How to Write Product Descriptions

The Ultimate Guide to Product Description Writing

how to write product descriptions featured image

Product descriptions can often be treated as a last-minute, low effort nuisance – something to be quickly whipped up, then forgotten about. Surely the product should speak for itself? Well, not quite.

A product description is the copy that accompanies a product – it explains what the product is, introduces its features, materials, and colors, and perhaps most importantly, explains why the customer should buy it.

It sounds simple enough, right? The trouble is, too many companies only describe their products. And that’s where things start to go wrong.

A good product description is just as important as having photos of the products you’re selling – it’s a vital part of selling online. In fact, a whopping 50% of shoppers have returned an item because it didn’t match the product description they saw online, so it’s worth getting it right first time!

How to write product descriptions

  1. Write for your target audience 
  2. Focus on benefits, not features
  3. Use storytelling 
  4. Make your copy scannable
  5. Be specific
  6. Get persuasive 
  7. Answer questions
  8. Provide backstory
  9. Harness the power of social proof
  10. Make it digestible 

Are you ready to boss your product descriptions and boost your sales? Let’s get started!

Further Information

  • Do you still need to build your online store? If so, we can help – check out our Online Store Builder Comparison Chart to find your perfect match
  • Need a bit of help writing for your online store? Read our guide on Writing for the Web for 19 easy tips to creating better online content

1

Write for your target audience

The very first thing you need to do to write successful product descriptions is create a profile of your customer. This is who you imagine buying your products – once you’ve identified your audience, everything you do should work towards connecting with them.

The biggest mistake you can make here is to try and write for everyone. 

Narrowing down your audience will help you create more persuasive copy. If you write for everyone, you’ll end up selling to noone, because your product won’t connect with the people reading it on any meaningful level.

Here’s a great example from ASOS, an online clothing retailer which keeps its brand’s tone of voice consistent throughout its product descriptions. The sense of humor injected into its descriptions suits its largely young audience.

product descriptions asos
ASOS uses humor to connect with its audience, with playful comments such as “Coming soon to your Saved items” and describing the fabric as “The kind that doesn’t stretch.”

So, how can you do this for your own products? Think about what sorts of words your target audience uses, what their frustrations or “pain points” are, and what questions they might need answering. How would you talk to them in real life?

Asking these questions will help you cut through general, meaningless phrases and get right to the important stuff!

2

Focus on benefits, not features

However many pointers we provide, you still need to describe your product, and include a list of its features. We’re not saying to ditch this completely, but it shouldn’t be your sole focus. Not only does a huge list of features not give the customer any idea of why they should buy your product, it’s also just plain boring.

Imagine if Apple simply listed all the technical features of its latest iPhone. Super Retina XDR display, A13 Bionic leverages, PMU, high-efficiency cores… Yawn! What does that even mean?

Instead, Apple leads with the benefits these features will bring its customers – for example, an extra five hours of battery life.

product description iphone example
Apple knows its users’ pain points and addresses them by listing benefits, rather than leading with technical features that would go over most shoppers’ heads.

This is guaranteed to grab shoppers’ attention a lot more than a dry list of tech specs. 

For example, if you’re selling clothes, emphasize how comfortable the type of fabric is; if you’re selling food or drink, highlight any health benefits; if you’re selling children’s toys, explain how safe and durable they are.

This gives shoppers a clear reason why they should click the “Buy” button – by focusing on benefits, you’re persuading people that their lives will be better if they buy your product!

3

Use storytelling

In a store, shoppers can hold your products and picture themselves using it at home. But this is much harder to do when you’re looking at a 2D image on a screen. Help your customers out by taking them on a journey with the product through your copy.

Smoothie company Innocent Drinks is a pro at using storytelling in its product descriptions. As you can see in the example below, it directly addresses the customer to create a relatable, nod-worthy story, and convinces us that yes, we really do need this smoothie to jumpstart our day.

innocent product description example
Innocent uses everyday situations, struggles, and activities to create a story for its customers, and helps them imagine exactly how an Innocent smoothie would fit perfectly into their life.

It can be as simple as creating a snapshot of your ideal buyer’s daily life, and then showing them how well your product would fit into that scene – just like Innocent has done.

4

Make your copy scannable

As well as painting pictures of benefits and using storytelling to win shoppers over, you need to make your product descriptions scannable. Sadly, not all shoppers will take the time to read every word of your carefully crafted product description – we know, it’s so unfair!

