets. Relaxed Hood. Machine washable. By Ibex.

Yawn.

Product description with personality (by Title Nine):

Indie Dress

Free yourself from fussy when you pull on the Indie. Cross-over neckline and empire bodice move easily from well-dressed to “WOW,” but never compromises on easy care and comfort. Made of the finest blend of merino wool from only the best and happiest New Zealand sheep. 18.5 micron means wool so fine that there’s zero itch. Side slash pockets, relaxed hood. Machine washable. By Ibex.

Typical product description

Iceman Crewneck Sweater

The Iceman crewneck sweater 100% Cashmoore® and great for casual or dressed-up occasions. Includes shark tooth detail at neck, color blocking on raglan sleeves and spandex binding at cuffs.

Hip product description (HornyToad.com)

Iceman Crew

For the guy who cares but doesn’t want to work too hard to look good, the low-key Iceman crew has just enough spice in the sleeve stripes to inspire confidence without distraction. Guaranteed chill defying, the Iceman is comfortable, made from our gift-to-mankind, soft Cashmoore®. Easy-does-it details: shark’s tooth detail at crew neck, color blocking on raglan sleeves and spandex binding at cuffs. For chillin’.

Typical Yawnworthy Product Description

Moosejaw Latika Jacket

100% polyester, 360g fleece makes this jacket much warmer than your typical fleece. Wear it on the hills or on the town. Poly/spandex overlays with knit and woven polyester lining. Machine washable. Standard fit.

Creative and funny product description

Moosejaw Latika Jacket

The Latika was recently named The World’s Best Fleece Jacket Ever by my sister. That’s actually true. Here are some reasons the Latika is so awesome and you should for sure read this before deciding which jacket to get because, forgetting all the dumb stuff I wrote below, the features on the Latika happen to be incredibly compelling. Here we go:

* Super warm thanks to plush 360g fleece and a snug hem cinch cord.
* My guess is that no human person will know how 360g compares to other jackets. So, please just know that it’s way warmer than your typical fleece.
* Luxuriously fully lined with a soft knit body and silky woven arms to make it easy to get on.
* Everyone likes the word Luxuriously. I like the words elegant, nuance and onslaught too but those words have nothing to do with the Latika.
* Two cozy hand pockets which is perfect for everyone looking for two cozy hand pockets, and who isn’t these days?
* Hidden forearm pocket perfect for stashing your stashworthy stuff.
* I don’t like what I wrote in number 5 above. Please don’t reread it.
* Ultra Standard Fit. That means you don’t have to be the most fit climber in the world to wear it. You can still tell people you’re a climber though.
* I thought I made up the phrase Ultra Standard but I just looked it up and I didn’t make it up.
* Machine washable so you can wear it for full-on mud wrestling on Monday and then Ladies Night on Tuesday.
* Made of the highest quality materials – 100% polyester fleece, poly/spandex overlays, knitted and woven polyester lining and YKK zipper.
* If you get a Latika we’re willing to guarantee that either your life or my life will be better.

How to Improve Your Product Descriptions

Check out a few of your product descriptions – do they reflect your brand promise? Are they interesting or vanilla? Would you buy this product based on the description?

If you need some inspiration, check out Title Nine, Horny Toad and Moosejaw’s online stores. They’ve got some good content. Also look at customer reviews from your site and your competitors.

Want to know the conversion impact of improving your product descriptions? Run your new and old descriptions concurrently with an A/B split test.

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10 Responses to “Product Descriptions: Are You Romancing Your Features?”

  1. Tim Leighton-Boyce says:

    If you use Google Analytics see if you can use an inline filter on the ‘Top Content’ report so that is just shows your product pages. Then switch to the comparison view of the data.

    Change the right menu and take a look at the bounce rate, % exit and $ index for the pages.

    This may well highlight the star performers and the losers. Then take a look at the copy. Even if the difference may not be as stark as in the examples here at least you’ll know which ones need the urgent work. (Even more so if you use the advanced inline filters to exclude low traffic pages first.)

  2. Kim Dudra says:

    I think a balance of the two approaches — the enticing description plus factual bullet points — is the way to go. The enticing descriptions are longer and may not appeal to the methodical types who just want the facts, and won’t bother to read long copy descriptions.

    http://www.blissworld.com does a good job with product descriptions, and takes it one step further with catchy product names (seems to be the trend in the makeup industry).

  3. @Linda; great post. Copy writing is right up there with images when it comes to selling online. I’ve wondered why there aren’t plenty of copywriters offering “no cure no pay” deals for online retailers that are willing to split test new copy. Have you heard of anyone doing this?

    @DefunktOne; well done, definitely fits the tone of your customers.

  4. I agree that product descriptions are important but like someone posted in a prior comment, there should be a balance between the two styles shown. Yes, the first is boring but it is still informative. The one with personality adds flair but I feel it sells too much for my taste. I would find it a bit annoying. However, this was a great post with many great points! Thank you.

  5. We just startet to do some “more personal adverttising” on our Website, but we simply startet with a different Headline for the product instead of the original product name – which obviously no one knows or needs to know. This article makes me think about changing the intro-text as well. Thanx for the inspiring article.

  6. Kaitlin says:

    I agree with some of the previous comments. I think most people buy based on the pictures. Also, it takes so much time to write descriptions. With so many other things on the to do list, writing descriptions is near the bottom.

  7. I agree that a personal experience and the essence of romance can make or break any shopping experience. In these trying times and with so many options out in the world it can be tough to find solutions to building effective customer relationships that can increase business and boost revenues. With well-worded descriptions and the willingness to go that “little extra step” in customer relations, i believe that any business can grow to be successful.

    Personally, I feel that social media is an excellent way to help build that relationship. Twittering and facebooking for your company through company pages as well as advertising on these sites can play a huge impact and build valuable, personal relationships.

    I work for a company called ShopTab that you might want to check out (http://www.facebook.com/shoptabapp) as this application helps businesses build customer loyalty in a similar fashion as mentioned above in this blog. We saw a huge opportunity for eCommerce business owners who wanted to leverage and monetize their Facebook presence. Facebook ShopTab App allows these business owners the ability to create a shop tab directly on their Facebook fan page.

    We feel with the use of personalization through social media sites like Facebook companies can continue to build valuable relations through various media vehicles and keep their customers involved and happy.

    Thanks,
    –Kevin (http://www.twitter.com/shoptab)

  8. John Hyde says:

    It would be great to see some results from an A/B split test.

    Moosejaw example is toooo long for me – but a test would show what other people think. Without a test I would go with just one or two “wow” features to lighten up the facts.

  9. Mark R. says:

    Linda:

    You really do have a great talent at writing copy, and I would otherwise agree with you 100%, but two things come to mind:

    1) Of course, there are SEO ramifications. You know those SEO types are always spending countless hours trying to squeeze out the most value from product descriptions.

    2) Don’t forget that there are LOTS of engineers, lawyers, tax attorneys, math professors, programmers, and other “technicians” shopping online, and to them, the phrase “360g fleece” really gets them turned on. Indeed, they might need a cigarette after reading the words “Poly/spandex overlays.”

    So I would just temper what you said a bit by knowing your audience as best you can. Those who are technically minded might appreciate the fact-laden approach, while the whimsical approach might work better with others.

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