Product descriptions are notoriously difficult to get right. As every single business that operates an online shop has to write them, it’s increasingly difficult to sound unique, exciting and original. In some cases, this competition has pushed companies to create incredibly innovative, creative, wacky, and funny product descriptions. In others, it has resulted in companies falling back on tired, formulaic descriptions, or ill-equipped AI software.
Despite this, it’s rare for organisations to take a step back and examine the ways in which their existing product descriptions are problematic and could be improved. Here, we do just that and examine 12 common product description problems and offer a number of solutions.
1. Inaccurate descriptions
Inaccurate product descriptions, or those that don’t chime with the customer’s perception of the product, can have a considerable impact on your conversion rate. Whether it’s using the wrong adjectives and descriptors – which can make the product unappealing, unfashionable, or both – or writing in a manner that doesn’t enable the customer to visualise the product accurately, inaccurate product descriptions are something to be avoided.
Along with destroying your conversion rate, they’re also likely to result in greater dissatisfaction upon product delivery. If the customer feels as though they’ve been duped or mis-sold an item, it can be extremely damaging to your brand reputation and repeat business rates – not to mention impacting significantly on the rate of returns.
2. Inconsistent tone of voice
All brands and businesses need to dedicate considerable time and effort to developing their tone of voice. Successful branding is based upon the ability to convey a sense of identity, personality, and character that resonates with the customer and builds a relationship.
The only way of creating and communicating this identity is by developing a style, or tone of voice, that accurately represents the attitudes, values, and characteristics you want to associate with your brand. If your product descriptions don’t utilise the same tone of voice, you’re diluting your brand and making it less memorable and relatable for customers.
3. Product description generators
On certain e-commerce sites, there are suggestions that the humble copywriter is ready to be replaced by AI software that can write product descriptions just as well human writers.
Fortunately for ecommerce copywriters like us, this just isn’t true.
Product description generators are not yet capable of writing product descriptions with any sense of nuance, fun, or style. Many still struggle with basic grammatical constructions.
If you’re considering using a product description generator, we would very much advise against it. Though the day when AI is capable of writing better product descriptions than humans may not be far away, it’s not quite upon us yet.If you want a description that utilises a specific tone of voice, understands your brand, and can take on feedback, a human copywriter is the only way to go.
4. A lack of detail
While it’s easy to describe a product in simple terms, the devil is in the detail. Product descriptions need to move seamlessly between features, ensuring that adequate detail is provided as they do so. However, it’s also crucial for your product descriptions not to sound like an extended list of technical specifications. Instead, a balance must be struck.
Every detail must be brought to life in such a way that the customer understands the technical information provided (e.g. the specific style of the item, what it’s made from etc.), but also readily associates this information with a real product that they can purchase and use.
5. No product reviews
Product descriptions are nothing without product reviews. Many customers are rightfully wary of the claims made in product descriptions and will depend on product reviews for reassurance or a second opinion. This is the key to the success of Amazon in particular.
Successful e-tailers implement policies that reward customer reviews. It could be a loyalty scheme for those that leave reviews, money-off vouchers, or access to special offers. It’s worth noting that a lack of trust in product descriptions isn’t necessarily the fault of the product description itself. It’s just as likely to be a result of the general public’s wariness about advertising and marketing in general and an increasing tendency to look for peer recommendation (on social media or elsewhere) when making a purchase.
6. Not bringing the product to life
Before they buy a product online, the customer first needs to be able to conceive of themselves owning it. They need to believe that the shirt they saw online could be a part of their wardrobe.
The vast size of the internet and the changing ways in which we consume content has desensitised users to certain types of information. Product descriptions, though necessary, are one type of information that users can quickly skip or ignore, particularly if they don’t bring the product to life in an exciting way. To sell items, the customer needs to be drawn in by the product descriptions, allowed to believe that the product suits them and their ‘identity’ and then given all the essential information about the product.
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7. Over-reliance on images
Images of each item on sale are vital for the customer to fully appreciate the product and get an accurate idea of what it really looks like. However, product pages often fall short when they rely solely on photographs to describe the product. Product descriptions and images need to be thought of as working in harmony – they’re saying the same thing but in different ways.
Rather than letting the image do all the talking when it comes to appearance, then depending on the written descriptions to convey invisible information, both formats should try to communicate all of the information they can. Some customers will be more inspired by the photos; some will be won over by the product descriptions. A comprehensive product description reinforces the information found in the images and expresses it in a different manner – one that some customers will respond to more positively.
8. The message gets diluted – repetition
When writing a website’s-worth of product descriptions, it’s very easy for your message and identity to become diluted. The ‘it factor’ that made your first product descriptions so effective, doesn’t have the same impact after repeated use.