The way to avoid losing out on a sale is to make your copy super easy to scan in a single glance. Bullet points, visual icons, and breaking out key information will all help to get your message across to shoppers in a rush.

You can also try out the following to catch attention and deliver information: 

  • Make the most of white space to set key points apart
  • Play with larger font sizes
  • Use boxes
  • Try out simple one-line statements

If you’re in need of inspiration, check out this example from Dollar Shave Club, which breaks its product description down into manageable chunks:

dollar shave club scannable product description
Dollar Shave Club mixes things up to both inform and persuade its shoppers without overloading them with large chunks of text.

This layout is super simple, doesn’t skimp on important details, but also makes it quick and easy to skim. You don’t need to spend ages combing through this product description to understand the key benefits and features.

5

Be specific

Take a look at this product description we’ve written for a pair of fictional shoes:

“These shoes are really great quality, they’re simply excellent products that look really stunning as well as actually being the best shoes on the market today. We think they’re nice shoes and kind of cool, so you should get them today.”

Would you buy the shoes described in this product description? Probably not, right? That’s because it’s making a lot of claims, but doesn’t back any of them up. It also uses vague, floppy, and on-the-fence language such as “nice,” “kind of,” and “actually.”

Don’t fall into this trap!

Instead of writing a product description like the one above, you should be as specific and detailed as you can. Don’t slip into broad, general statements like “this is a great quality product” – show the customer why it’s great quality, and prove it through your explanation of its features and benefits.

If you’re proud of the way the product is constructed, for example, then go into detail, rather than giving a bland statement like “built to the highest standards.” Was it handmade by you? Was it tested by a third party for quality and durability? Does the factory where it was built have any awards or certificates you can quote?

The example below is from Wayfair, and goes into descriptive detail about the wingback chair it’s selling. Instead of saying “it’s a distinctive shape,” this description dives into the finer details of the stitching, buttons, springs, and more.

wayfair product description
Wayfair provides a great level of detail without turning its product description into a lengthy or waffly read. It’s concise, specific, and helpful in describing the product.
6

Get persuasive

Persuasive writing might sound like a slippery skill to get the hang of, but there are some easy ways to make your writing more convincing. Using storytelling and imagination comes into this, so you’re already half-way there. Here’s a couple of extra things you can do:

Use sensory words

While you want to avoid empty descriptive words like “nice,” sensory words help people to imagine what the product is like in real life. Use words that conjure sounds, smells, touch, and taste to engage your customers – examples include soft, smooth, crunchy, light, bright, crisp, and warm. 

Sensory words like these can be vital for bringing your product to life, and making your customer feel as though they just have to have it. This example from Cadbury makes your mouth water through its sensory product description:

sensory product description cadbury
Cadbury uses sensory words to promote its chocolate bars, describing the texture, taste, and even the sound of its Dairy Milk Oreo bar.

This also proves product descriptions don’t have to be long to be effective – the words “creamy,” “soft,” “crunchy,” and even “snap” all work together to create a sensory experience for the customer.

Use power words

Power words are like charged-up boosters in your copy that can excite, motivate, and inspire readers, encouraging them to take action. Be careful and sparing with power words – you don’t want to cram your copy full of them, as it would be overpowering and cause these magic words to lose their effect.

Here’s a small selection of power words you can use in your product descriptions:

  • New – new products are always more attractive than old ones, so shout about it!
  • Because – explaining why is an often overlooked and incredibly powerful tactic
  • Hurry – this creates urgency in shoppers, but try not to sound too pushy or spammy
  • Amazing – instead of saying “nice”, try out something like “amazing” or “sensational”
  • Now – this shows customers your product is fresh and current, and also inspires action

Always make sure you’re staying true to your brand’s tone of voice – keep your product description unique, and pick out power words that feel natural rather than forced. Cosmetics company Lush sets the bar with its bubbly, informative product descriptions:

how to write product descriptions lush example
Lush uses words such as “uplifting,” “bright,” and “winner” to appeal to shoppers. It also shows shoppers this is a fresh product by using phrases like “this season” and “winter”.
7

Answer questions

Have you ever had a question about a product that you had to know before parting with your money? Isn’t it so frustrating when you can’t find the information you’re looking for?

