The Content Imperative
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Jessica Gow
Content Planner

Jessica Gow is a Community Manager at Headstream. She works on digital marketing campaigns for a variety of brands and specialises in social strategy, copywriting and content generation.

Outside of work she has a keen interest in health and fitness, as well as fashion and lifestyle trends.

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Retail
Image source: Karen

Perfecting product descriptions

| 7 April 2016

A well-written product description can be much more than the sum of its parts. In its simplest form it is a specifications list. But it can also communicate brand personality and infer a lifestyle behind the purchase. Nowhere is this more important than in fashion retail.

If you think of product descriptions in the context of your content strategy, they should reflect what you’re about as a brand just as any other piece of content would. Telling a story (such as who designed an item, or where the material was sourced) can help build a relationship with the customer and aid them in their purchase decision.

Ultimately the aim of a product description is to help customers find what they’re looking for, with a view to increase sales and basket value. Copy here needs to drive traffic to your website from online search engines, and to persuade potential customers to become actual customers.

So how do you write effective product descriptions that can improve your online merchandising? We’ve put together some of the key points to consider.

Know your audience

Start by making sure you know who you’re writing for. Use personas to help you understand your target audience, and think about what’s important to them. This knowledge will shape the way you write and the information you include in your descriptions, so it really is a vital part of the process.

Tone of voice

The language you use to write your product descriptions should fit your brand’s identity. Consider how your brand would normally speak to its target audience, and reflect this within your copy. Describing a jacket as ‘rebellious’ for example could be right for one retailer/customer but not another.  

Try to think about how you would speak to your target audience in real life. FatFace* for example say they make ‘clothes that reflect the happy, healthy and active lifestyles of our customers’. That vision is borne out in the brand’s product descriptions, with many items being described as warm/comfortable/easy-to wear/soft - all words that make you believe you can wear them while out and about, in all weather, being active.

Structure and format

The structure of your product descriptions should be consistent across the whole of your website. Think about the length of each section, and make sure that what you publish is easily readable online. A simple format would be to begin with a short paragraph about the product, followed by a bulleted list of benefits or specifications.

Subheadings, font size and layout can all be used to increase readability, as long as they are in-keeping with the overall style of your brand’s website. White space and tables can also be useful to guide customers through the information you provide.  Consider the order in which you provide details to your customers - what points are they most interested in? Which are just an added extra?

Search engine optimisation

Good product descriptions are imperative for search engines and can dramatically improve organic search rankings.

Make your products easy to find by thinking about what your target audiences are searching for. What problems do they have that your product could solve? Try to emulate the key words and phrases that they may type into search engines, and scatter these throughout your description without overusing them. For example, you’re promoting a smart shirt, try adding words such as ‘business’, ‘occasion’ or ‘workwear’ to your product description to emulate the kind of thing consumers might be searching for. Replicate these terms in your image captions, subheadings and meta description to improve online visibility.

Create compelling content

Product descriptions should use compelling copy that sells the experience of a product, and encourages people to make a purchase.  Include as much detail as possible about the product, but make sure your writing is concise. Here you should focus on the benefits of your product, not just the features. Not only should the description outline the product size, material, washing instructions etc, but it should also communicate the value that the product offers the customer. How will it improve their life? Always include the product’s unique selling points - what makes it different to a product offered by your main competitor?

The best product descriptions often tell a story about their product. Who made it and how? Where were the materials/ingredients sourced? How did it originate? The answers to these questions can help to build a relationship between a customer and a brand, and help to guide them towards making a purchase. This is especially important for fashion retailers who often a clear story behind their product range and can use it to create a competitive advantage in the market.

It’s also essential to have a good idea of the device your customers will be using to view your product. Descriptions viewed on mobile need to be straight to the point and easy to navigate, and should of course, sit within a fully responsive website.

Finally, don’t forget to proofread your copy before publishing. Well-written prose will help to build trust between a brand and customer - something that is especially important when encouraging an individual to make an online transaction.

Choose your visuals wisely

Online merchandising isn’t all about the copy; a key factor that determines how effective your product descriptions are is the visuals that accompany them. Make sure you use clear, high resolution imagery that shows a true reflection of the product to instill trust in potential customers. Three or four images will usually be enough, depending on the product you’re promoting, but try to vary these to show as much detail as possible.

Some products are best shown through the use of videos; for example, a dress worn by a model on a catwalk, or someone walking in a pair of shoes. If this is the case, the footage should be well-edited and short, and the product features clearly identified.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Small changes can make a big difference, especially in ecommerce. Tweaking a phrase or adding more detail may increase unit sales, so try making these changes while analysing trading performance. Small acts like this will help you to optimise product information and achieve the best possible results.

Conclusion

Product descriptions act as online shop assistants. They’re there to help customers decide which product is best for them, answer any queries, and reinforce trust in the brand. They also help to differentiate a brand’s website from its competitors, and make online merchandising as effective as possible. Take the time to make sure that they are structured and written as effectively as possible before publishing them - after all, product descriptions can be the difference between making a sale or losing a customer.

 

*FatFace is a client of Headstream

 

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