When dealing with high volumes of product descriptions, it’s often a case of diminishing returns. Not only can repetition lead to customers feeling as if they’ve read it all before, but it can also result in stifled, routine, and uninspiring descriptions being written. In most cases, this isn’t a problem with the copywriting or products. It’s just a natural consequence of the vast amount of information being published. More product descriptions mean a higher chance of repetition and the dilution of your message.
9. The target audience gets lost
Though your business and brand will have established who your target audience is and understand what tone of voice you’re going to use to reach them, it’s not always easy to write great product descriptions with sufficient subtlety. Though you may have a general target audience in mind, there are likely to be subtle shifts in the target demographic from item to item.
For instance, as a fashion retailer that specialises in women’s apparel, you market yourself to women between the ages of 25 and 45. They’re generally professionals with a certain amount of disposable income and an interest in fashion. You sell two skirts – one aimed at those who appreciate a little glitz and glamour and one which is more understated and classically elegant. While your general target audience remains women between the ages of 25 and 45, your product descriptions need to reflect that your target audiences for these two items are likely to be subtly different.
10. Not keeping up with the trends
In any industry, there are always new buzzwords, trends, and cutting-edge philosophies. However, no industry is quite as trend-focused as the fashion industry. If you’re writing product descriptions for clothes – be they shirts, skirts, or socks – you need to be aware of the latest trends and important new descriptors and buzzwords.
When copywriting for fashion, your readers are more than likely to be aware of the latest fashionable terms (and if they’re not, you’ll reap the reputational rewards of having introduced them), so you need to capitalise on this and reassure them that you too are up to date with tomorrow’s trends. It also has a significant impact on your SEO results, ensuring that you’re amongst the first to appear on Google.
11. Loss of readability
If you’re writing a batch of product descriptions and understand the need for them to differ if they’re to stand out and make an impact, you may end up over-compensating. As you struggle to make each description unique, you naturally search for new ways to express yourself and for different ways to say the same thing.
This can result in ideas and images being expressed in incredibly unnatural ways. Rather than making your descriptions interesting and enjoyable, this will make them more difficult to read, harder to scan, and drastically reduce their impact. However, this issue generally only occurs when we’re dealing with a large number of product descriptions. With lower quantities, it’s easy to tweak each description so that they differ enough, but you’re not yet clutching at straws or frantically rifling through the pages of a thesaurus.
12. Individuality and vitality
We’ve all read examples of product descriptions that, despite being technically correct, sit lifeless on the page and don’t seem to arouse any sense of interest or excitement in us. This can be difficult to avoid, particularly when there are a large number of descriptions being written at the same time. It’s easy to slip into cliché, struggle to find new ways to describe a product or lose the passion for the work when the copywriter is writing similar descriptions over and over again.However, this can also occur when the company requesting the descriptions doesn’t provide enough information. Writing creative product descriptions with only a small image and technical specifications to reference is incredibly difficult and can often result in descriptions that are inaccurate or lack the vitality necessary to entice customers.
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How to solve product description problems
Though there are numerous different ways to improve upon your existing product descriptions, we’ve identified three key areas where progress is rapid, and the results are impressive. They are;
1. Focus on a selective range of products
Rather than write 3,000 average product descriptions, it’s a better idea to select 20% of those items – those that are your best sellers or most important products – and write incredible descriptions for them. This solves a number of problems that arise when descriptions are written en masse, including inconsistency of tone of voice, repetition, dilution, and missing the target audience. It is better for your brand if you write 600 descriptions that communicate precisely what you’re trying to say, than if you write 3000 descriptions that don’t get it quite right.
2. Seek professional (human) assistance
If you’re not confident in your writing abilities, it’s best to seek professional help with your product descriptions. This means utilising the services of marketing experts and copywriters, NOT utilising a product description generator or AI service. Though it may not be long before it’s capable of writing convincing descriptions, this type of software is not quite there yet.
3. Do your research
No matter how talented your copywriter is, they’re not going to be able to do an excellent job if they’re not provided with all the information they require. This means giving them detailed tone of voice guidelines, outlining the target audience, highlighting the latest trends you want to focus on, and providing detailed product information.
Product descriptions can be challenging, particularly when there is a large number to write. That’s why we believe the best way to approach the issue which causes the product description problems is by identifying a small percentage of more important products and creating appealing, enticing, and attractive descriptions for these items. Not only does this strengthen the brand, but it also ensures that you’re not diluting your unique tone of voice across too many descriptions. Combined with professional assistance and a well-researched approach, you’ll soon see your conversion rate skyrocket. Talk to Big Star today about how we can help. Read more about our product description writing service here.