You’ve probably heard the expression ‘Content is king’ originally coined by Bill Gates. In his 1996 article, he wrote in an almost McLuhan-esque fashion ‘Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.’
And in 2017, we’re confident in saying that that prophecy has definitely been fulfilled.
But what exactly is content?
“Content” means many different things to many people. But the most common type of ‘content’ that is present on almost every website since the birth of internet is what you’re consuming wright now – words. As the internet has evolved from information archive to haven of cat videos, images and videos – also known as ‘rich media’ - have become increasingly popular amongst consumers, and effective tools for marketing.
So how can an online business harness the power of content to attract more satisfied customers? When it comes to directing website visitors through your online sales funnel (whether that be for e-commerce or lead generation), it’s critical that they are persuaded and they have a pleasant experience. Do this, and you’ll ensure they both purchase from you with confidence, and then come back for more.
The key to powerfully persuasive content
One of the most powerful and yet most underutilised tools for persuasion is the language you use: that is to say, your copy.
What many digital marketers may not fully realise is that with the intelligent use of sales copywriting (which has been around pre-internet), you have a higher chance of getting website visitors through to your most important conversion goals, and ultimately buying more.
This guide will give you a number of tips based upon our experience of having successfully optimised conversion rate for some of Australia’s most successful ecommerce websites.
Writing for profit: How content and copywriting fits into your conversion rate optimisation strategy for online retailers
1. Exceptionally persuasive product descriptions
Often when we audit an ecommerce website, we notice that a large number of online retailers tend to or copy and paste their product descriptions from the product manufacturer. These are too short and painfully unpersuasive, listing facts like the product reference number, data-sheets or product IDs.
We’ve often seen one or two-line product descriptions that are clearly sourced from a manufacturer website and do almost nothing to persuade the customer or answer their most important questions
So why exactly is this poor practice? Product descriptions are the most fundamental component of any ecommerce product detail page.
The reason is obvious: people are more likely to buy from you if they know what they’re buying.
By creating high-quality, persuasive product descriptions – as time consuming and resource intensive as it can be– you’ll have a strong potential advantage over your competitors who may be selling the same product.
To write high-quality persuasive product descriptions, here are 9 tips you must consider:
- Benefits first. Write about the benefits of the product, not the features. Think: how does this improve their life? If you’re not sure, read your copy out aloud and ask yourself “what’s in it for me?”.
Benefits-driven copy: ‘This large premium leather tote is large enough to fit your laptop and a spare pair of flats’.
Features-driven copy: ‘This leather tote is 50cm x 50 cm.’
- Pick an appropriate length (but don’t go crazy). Product descriptions that are one or two sentences long are almost definitely too short. As a general rule of thumb, we’d shoot for 200 – 500 words, depending on your vertival.
Longer product descriptions (beyond 500 words), can be very effective, but you need to know your market to gauge what length is effective. It also gives you some potential advantages over your competitors, SEO-wise (for some of the best advice on organic search for ecommerce retailers, check out Searchmetrics’ eCommerce Ranking Factors research). Remember that website visitors tend to skim text and not read every word.
- Use bullet points to make the content easy to read. Create bullet points of the feature specifications under the main description. Website visitors scan content, so the structure of the words and layout of the page is as important as the words themselves.
- Avoid irrelevant information and “facts”. We’ve often seen online retailers include ‘data-sheets’ or obscure facts that potential buyers don’t care about. Avoid the usage of information like ‘Product ID’ in the main product description, and consider another tab on the product page for facts/specifications. Imagine you went into a bricks and mortar retail store and spoke to a retail assistant and they started reciting you the product IDs to you. You’d probably leave the store.
- Use emotive words and phrases. The success of a product often doesn’t come down to the best design or the best manufacturing. Customers care about how you make them feel, so it’s important to use evocative, positive language to create an experience around your product.
Daniel Glass, a bottle manufacturer from the US, does an excellent job of ascribing an otherwise dry product with a funny personality that their consumer can easily connect with.
- Inject on-brand personality into your copy Most copy on the web is frankly boring to read and uninspiring. Speak in your customer’s language. Write to them like you would speak to them if you were standing in front of them explaining the product. Don’t be afraid to step away from the standard professional bland style of copy, as long as it’s consistent with your business’ branding guidelines. If you’re unsure how customers will respond, A/B test it on your top products and see how your customers respond.
