A dissected guide to the anatomy of product description, from brand voice and USPs, to SEO and prose.
Product descriptions are tough creatures. Some descriptions flow just right, giving readers a comprehensive sense of the product, your brand and its unique selling points. Yet, others have the right keywords but seem stunted, or unengaging. Well, you can't do something well without fully understanding it, so follow along with our product description anatomy guide, for a full dissection of the ins and outs of this important e-commerce component.
Starting from the top, we need to look at what gives a body purpose, and what gives a product description its direction: the product itself. Consider starting off with a question: What's the solution you're trying to provide?
In our bodies, our brains provide direction, the end goals for the actions we take. The same goes for product descriptions — Potential customers might come to your website looking for a particular product, sure; but there's usually a deeper need present: People who buy drills want to make a hole; Guests at a hotel are looking for rest; Netflix users desire entertainment.
Approach writing a product description as, at its core, pitching a solution to a problem. That'll help you narrow down on a target audience too: You need to identify what the solution is, to target the potential customers facing the problem.
There are several response hierarchy models that can help frame your thinking about this. One of the most established ones is AIDA, standing for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. A potential customer might start out merely being aware of your brand or product. It's only when they face a problem, or are presented with a solution to a problem they didn't know they had, that they begin to develop interest in purchase. In this way, a product's proposed solution is central to moving a customer through the four stages of AIDA, till they eventually decide to make a purchase. Following from that, this problem-solution match will need to be weaved into your description.
One way is to front with a question:
Or to give a description of your target audience and their problem, for them to resonate with the description:
Both of these examples have clear direction, in the way they clearly establish the possible problem that a consumer is facing — behind on trends, or back pain — and propose a solution in the form of a product. This is the first step in crafting a product description that both has an evident value proposition, and is engaging and compelling too!
According to McKinsey & Company, there are three Cs to customer satisfaction: consistency, consistency, and consistency. In particular, this refers to consistency in customer journeys, of which product descriptions form an essential part. From McKinsey, delivering consistent satisfaction with customer journeys can boost customer satisfaction by 20% and lift revenue by 15%.
And so, just as a beating heart is fundamental to life, your brand identity should be the foundation of your product description. From your landing page to individual product pages, it's important to ensure that the message and tone of your company stays consistent throughout.
How? Pull from your brand's existing pitch (haven't gotten that far yet? Here's a step-by-step guide) and make sure that each description matches up. Brand image here refers to the impression that consumers have of your brand — is it playful? Professional? Minimalist? Pragmatic? The associations tied to a brand in consumers' minds determines the tone of each and every product description. In one sense, brand image represents consumers' aggregated expectations of a brand, and it's the product description's job to deliver.
Both examples are taken from the Chanel website, with its integrated online store. Even though their content is entirely different — one a product description for perfume, another an introduction to Gabrielle Chanel — there is a consistent tone throughout, one of luxury, sensuality, and alluring mystery.
Essentially, every product description on your website should exude your brand identity, as consistent with more traditional areas where this would appear, like the About Us or Our History pages. Remember: consistency, consistency, consistency.
Of course, at the core of your product descriptions will be specifics on the characteristics, features, make and composition of the product in question. These are value propositions that should justify your price!
One way to better communicate these would be structuring your description clearly, through bolding important phrases, or even using bullet points.
More subtly, consider tapping on the psychology behind phrasing, to pick words that will form the skeleton of your prose. Research by Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, showed that descriptive menu labels increased sales by as much as 27%. These can be divided into four categories: geographic labels, like "Southwestern Tex-Mex salad", labels that evoke nostalgia like "Grandma's Pie", sensory labels like "buttery plump pasta" and brand names.
While this research centers around food menu labelling, similar logic can be applied to your product descriptions. Essentially, using vivid, stimulating language better engages your audience. It makes them pay attention to what they're reading, which can go far in helping sway their decision. It can also increase customer satisfaction — Dr. Wansink's research found that lively and powerful descriptions can help leave a consumer more satisfied at the end of the meal than if they had eaten the same item without the descriptive labelling.
For an example that doesn't have to do with food, check out this product description for a wire bracelet from Tiffany's Tiffany T line:
Note the evocative adjectives used: luminous, iridescent, bold, shine, lustre, and so on. Even without a photograph attached, we can picture the luxury and elegance of the product in our minds.
Furthermore, this description employs bullet points as well, separating its flowery prose from more practical product features. This is a great way to use vivid language to sway customers, without compromising on the more informational purpose of a product description.
But descriptions don't always need to have such dramatic flair — this paragraph for a Samsung French-Door Refrigerator on Rona Canada is a far more mundane product than the Tiffany bracelet above, but its description is equally effective:
That's because it clearly lays out practical features of the product, such as "wide-open pantry and adjustable shelves", and then follows up with a concrete benefit for the buyer, like "customised space that suits your unique needs". The refrigerator's functionality and efficiency are communicated clearly, even without the drama of a luxury product.
Bullet points or bolded phrases, evocative or practical language — all these work towards emphasising the core features of your product. Whether you go with flowery prose or a more bare-bones, minimalistic description, make sure your audience will remember your USPs even after clicking away!
SEO is an acronym on everyone's minds when it comes to marketing, but for many, it can be a black box. And all that fanfare is indeed justified: On the first page of search results, the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks. Being organic matters, because 70 to 80% of people ignore paid search results at the top of the page, choosing to click only on organic ones. The question, then, is how to rank higher organically, when Google uses more than 200 factors to rank websites.
This is where your foundation from earlier comes in: Your USPs provide the skeleton that you'll wrap an SEO strategy around.
That said, the keyword here is unique. Established brands are likely entrenched in the top 10 results for high-volume keywords (e.g. dress, shoes, etc.) Therefore, there's more value in targeting long-tail search terms — very specific search terms with lower competition. This guide by Moz has a great diagram on the search demand curve. This can also mean better conversions for you, since searches are more likely to be looking for a specific product that fits a specific need, and more likely to be willing to pay for it.
In short, compile a list of USPs, pick out the ones that seem like long-tail search terms, and experiment! Some tools that might help include: Google Trends, which helps you get a better sense for what people in a certain location are searching for; and the Moz Keyword Explorer, which returns information about the SEO value of search terms.
Let's pause for a while, and take stock. So far, we learned about the importance of your solution, brand image, USPs and SEO growth. What links all these important parts together are the miscellaneous squishy insides of our anatomy — general prose pulling together the keywords into something readable and engaging. This, of course, is more difficult than just clicking through an online thesaurus. It's the part where writer's block is the most common, and copywriters end up agonising over simple words and phrases.
Well, there's an easier way than just powering through the writer's block! Hypotenuse AI, for example, provides automated copywriting solutions. This isn't like hiring freelance copywriters — an AI can produce creative and unique content in seconds, while conforming to consistent keywords, solutions, and brand image. Even when the exact same product listing is submitted to the AI, it can output descriptions specific to the product, while being entirely different from previous results.
In other words, Hypotenuse AI is an AI that endears itself to Google and the search engine algorithm.
In short, a production description consists of the fundamental solution of your product, your brand image and your USPs, assembled with SEO in mind, and all held together by scannable prose. If you ever need help with that last part, Hypotenuse AI helps cut through all the snags, handling the other squishy insides so you can focus on the heart and soul of your product descriptions. Learn more about us here.