eCommerce Insiders

Why Your Product Copy Doesn’t Convert, and How to Fix It

So you’ve invested in sales copy, but it’s not converting.

Technically, it has all the elements it needs to succeed. The format offers bullet points for quick reading, visual elements to catch the buyer’s eye, a well-placed call to action, and the price is appropriate for your market.

You’ve split the copy with headings and subheadings, used SEO to draw organic traffic, and included a few social proof elements. The grammar is perfect, and the spelling is, too.

So WHY isn’t it performing?

Chances are you or your writer made one of the following mistakes. Check through the list and find out how to fix it before it costs you more.

Your Copy Has No Voice

Your brand has a personality, and that needs to show in your writing. You’ve got to project the identity you claim in all of your communications. Keep it consistent, keep it interesting, and make sure it’s honest and authentic.

Having a voice doesn’t mean that you can’t be serious. Your copy can be academic, erudite, funny, sarcastic, acerbic, or any other quality that may appeal to your reader. Just keep in mind that it needs to connect with your demographic and be consistent. Just as you have words and phrases that people will recognize as “yours,” your brand voice should have certain words and phrases that you use frequently and others that you avoid.

So think about it. What’s your voice? Who are you? Or does your copy lack its own voice?

Does your copy stand out ?

Does your copy stand out ?

Your Product Description is Boring, Dull, or Dry

Writing product descriptions can seem simple at first, but it’s more difficult than you might assume. You need a good grip on consumer psychology, a firm understanding of how to make what you write entertaining, and the ability to make your prospect experience the product BEFORE they buy it.

Think about physical store sales. You know a sale is almost guaranteed when your customer is touching the object. It’s a clue that they are visualizing what it would be like to own it, and that’s a strong step in towards making a purchase.

How do you do that in ecommerce?

You bring them into the experience with your product description. The writing has to make your reader feel like they already know what it’s like to hold and use your product.

If your copy is a dull description that just says “Men’s Shirt. 16 x 33. 100% white cotton.” You aren’t going to excite anyone. Dull descriptions kill sales.

You Failed to Focus on the Benefit

Let’s look at that men’s shirt again. Maybe you’ve tweaked the copy a touch. It might read something like this now “Men’s button-down white dress shirt. Size 16 x 33. 100% Egyptian cotton. Perfect for formal occasions.” Here’s the problem…sure, you’ve gotten a little more descriptive. You even gave a use for it.

But you forgot the benefit.

Think about what would make your prospect feel good wearing the shirt. You’ve listed the features, but not the benefits. Here’s how a benefit-focused description would sound for the same shirt:

“Look your best for any occasion in this breathable, 100% Egyptian white cotton dress shirt. The perfect cut for men who wear size 16 x 33, it’s guaranteed to fit like it was tailored for you personally.”

See the difference? Take a moment to decide…which shirt would you buy?

Oops…You Didn’t Listen to Your Demographic

Ever wish you could take a look inside your customer’s soul, figure out what they love, what they hate, and how they relate to your brand?

You can. And if you aren’t already, you’re ten steps behind your peers.

Don’t worry, there’s no illegal email hacking, violations of consumer privacy, or annoying telemarketing surveys to worry about. In fact, you can get inside your demographic’s head in a simple, painless, and cost-free way.

Listen to them.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m not telling you to eavesdrop on their private conversations. I’m talking about something much easier.

If you exploit the nature of social media to practice social media listening, ask for feedback via popup surveys on your website, offer a small discount to your email subscribers in exchange for completing a quick questionnaire on Google Forms or using Survey Monkey, you’ll soon have more data than you know what to do with.

Actively segment your email list to see who interacts with your brand and why. Actively retarget customers, and look for partnerships with companies that offer items your demographic loves, but that won’t hurt your own sales….there are hundreds of ways to obtain new information on your demographic and strengthen your knowledge of who buys from you, when, and why.

If you don’t listen to your demographic, you wind up in a precarious position. From posting at the wrong times on social media to failing to mention or celebrate key holidays for your demographic (and hence losing credibility AND sales), or creating campaigns that fall flat and cost you more than you care to remember, not listening is an expensive proposition.

What does this have to do with your product descriptions? It changes the voice your brand uses to communicate with your demographic, gives you a better idea of how to use story to sell your products, and helps you create an image that is more authentic – something your customers are going to identify with, believe in, and become fans of.

Let’s go back to that men’s shirt for a sec… if your demographic is largely made up of recent college grads who are hunting for jobs, you might craft the description like this:

“This is the shirt that gets you the job. Comfortable, breathable, and perfectly tailored, this 16 x 33 men’s 100% Egyptian cotton dress shirt makes you look as professional as you hope the hiring manager thinks your resume is, without suffocating you.”

If your demographic is largely consultants, you might tweak it a bit for better performance: “100% Egyptian white cotton, this men’s 16 x 33 shirt is comfortable, breathable, and perfectly tailored. Best of all, it’s wrinkle-free, making it a great pick for business trips.”