- Get into the mind of your customers. The job of a masterful copywriter is to learn to empathise with the prospect. If you can do that, you are almost certain to excel beyond your competition in terms of conversion rate optimisation and marketing in general. One easy way to do this is by mining review sites like Amazon.com, or niche websites like MakeUpAlley.com.
- Spellcheck or lose credibility. Mistakes in your product descriptions make your business appear unprofessional and untrustworthy. “If I can’t trust them to spell correctly, can I trust them to get the product to me on time?”
- Don’t get pinged for duplicate content or plagiarism. Make sure the content you write is unique and not copied from other websites. Copied content can hurt your SEO performance and it can even cause nightmares for your legal team for plagiarism/copyright infringement. Use copyscape.com to check for duplicate content, and also hire a professional copywriter. With sales copywriting, you get what you pay for.
By following these tips, you can easily create product descriptions that stand out and are persuasive enough for your website visitors to become website buyers.
American online retailer of indie and vintage-inspired women’s clothing, with 350+ employees, ModCloth, injects a tonne of personality and their brand into their copy to a point where it's actually enjoyable to read.
2. Testimonials and reviews
A 2015 study by Nielsen shows that a whopping 70% of individuals shopping online trust online consumer opinions posted online and use that as part of their decision making process. A case study by VWO showed that one ecommerce site increased their sales by 58.29% by adding customer reviews to their product pages.
The research overwhelmingly shows that consumers today rely heavily on reviews to help them decide whether to buy a product or buy from a business.
It’s important to showcase your reviews so that your visitors can see that they’re buying from a respectable business. When considering whether to showcase your reviews, keep these few things in mind:
- Don’t be afraid to show the good and the bad. If the good reviews outweigh the bad reviews, don’t be afraid to showcase both. No one company has only good reviews, so it’s more believable if you have a few bad reviews in there as well.
- Show the ‘stars’ prominently on the product description page. We noticed that one of our clients had small product reviews on their product pages that were difficult to read. We improved this by making them bigger and easier to read:
- Hide the stars if you have 0 reviews. If you have a product that has no reviews at all, showing the reviews is simply wasted screen real estate.
- Use product review software and allow users to leave reviews on the product page without leaving the site. This will increase your sales greatly because people don’t have to leave your site to find the reviews. When a person leaves your website, you run the risk of them not coming back. Common vendors and tools for this include BazaarVoice, Yotpo and Trustpilot.
- Prove to visitors that they’re real. Some product review software allows anyone with an email address and a fake name (whether they’ve purchased in the past or not) to leave a review. Many solutions also don’t encourage a reviewer to leave a photo or authenticate with any of their social networks. For example, compare the apparent legitimacy and authenticity of these two reviews:
The second is more trustworthy, because it includes a picture, appears to be linked to Facebook and includes a full name. The first uses a handle “Melby1970” and has no name, location or picture associated with it.
- Keep track of customer feedback. If you find there are bad reviews coming in, check to see if there’s a problem with your product that may need addressing. Even the best marketing in the world can’t help if your product is terrible.
- Respond to reviews quickly and professionally. When responding to reviews, make sure you stay calm and polite no matter how annoyed you are. You need to remember other people are seeing your interaction with customers. If you have a positive interaction, new customers will be more inclined to trust that you’re going to look after their needs.
Prospective online shoppers care about reviews and testimonials. Small changes to the way you collect and show reviews can make a massive difference in your bottom line - so make the most of them.
3. Product images
Why we believe that what you say is just as important as what you sell, product images are critical to the success of any ecommerce website. With platforms like Instagram taking over, high quality images do more than half of the selling for your business.
When reviewing usability studies and live user recordings, it’s not uncommon for more than 20% of website visitors to engage with a product image’s enlarge or zoom functionality. According to heatmap and eye movement studies, almost everyone looks closely at the product image.
The reason is obvious: online shoppers want to see what they’re buying. Online shoppers generally won’t buy from a site if there’s no images or the images are poor.
When thinking about product images, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Use high-quality photography and product images. Investing in high-quality product photography makes a big difference and is typically a sound investment in your competitive advantage against online retailers. Low quality, low resolution or lossy product photos tend to perform badly. Hire a pro, and definitely don’t DIY!
If you’re an online fashion retailer, consider hiring models. When testing clothing on a mannequin or on a rack versus worn by a model, it’s not surprising that the professional model tends to convert better.
