This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
A product description is the element of an online listing that explains what an item is and why it’s worth buying. A well-written product description can transform your online store by qualifying, persuading, and informing the reader, as well as boosting your listings’ visibility.
To be effective, it needs to do more than simply describe the product. A robust product description will inform your customers, convey your brand, and get your store visited by searchers—bringing in sales and boosting other key performance indicators (KPIs).
Download this guide as an easy-to-follow worksheet with a product description template and helpful examples.
Here’s how to craft an effective product description in seven easy steps:
1. Set Objectives for Your Product Description
While it isn’t necessary to spend time mapping out extensive plans and goals for each product description you write, it’s important to start by evaluating what success will look like.
An effective product description will:
- Qualify: Demonstrate to the customer that they’re a perfect fit for your brand and product.
- Persuade: Supply compelling reasons that the customer will benefit from making the purchase.
- Inform: Provide relevant and factual information that increases buyer confidence and decreases return rate.
- Boost: Optimize search engine results to get your listing seen.
Though the main goal is to create conversions, good copywriting can increase performance across multiple key retail metrics. If your store is already up and running, identify which KPIs could be improved and keep them in mind while revamping your listings.
Here are a few KPIs you can consider:
By knowing where to focus your attention and how to track your listings’ success, you have the foundation for a profitable product description.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
The next step is to define your buyer. Do you sell to stay-at-home moms or business executives? Are trend-seeking 20-somethings your target crowd? Or perhaps you cater to a gamer fandom? Whoever your potential customer is, that’s the person you need to focus on talking to in your product description.
To do this, first create an image of your target buyer in your mind. Picture who they are, what they do, where they hang out, and which needs they have. This is often called creating a customer profile, and it’s an invaluable marketing tool.
Learn how to identify your target customer and create a practical customer profile with our guide—complete with resources, examples, and free templates.
Having a solid image of your ideal customer makes creating a connection much more effective by conversing with them through your writing. This step is key to a good product description because it turns product-centric copy into a vibrant, customer-centered conversation—and that’s what sells.
Here are two versions of a product description—the first written with zero focus on the customer profile and the second written with the customer profile in mind:
The difference that targeting your ideal buyer makes in your copywriting is tremendous. With a customer profile in mind, let’s go over how to turn those details into effective product descriptions through conversing with your audience.
3. Establish Your Listing’s Tone
Tone is the “personality” of your store or brand as conveyed through your writing and how it comes across to your target audience. Having a consistent and potent tone is a large part of successful branding on a broad scale, but even just incorporating decisive tone into your product descriptions can have a big impact.
As a writing tool, tone can be defined by asking this question:
How, where, and why would you talk to your target buyer in person?
Consider a hypothetical meeting with your customer in your mind: Would you meet them in a professional setting, like an office or business conference? Maybe a casual encounter at a coffee shop or craft beer bar? Or possibly a chat to pass the time during your kids’ playdate?
Knowing the dynamics of an in-person conversation will point you in the direction of your ideal tone. Any exchange will naturally take on a tone of its own—business, technical, casual, cheeky, sassy, instructive, etc. By adapting that to your copywriting, you’re drawing the customer in and providing them with reason to stay on the page.
See the difference?
Once you’ve examined your customer profile and set the tone for the conversation, it’s finally time to talk about your product.
4. Turn Item Features Into Must-buy Benefits
Many entrepreneurs focus solely on hard features, specs, and key details in their product descriptions—which is all highly important information—but the true goal of an effective listing is conveying the idea that your product will make the buyer’s life better. Sure, you want to make your product’s high points shine, but your real focus should be creating the perfect excuse for the buyer to snap it up.
To do this, you’ll need to convert facts about your product (like construction details, intended use, special features, material, and specs) into user benefits. Here’s a powerful example:
By considering the target audience and using decisive tone, the description of this Kindle translates hard facts into purpose-driven, relatable benefits.
The writer could have mentioned that the device has a high-capacity 1600 mAh lithium-polymer battery, but converting that raw feature into the benefit it provides allows shoppers to envision the experience of minimal charge time. Similarly, the product is described as being “lighter than a paperback” to “read comfortably with one hand,” which is far more compelling than simply stating that the device weighs 6.4 oz.
A successful product description will turn impersonal details into personal advantages. To do this effectively, you’ll need to focus your attention on what your target buyer values. Here’s a look at each feature described in the Kindle product listing and how it speaks to its specific audience, based on their needs:
With that solid inspiration in mind, you’re ready to build a product description that reaches, compels, and informs your buyers.
5. Focus on Format & Length
According to Chartbeat’s analysis on page views and engagement, you have a staggering 15 seconds to win your customer’s interest before they’re closing out of your store’s tab and moving on. That’s a small window of opportunity, so it’s crucial to make your listings as eye-catching and scannable as possible.
