How to Write an Ecommerce Product Description That Sells

Looking for another way to optimize your website and boost sales for your ecommerce business?

They may seem like relatively minor details, but if your product descriptions are simply describing the product and sending the customer to sleep, here’s your golden opportunity.

When you sell anything online, quality images are great, but a lot of power lies in the words you use too. Your customers can’t have the sensory experience which they do in bricks and mortar stores, so you need to give it to them in copy.

Besides actually selling your product to the customer, good descriptions give you SEO power as they help to guide Google as to what you are about.

So, how do you craft product descriptions that sell?

Know Your Buyer

The quickest way to produce tone-deaf copy is to either not really understand who you are writing for or to know your ideal customer, but try to be all things to everyone anyway. We’ve discussed previously why there is no point in spending marketing money to drive traffic if you don’t have a good plan to bring in targeted prospects.

As David Meerman Scott puts it:

“Basing your work on buyer personas prevents you from sitting on your butt in your comfortable office just making stuff up, which is the cause of most ineffective marketing.”

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Get Inside Your Buyers’ Minds

The difference between a boring, uninspiring product description and one that has your customer hastening to add the product to the cart is often how well you know them. If you understand how your customer thinks, acts and feels, you can tap into the exact emotions which will have them wanting your product.

Consider this description for black, velvet leggings from American Apparel:

“Comfortable and soft leggings in Stretch Velvet.”

Now check out what Black Milk Clothing has written to describe theirs:

“They’re back! A true classic, we use the highest-quality velvet for these babies. They look amazing with absolutely everything, so go forth and rock ’em like the hot boss you are.”


One is a mere description, the other taps into the personality of the customer.

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What Attracts Buyers?

A great place to start with attracting your buyers is to understand where their psychological need for your product comes from. As Darren DeMatas points out, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory has particular relevance here as it taps into the deepest psychological desires of humans.

For example, if you sell fitness equipment, your customers may be motivated by physiological or esteem needs. If you sell security systems, they’re motivated by safety and security needs. Your copy should use language which really taps into the needs you have identified.


Source: Selfstartr

Besides figuring out and really driving to the heart of the customer needs, here are some other thoughts on what attracts buyers:

Features vs. Benefits

“What’s in it for me” is the top question for anyone considering a purchase. This means that you may have the best set of features out, but that’s not the top priority for most of your customers. How will this product solve my problem/s? How will it make my life easier? Or even, “how will it boost my relative status?”

Now that you know who your ideal customer is and what needs your product can solve, it’s time to list all the features of your product and come up with associated benefits. You won’t necessarily use all of these in your product descriptions, but listing them out helps you to identify those which will be the most powerful draw to customers in your descriptions.

Positive Word Associations

Dr Paul Marsden reported on a study conducted by the University of Houston which revealed that buzzwords associated with an attractive benefit of the product can be a huge draw for customers. For example, when they associated words such as “whole grain” or “organic” with healthy food, there was a boost to the perceived attractiveness of the product to the audience.

Think about any popular, positive word associations for your products. Without overdoing it, these are exactly the kinds of words you need to be using.

Sometimes these words will be sensory words which help create a sensation of sight, smell, taste, touch or sound for the buyer. Darren DeMatas wrote a great example of how to come up with and use sensory words in descriptions in this article for Selfstartr.

Using Crocs shoes as an example, he looked at customer reviews, the way they are often used and the environment in which they are used. He picked out the types of words people are using to create an effective description; “A flexible sole helps avoid foot pain and blisters from walking on hard tile floors.”

Words We Don’t Like

There are a few words or phrases you should be aware of and look to cut from your copy. Using these limits your persuasiveness or alienates your audience.

For example:

  • “Filler” words such as literally or actually. They don’t add anything to the copy.
  • “Gotten” — what about “bought” instead?
  • “Just”, “nice”, “kind of” or “very” — these sound lazy and don’t paint your brand in the best light.
  • “Stunning”, “beautiful” or “gorgeous” — these words tend to be very overused in copy. Maybe once or twice works, but beware that overuse looks amateurish.
  • Any other cliche words.
  • Use of jargon or corporate-speak. This tends to alienate your audience because few people are certain of what your word choices mean. If it might appear in a version of “Buzzword Bingo”, it’s probably not a good idea to use in your copy.

Zappos has many good examples of product descriptions, as seen in the above screenshot for Chuck Taylors. This is a basic example, but notice how it avoids “filler” words, appeals to the personality of their usual buyers and neatly outlines benefits.

Tip: Want to improve the quality of your own descriptions? Keep a swipe-file of well-written descriptions you come across.

Optimize for Search Engines

Your product descriptions help with SEO by signaling to Google what you are about. A key to remember here is that keyword stuffing is a no-no. While people did this deliberately in the past, doing so now can actually result in you being penalized with the infamous “Google slap.”

Do keyword research and look for the questions people ask about your product. Selfstartr suggests browsing forums for what people are saying about it and finding answers to the following questions:

  • Why did they buy?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What concerns did they have before buying?
  • What is important to them when buying this product?
  • What do they use the product for?

This helps you to not only delve into the mind of your buyer, but find the keywords that they naturally use when talking about your product. These can be checked against a tool such as Google Keyword Planner, so that you know you are creating descriptions which are likely to show up well in search results.

Edit, Edit, Edit

It’s always good practice to create a first draft, then follow this up with some editing for clarity. Here are some editing points to note when assessing your product descriptions:

  • Have you captured the personality of the buyer?
  • Have you captured at least the most persuasive benefits?
  • Is your copy focused on the reader?
  • How readable is your copy? Replace any jargon or complex words with words which are commonly understood.
  • Is it scannable? People often only skim when reading online as they are presented with so much information. Using a scannable format will help ensure the salient points get across.
  • Have you backed up any claims? For example, if you are selling “the best socks for hiking,” why is this so?

In the fast-paced, information-overload online world, less is usually more when it comes to a quality product description. Cut out fluff and concisely appeal to your target persona.

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Effective product descriptions start with knowing your customer very well. What are their needs, problems or pain-points? What motivates or impresses them?

Spend some time getting to know your ideal buyers first and delving inside their minds. The best product descriptions express exactly what the customer thinks and feels, play to their sensory experiences and use powerful word associations.

Finally, make sure you edit for clarity and optimize for SEO. You need your products to get found in order for them to be read!

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