Demographic matters. If you don’t know who you are selling to, and you don’t listen to what they need, why would they buy from you?

You Forgot Consumer Psychology

Consumer psychology is a powerful tool for ecommerce business owners and marketers. If you use reliable principles of consumer psychology such as urgency, you can increase conversions without having to increase your marketing spend.

Urgency, when correctly implemented, gently pushes the buyer towards purchase. At the same time, it clears obstacles like lack of trust and hesitancy. Tell a potential buyer that a sale is only going to be available for the next 48 hours, or that this is the only time you’ll be offering a specific product, and only for a limited time, and you’re driving them to act.

Add a little social proof to build trust, and carefully apply the use of white space to really hit home. Looking for more? Try changing your color palette and reorganizing the position of elements on each page.

It doesn’t cost you anything, can be A/B tested, and can lead to a significant increase in conversions. Do yourself a favor and stay abreast of consumer psychology research. It pays.

Returning to our white shirt example, we’ve already touched on consumer psychology slightly by bringing our potential buyer into the experience through story. Add a little urgency to that…

“Look your best for any occasion in this breathable, 100% Egyptian white cotton dress shirt. The perfect cut for men who wear size 16 x 33, it’s guaranteed to fit like it was tailored for you personally. Only 3 left in stock.”

Want that shirt? You better buy it before it’s gone…

What do you know about your demographic, and how do you use psychology to encourage conversions?

What do you know about your demographic, and how do you use psychology to encourage conversions?

You Remembered Psychology, but Applied it Wrong

Unfortunately, consumer psychology is one of those tools that can do a lot of good if you wield it properly, but when improperly applied can cause a lot of damage. Let’s take urgency for an example. If you use it wrong, you wind up sounding like a used car salesman.

Honesty can prevent a lot of damage.

My good friend M. had just moved with her husband to a new city. She wanted to get him something nice, so she bought a men’s dress shirt in a boutique men’s shop. She was excited about the purchase. After all, the shirt was listed as 75% off – a great find. Although the price was still a little steep, she felt good about the purchase knowing that she’d scored a deal.

Except she hadn’t.

Over the next few months, M. began to resent the store. Sure, the shirt was well made and looked great on her husband, but the bargain wasn’t a real one. The sale was ALWAYS going on. She felt like she’d been duped, and was sure that if she’d searched harder, she could have found a better deal elsewhere.

If your copy lies, your customers will notice. They make one purchase, but the most important sale is the second one, and if you aren’t honest, you’re not likely to make it.

Over-applying urgency can make you look desperate, cheap, and cheesy, too. Think about our white shirt. Here’s how we could destroy the honest urgency we implemented in the last white shirt example:

“Look your best for any occasion in this breathable, 100% Egyptian white cotton dress shirt. The perfect cut for men who wear size 16 x 33, it’s guaranteed to fit like it was tailored for you personally. Only three left in stock, and we aren’t sure we’ll be bringing this item back. Act now to keep from losing your chance to own this incredible dress shirt. Remember, ACT NOW. These shirts won’t be here long.”

Since when is a dress shirt this great? And if it is so great, why wouldn’t you restock it? Take a look at that ‘act now,’ too.  It’s overdone (even in this description), and comes off as false. Use a different phrase.

You can emphasize the low supply and urge your buyer to act, but don’t do it in a way that lies, sounds cliché, or destroys the argument you’ve made for purchasing your product.

…and If Those Aren’t to Blame, Check Your Value Proposition

Think your copy is foolproof? Granted, this list isn’t exhaustive, but if you’ve checked each item and are sure you’ve properly structured and written it, check your value proposition. What is it? Is it really unique or truly valuable? Are you trying to sell something that no one wants to buy?

No matter how great your product is, if you can’t find a way to set yourself apart from the competition, you’re lost.

Not sure where to begin? Head over to Amazon.com or a competitor’s site. Look at reviews on other ecommerce platforms. What are people complaining about? What pain points do the voice on your competitors’ pages? Does your product overcome them? Say it!

If our white shirt buyers hate stains and are worried they can’t wear white without risking them, this copy might do the trick:

“Feel like wearing white is asking for stains? Relax. This 100% Egyptian white cotton dress shirt uses patented technology to resist stains from spaghetti sauce, wine, chocolate, and anything else life drops on it. Wrinkle-free and perfect for travel, it fits men who wear size 16 x 33 as if it was tailor-made. Only 3 left in stock.”

Everything has a value proposition – whether it is tied to the product or to your brand. There is something that makes every product valuable to someone. Don’t forget to voice it.

Christina Boyes

I’m a fan of honest words, clarity, and impact. A copywriter, editor, and translator, I spend my days guzzling coffee like a champ. Once in a while, I do some writing and revising, too. I’m co-owner and copywriting head at Rusmexus Writers, and the brains behind the email and web copy at a handful of eCommerce brands.  Intellectual challenges and chocolate are my fuel. If you know what a seismometer does, care about healthy diets and lifestyle, or are a fan of travel, we should talk.

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