Don’t leave your shoppers hanging – arrange a thorough planning session where you think through any questions people might have about your products. This can be surprisingly hard when you know your products inside out, so put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself:

  • Does the product image show the back-view? If not, is this something that could be described to help shoppers know exactly what they’re getting?
  • What is the product made out of? Could these materials cause any issues, such as allergic reactions or color transfers?
  • Are there any instructions on how to use the product?
  • How much does the product weigh?
  • Could the product look different from the image when it arrives?

If there’s any part of the product that you can’t see from the image, make it clear in the description. For example, if you’re selling furniture, be sure to include how much items weigh, or a heads up that handmade goods may look different from the item pictured.

Once you start selling, you can use feedback from your customers to inform your product descriptions going forward – use reasons for return and frequently asked questions to understand exactly what people want to know!

ikea product description
IKEA breaks its product description down into separate sections to make it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for.
8

Provide backstory

Remember the idea of creating a story around your product to get the shopper’s imagination working? Well, there’s another way you can do this that you might find a bit easier – simply tell the backstory of your product.

Why are you selling homemade candles? How did you come to run your very own vineyard in Michigan? When did it all start, and who lies at the heart of the business? Whether it’s your partner or your local community, introduce your customers to the faces and stories behind the product they’re looking at. 

Don’t make it all about you – people still want to hear about how this product will benefit them, after all – but you might find giving a backstory helps people connect with your brand.

Take a look at The Giving Keys to see how it’s done – rather than being just another jewelry store, its mission is to support individuals transitioning out of homelessness by giving them jobs. This is made clear in the product description – “Your purchase creates jobs!” – which helps the buyer feel good about their decision.

giving keys product description
The Giving Keys uses its mission to add emotion to product descriptions, centering its backstory at the heart of its brand.
9

Harness the power of social proof

Social proof is a social phenomenon whereby people are more likely to do something if they see that other people are doing it too. It’s why 92% of people shopping online look at product reviews before buying, and why we join long queues at restaurants – we’re always seeking that seal of approval!

Using social proof is an important part of persuading people to buy your product. Product reviews are 12 times more trusted than product descriptions, so you need to harness social proof in order to make your shoppers feel confident in your brand.

You can do this by including: 

  • Star ratings
  • Customer reviews
  • “Low in stock” labels
  • “Selling fast” labels
  • How many others are currently looking at the item
  • Numbers of people who have already bought the item
  • An expert review, stamp, or recommendation
  • Social media shares or mentions

You can even slip social proof into your product descriptions by using phrases such as “flying off the shelves” or “our most popular product” – anything that highlights the fact other shoppers are loving your items.

Online giant Amazon is known for its customer reviews:

amazon product description
Amazon rules the roost when it comes to using social proof – its customer reviews lie at the heart of its business.

The star rating, the “Amazon’s Choice” label, the repeated use of words like “official,” and – further down the page – the list of products most commonly bought by other shoppers after viewing this item are all examples of using social proof to encourage sales.

10

Make it digestible

Our final tip, after all of that information, is to remember to keep things simple and digestible. It’s tempting to throw every tactic at your product description, but be careful not to overwhelm or confuse your shoppers.

Here are some ways you can avoid creating a novel-length product description: 

  • Use a mix of prose and bullet points
  • Separate information into tabs so shoppers can choose what they want to read
  • Use icons to break up text and act as visual cues
  • Keep your writing concise
  • If it needs to be long, embrace it and run with it!

The last point there is that if you have one product that’s your signature, best-selling, hottest most important product, there’s no shame in shouting about it. But this isn’t an excuse to create waffly product descriptions.

Instead, you can dedicate a whole page to showing off that product, as long as you still break up text, use images, list benefits, make the most of tabs and drop-down sections, and only include key information.

It’s mostly big brands, such as Apple and Volkswagen, that get away with this approach:

volkswagen product description
Volkswagen splits its product page into sections, including design, technology, and safety.

5 things to avoid when writing product descriptions

We’ve covered the things you should do to sell your products – but what about the things you absolutely should never do? Here are our top five things to avoid…

1. Empty claims

It’s understandable you might want to big up your product. And there’s no harm in being positive and enthusiastic – you don’t want to undersell yourself, after all.

However, you should always avoid making empty claims about your products. People are pretty sensitive to this stuff, and will be on high alert if they detect any exaggeration – let alone barefaced lies!

Don’t be vague, don’t make grand statements, and don’t claim to be something you’re not.

