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Sunday, January 9, 2011

How To Write Product Listings/Descriptions

Last quarter I was taking a Business Communications course, and learned a few key ingredients for all communications. I thought you might be interested to try improving your own product listings.

1) Write a Rough Draft

We did this in grade school and into college as well. You always write a rough draft to get all the information out on paper (or .doc file) so that you can be sure you aren't forgetting anything.  This is very important when writing product descriptions, because you may discover that there are items that would be more cohesive if they were moved around. Rough drafts are important because you don't judge your writing until afterwards.

By getting it all on paper, you can make sure what you want to say is there. And then you can ask your friends, classmates, or family if they like the way it is written or if it makes sense. Always check your writing with another human being. Product listings are not the time to have an ambiguity or lack of information. You need these to make sense to anyone that reads them.

Remember. If a message is lost, it is not the fault of a reader. It is the sender who is at fault.

2) Tell a Story
Your readers desperately want to see the human side of the item they are considering buying. It is human nature to seek a connection.  This is why customer service reps exist. There needs to be a human face or voice behind the service or product.

Help your readers and potential customers connect with you by telling them a story. It doesn't have to be about you, or even about them. But you need to set the scene so that they understand what you want them to think about the item. You do not tell your customers what to think, you help lead them to the proper conclusion about it. 

For example: Let's imagine I have a hand-knit red scarf that I want to sell. It is lacy, but made out of mohair and wool, so it is particularly good at keeping one warm. Don't just say "Red Scarf. Warm" That's not very engaging and will most likely not warrant that click to buy it. Instead, help your customer see the inherent value by telling them a story.

            "Snow is falling all around you and you need to walk to work.  It is bitterly cold out, and the blizzard is coming. Aren't you glad you have that rocking red mohair scarf to keep the chill at bay?"

You tell the customer where they are, and how the scarf will make it better.  You told a story, and it didn't take any longer than simply listing the specs.

3) Remember the Specs

After telling a story that helps the reader connect, you need to remember to tell them the specifications as to what they are buying. No one likes to take a shot in the dark as far as buying online goes.  Tell them everything. And include this information on your rough draft when you are hashing out the details so that you can refer back to it.

             Specifications would include:

                          -Dimensions: height, weight, volume, yardage, etc. Anything that tells them about size or shape
                          -Materials: No one wants to buy a $50 scarf and then find out that they are allergic to something in it. Be specific. No one is going to steal this information or anything, and truth in posting allows the potential buyer to see your honesty and integrity.

                          -Color:  I don't care where this information is in the story, but it also needs to be listed in your specs. Pictures are unreliable because every monitor will display the spectrum differently. Make sure you use specific, every day examples so that the reader will know what colors the item actually consists of.

4) Conciseness/White Space

When writing descriptions, it is hard to avoid some of the flowery wordy paragraphs.  Potential buyers do not want to read paragraphs.  They want the information quick and easy. The faster you can give them the important information without clouding their eyes with unnecessary words.  You need to get the information across in as fast a manner as possible.  Keep your paragraphs to a maximum of three to five lines. Any more than that, and your information won't get to the reader.

Readers do not often read the entire posting. Sorry. We are all guilty of scanning for the pertinent information. That's why it is so important to have that story as the first section. After that, the readers start to scan the page.  In order to keep things that are important in the forefront of their minds:
1) Make sure the font is easily readable. Anything flowery will be immediately struck from the cerebral cortex, or worse, ignored completely.

2) Make use of white space. This draws attention to your important information, and also prevents the reader from being overwhelmed. (You can see that I make liberal use of white space in this post by putting a space between paragraphs and by starting lists with a space and indenting them)

3) Use bold face and different fonts in order to draw attention to section headings and important information. When a reader is scanning for a particular piece of information, this will show them where to look. (See my headings?)

Need to read more? Here are a few books that we used in class, and that I've researched on my own.

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion                 Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (New Rules Social Media Series)                  The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well             Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, Second Edition      

Do you have any other ideas on how to write better product descriptions? Leave a comment! I'm always looking for new information to improve my writing!

I'll talk to you in the comments!                

1 comment:

  1. Great tips!