Make Your E-Commerce Copy Work Harder

Modcloth writes great web copy

Stellar web copy isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

For all its video, gifs and meme culture, the internet remains largely a world of words: Google indexes the language on websites rather than images. In the ever-growing world of e-commerce, while images are necessary, words are what seal the deal.

First, an uncomfortable truth: There’s a lot of bad, cringe-worthy copy. But there’s also a lot of great copy out there, and it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking in order to be great, it just has to work. Here are some quick tips for writing harder-working copy for your e-commerce site.

Know your audience. While this point is something we could say about nearly any marketing objective, knowing who you’re speaking to is especially important when writing copy.

If you’re talking to a bunch of frat boys, like the novelty clothing line Shinesty, some (crass) humor goes a long way. That same tone of voice would be borderline disastrous if you were talking to Modcloth’s hip, woke, younger female audience (see the feature image in this post for an example).

Each of these brands uses humor, but in each case it’s carefully tailored to build a brand personality its audience wants to engage with. Writing copy is sort of like creating a movie character that people want to hang out with and give money to.

Know your strategy. What is the goal your copy is trying to accomplish? For e-commerce brands, the goal is usually making a sale. But like dating, even though the goal of the endeavor might be obvious, it’s not necessarily appropriate to just go right in for the sale.

Copy is one of your most powerful tools to help woo your prospect. Focus on what benefits your product or service provides to your customer, rather than what makes your brand so great.

Flip the script: think about how your copy sounds to your customers, and use your words to deliver them value before you ever even try to make the sale.

Know your formatting. A Nielsen Norman Group study tracked people’s eye movements as they read web content, and their findings of user’s online reading behavior could be boiled down to one word: fast.

People scan web content quickly, skimming headlines and moving quickly down the page looking for relevant information. The heat map of this pattern looks like an “F,” which is a helpful shape to keep in mind when writing: keep the image above in mind when looking at your copy in its full glory. People will digest your message better in short paragraphs, bold headlines, and when the most important information is at the top and sides of the page.

Writing great copy is a science and an art, and like both of those disciplines requires practice, testing and hard work. But I hope this short piece gives you some ideas how to make your web copy work as hard for your business as you do.

Originally published at

James Thorpe is a copywriter and wannabe rockstar. James is a lifelong creative with an MBA who passionately eschews the right/left brain divide and moonlights as a puffy Cheeto evangelist.