It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive spirit and twist the truth to outdo your competitors, but it’s not worth it. Shoppers can see through empty claims like a pair of x-ray specs – so always focus on features and benefits, and back up any claims. 

2. Risky words

You know when you’re shopping online, but you’ve got that voice inside your head saying you really shouldn’t be buying anything right now? That voice telling you you should be saving instead, or buying something boring like toilet roll?

That’s the voice you have to silence with your winning product description!

To do that, you mustn’t use risky words that will trigger that pesky inner voice, and (heaven forbid) actually make your potential buyer listen to their sensible alter ego.

These words and phrases include:

  • Expensive
  • Pricey
  • Shell out
  • Guilt
  • Treat
  • Are you sure?

You want to avoid anything that makes the shopper pause and question their purchase – for instance, you can get away with using “treat” if you frame it persuasively, and convince your customers they deserve to treat themselves (or others).

When we asked around, we found other words people disliked included “must have,” “luxurious,” “boast,” and “indulgent” – suggesting consumers don’t like feeling as though you’re trying too hard to sell or push your product onto them. Instead, keep it natural, and totally guilt-free!

3. Keyword stuffing

A good way of getting your products noticed is to write your descriptions with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind. One way of doing this is to use keywords in your copy that match the product.

A big mistake people used to make a lot was keyword stuffing, where you’d cram in as many search terms as possible into your product description. Nowadays, Google penalizes keyword stuffing, because it results in truly awful content for your visitors.

Imagine landing on a product page and seeing this product description:

“This high neck black jumper is made from cotton and is a very comfortable black jumper to wear – you can own this black jumper for yourself by putting the black jumper in your basket today!”

Yikes! Instead of doing this, scatter your keywords naturally through your copy, and mix it up a little. People won’t just search for one thing – you could use a combination of black jumper, cotton jumper, high neck top, jumper size 14, and so on.

4. Passive language

Passive language is where the sentence sounds longer and more convoluted than it needs to. An example would be “the mat was sat on by the cat,” instead of the classic “the cat sat on the mat.”

Sounds weird, right?

We can all slip into the passive voice every now and then without realizing it, but this can damage your product descriptions. Using active language, on the other hand, is clear, concise, easy to understand, and inspires action. 

5. Plain description

At the end of the day, you might be tired and fed up – maybe you’ve left your product descriptions until last, and want to rush through them so you can relax. That’s when you need to remember our very last tip: avoid simply describing your products.

It can be tempting to do – it’s quick, easy, and pretty brainless. The thing is, unless you’re a huge brand name, people want to know more about the product than they can see in the photo.

vague product description zara
Does this product description make you want to add the item to your basket before it sells out? Probably not – it doesn’t tell you much at all, let alone inspire you to click “buy”!

Shoppers need convincing to buy from you rather than your competitors, and the product description is often the bridge from an “oh, that looks nice” to an “I’ve GOT to have it!

So whatever you do, don’t just describe the product. Black shoe, size 8 isn’t going to stand out to anybody. Use the tips we’ve suggested, add some persuasive pizazz to your product descriptions, and your sales figures will thank you later.

How to write a product description: Conclusion

This guide has taken you through the best ways to write product descriptions, from narrowing down your target audience to telling the backstory of your products.

Here’s a quick recap of each tip:

How to write product descriptions

  1. Write for your target audience 
  2. Focus on benefits, not features
  3. Use storytelling 
  4. Make your copy scannable
  5. Be specific
  6. Get persuasive 
  7. Answer questions
  8. Provide backstory
  9. Harness the power of social proof
  10. Make it digestible 

We also went over why you should avoid things like empty claims, risky words, keyword stuffing, passive language, and the trap of simply describing your products.

By using these tips, you won’t just be creating good product descriptions – you’ll be writing product descriptions that sell, that wow, that knock the socks off your customers and blow your competitors out of the water.

If you’re ready and raring to go, but haven’t started building your online presence yet, we’ve got your back with our list of the 5 Best Ecommerce Website Builders of 2019.

If you already have a store set up and ready, then what are you waiting for? We hope you enjoy writing your product descriptions – come back and let us know how you get on!

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About Lucy Carney

Lucy Carney

You’re not alone! Building a website can be scary, especially if you’re like me with no previous coding experience. With the help of our experts I’m here as a friendly voice to help guide you into the exciting world of website building. If I can do it, so can you!

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