Product descriptions are not the place to write a mountain of prose—it’s practically guaranteed that your viewers won’t read it. Instead, create a quick-scan layout that puts your product’s benefits front-and-center, like this:
Product Description Element
Brief lead-in of 1–2 sentences
Bulleted list or collection of headers with short explanations
Complete description in 1–3 paragraphs
The quick-scan format works because shoppers love fast facts. After a brief intro, use bullet points or bold headers to deliver key benefits in an eye-catching format. Then, write your complete description in the body. If it’s long (say, 300 words or more), break it into bite-sized pieces with subheads followed by one- to three-sentence follow-ups.
You can choose to close with an alluring statement that leads customers to the “ADD TO CART” button, like: “one click makes it yours,” or even “limited availability” for seasonal items.
Different product types and platforms will call for different product description formats, but following this guide is a great place to start. Especially if you’re tackling an entire inventory’s worth of listings to be written, sticking to a template maximizes efficiency and consistency. In fact, it’s how experienced copywriting professionals crank out product descriptions in volume, so it can make your job simpler, too.
Now with your buyer and tone in mind, benefits listed, and format set, it’s time to write.
6. Write Your Product Description
Write your first draft swiftly and without hesitation—it will lead to a more direct, natural voice. Thoughtfully consider your target audience and tone, but don’t get caught up in running edits. You’ll be able to polish and refine your work later on.
Keep these considerations in mind as you dive in:
- What are the goals you have set for your listing(s)?
- Who is the target buyer you’re trying to reach?
- What kind of tone would an in-person conversation with them have?
- Which features of the product should be highlighted, and how do they translate into consumer benefits?
- How will the format of your product description take shape?
As you write, think about incorporating proven copywriting techniques into your work. Readers respond negatively to product descriptions that come across as over-engineered or packed with marketing-speak catchphrases, but a few simple devices can improve your copy’s impact.
Above all, write your copy to be customer-focused rather than brand-focused. Counterintuitively, what matters and speaks to the customer is almost certainly different from what matters to the retailer. So always consider how your writing will be perceived by your audience and do the most to make it personal.
Once you have a first draft written, read it aloud to yourself. Does it sound conversational and appropriate? Does it flow nicely and naturally, without any clunky sentences or unnecessarily big words?
If you can confidently answer “yes” to those questions, it’s time to bring your product description into the final stage.
7. Revise for Perfection & Search Engine Optimization
The next step is to edit your work. First, go back over each word carefully to check for spelling and grammar errors.
Most popular word processing programs, like MS Word and Google Docs, feature smart-editing tools that highlight mistakes for you and offer suggestions. More advanced alternative options, like the plugin Grammarly, can improve the revision process and even offer help with fluidity and tone.
After your writing is polished and cleaned up, it’s time to make it search-engine friendly through SEO. The goal of this step is to promote visibility and get your listing seen by as many people as possible.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
The practice of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website or page from search engines
It’s important to avoid writing your product descriptions with a laser focus on SEO. Modern search engine algorithms are highly sophisticated, so what’s good for your reader is good for your rankings. Antiquated SEO practices like keyword-stuffing and shooting for a hyper-specific word count will actually work against you in the modern age of ecommerce.
A basic (but crucial) SEO technique is to identify the target keyword searchers will use to find your product. This should be included in your title and/or description, and it’s usually as simple as “plastic wineglasses” or “artificial plants.”
For more information on finding the best keywords to boost your store’s traffic, check out our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO.
Enter your chosen keyword into Google and see what pages are ranking. Explore their product listings and evaluate their copy. What consistencies are there? How do the layouts of their product descriptions look? What kind of language did the writers use?
Overall, search engines reward clarity and user-friendliness. The top-ranking products on Google will almost certainly have descriptions that clearly inform the reader and stay firmly on brand. Use them as guidance and inspiration, but keep in mind that uniqueness is a hefty contributor to SEO as well—so make sure your copy is 100% original.
Lastly, understand that SEO extends into other aspects of your store, as well. Good product photos that don’t exist anywhere else on the web will boost your rankings, and they should contain your target keyword in the filename, alt tag, and caption. Reviews also contribute to your listing’s visibility, so incentivize your buyers to weigh in.
Do’s & Don’ts of Writing Product Descriptions
A good product description can make or break a sale. Here are some final tips for crafting yours:
There’s a lot that goes into crafting high-quality copy, but anyone can do it—and the results are worth it. Spending a little time honing in on your customer profile, tone, and format will lead to increases in conversions, along with other important KPIs.
Once you’ve nailed the art of writing successful product descriptions, enhance your listings even further by learning how to take professional-quality photos with your cellphone and expanding into product videos, as well.
All constructive product listings start with a solid ecommerce platform. We recommend using Shopify to run your store—it’s affordable, scalable plans let you list an unlimited number of products, track inventory, manage SEO, and market your products.
With the right platform and a minimal investment of time, your ecommerce store can reach and sell more than ever through constructive listings and product descriptions.