- Make sure the images load quickly. There are many studies which show that website visitors will bounce away from a page that’s too slow to load. Not to mention, a slow-loading website is very bad for your SEO! Images should be compressed, but not so compressed that they’re grainy or blurred.
- Make sure they’re appropriately sized. Many ecommerce retailers make their product images too small, giving them less visual hierarchy than other components of the page. Don’t be afraid to dedicate a significant amount of screen real estate to your product photos. They are, after all, one of the most important parts of your online shopper’s evaluation criteria.
- Make appropriate use of ‘click to enlarge’ rather than ‘magnifying lens’ style. Many ecommerce retailers use magnifying lens style hovers on product images. We’ve found from our usability tests that these can get in the way of what the shopper is trying to do. We’d recommend using a click to enlarge functionality with a pop-up box.
- Consider usage of 3D zoom and/or product video. 3D Zoom and product videos are two ways of further levelling up your product images. Ecommerce giant ASOS makes extensive usage of product video as a way of complimenting their product images, just like this:
4. Communicate and clarify your value proposition – make a ‘Why Shop With Us?’ page
Your value proposition is the fundamental tenet of your marketing and conversion rate optimisation. According to Dr Flint McGlaughlin, the founder and managing director of MECLABS (the largest independent research institution on scientific online marketing performance):
“Value proposition is the answer to the question. If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy X from you rather than from your [your competitor]?”
Review your website’s content and ask yourself the question: “Where do we answer this question directly and how effectively do we do so?”.
By creating a page dedicated to answering this question, and littering the answer to this question throughout your site in the form of copy and supporting imagery, you’ll be driving your value home and convince more customers to buy from you. For your business, it might be free shipping, a 60-day return policy, or a discount offer for first-time buyers.
The most common buying criteria for ecommerce often comes down to:
- Price. Are your prices lower than your competitors? If so, can you back this up with evidence? Can you check this? Do you offer any guarantees such as ‘price matching’? Do you handle enough transaction volume that you’re able to buy in bulk from your wholesalers cheaper than your competitors? Do you import direct from China and pass those savings directly onto the consumer by operating on lower margins? If so, SAY IT! Prove it to your website visitors with proof points and evidence, and keep this in prominent places above the fold.
- Shipping costs. Free shipping are two magical words to many Australian customers orderings from overseas. After all, who wants to pay double the product price just for living in a separate country?
Do you offer free shipping across the board? Do you offer free shipping for all orders over $100? Well, that’s part of your value proposition and part of the reason why online shoppers should buy from you rather than a competitor. It’s worth noting that nothing in the world is truly free. Insider secret: free shipping actually means the product price is slightly higher to offset the cost of shipping to the retailer. But try offering free shipping across the board for a short period of time, and watch what happens to your conversion rate. If you can find a way to offer free shipping across the board without sabotaging your gross profit and net profit, you should strongly consider it as a tool for competitive advantage online.
- Shipping time. One online retailer client of ours successfully increased their revenue by 17.6% by telling website visitors that they “ship all orders within 1-2 business days”. This goes to show how important shipping time (i.e.: time between placing an order and it leaving the warehouse or arriving) is for online shoppers. If you ship quickly or have ways of ensuring it arrives at your customer’s location within X number of days, say so – especially if this is comparatively faster than your competitors.
- Returns policy. Do you allow for returns? Do you have a money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers? If so, have a page dedicated to outlining these details on your website.
- Retail stores. Are you an omni-channel retailer that also has a large number of bricks and mortar retail stores? You know what we’re going to say...SAY SO! While pure online retailers sometimes have additional flexibility, speed and agility over omnichannel retailers, those with many bricks and mortar retail stores generally have much greater brand awareness and trust to leverage. Use this trust to your advantage and remind your website visitors why being both online and offline is a good thing.
- Service and/or expertise. Are you heavily focused on one or two niche categories of products? If so, you quite likely have a wealth of knowledge about your products and the manufacturing process. Make sure you describe your craft, your experience, your passion, and how this translates into premium quality products and services.
Communicating (and refining/developing) your value proposition is one of the most important tenets of conversion optimisation and marketing in general. By improving your value proposition and ensuring your customers understand it, your website conversion rate can improve drastically.
When it comes to converting more website visitors, copy is often left until the last minute. Don’t make that mistake!
Don’t forget: What you say is just as important as what you sell. Go and make Don Draper proud.