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If you ask the 80 percent of people in the US who shop online at least some of the time if they’ve ever made a purchase that turned out to be surprising, odds are likely the majority of them will say yes. While surprises can occasionally be good things, when it comes buying stuff, the fewer surprises, the better. No one wants to find out the grill they thought was a charcoal grill is actually gas-powered. Nor do they want to discover the couch they bought won’t fit through the front door of their home. How can brands help shoppers avoid the unexpected when they buy products online? By including detailed, informative product descriptions about every item they have for sale.

A photo or two and a short, bulleted list isn’t enough. The more in-depth and detailed your company’s product descriptions are, the better for everyone involved in the transaction.

Reasons to Use Product Descriptions

There are plenty of arguments out there against using product descriptions. A few of those arguments note that visuals grab attention better than text.

That might be true, but visuals can often get messed up or skewed online. How many times has a color looked one way on a screen, only to be completely different in real life.

Photos might be worth a thousand words, but they can also lie. For example, a stylist can pin an oversized piece of clothing to make it fit a model perfectly. And in some cases, product photos are prototypes and the item shipped is slightly different.

With a product description, you can correct any mistakes in a photo, or fill in the details. You can also point out details not captured by an image. These can include materials the product is made from, its measurements, and how a person can use it.

Another reason to use product descriptions is they influence whether or not people make a purchase. According to the Salsify 2017 Cracking the Consumer Code study, “detailed product descriptions” were among the top three features people look for when deciding to buy clothing, electronics, or groceries online.

Additionally, the vast majority (87 percent) of people consider product descriptions extremely important when making a purchasing decision.

Benefits of Product Descriptions

Along with providing a valuable resource for your customers, product descriptions are beneficial for your business. They help increase sales, but they do more than just that.

A few additional benefits of product descriptions include:

Building trust with your shoppers.

Creating accurate product descriptions takes the element of surprise out of an online purchase. It also lets people know that they can trust your brand. On the flip side, missing or inaccurate product descriptions can lead to a lack of trust and returned products. About half of all customers have returned an item because of an inaccurate product description. More than half of customers who have returned something to a retailer aren’t likely to make another purchase from that brand.

Improving your site’s SEO.

Product descriptions don’t just help out customers. They also help search engines find and rank product pages for relevant keywords. Search is incredibly important when it comes to ecommerce — the vast majority of shoppers start looking for products on either Google or Amazon.

Providing customers with information.

Product descriptions are a type of content, and one of the key tenets of content marketing is to provide the audience with useful, informative content. One thing that’s worth understanding about online shoppers is that their goal isn’t always to make a purchase.

According to the Reimagining Commerce report from Episerver, more than 90 percent of shoppers visit a brand’s website for the first time to do something other than buy. In some cases, those shoppers are looking for more information or making comparisons.

If it’s down to two ecommerce sites, and yours is the site that has the more detailed and descriptive product description, who do you think the customer will go with when they do decide it’s time to buy?

Do’s and Don’ts When Creating Product Descriptions

Depending on the size of your ecommerce store or the number of products you have for sale, sitting down to create product descriptions for each item can be a pretty huge undertaking. Following this list of do’s and don’ts will help to simplify the process, and help you create attention-grabbing product descriptions that convince people to buy.

Do’s and Don’ts of Product Descriptions

Do: Get specific.

Aside from the photos of the product and any reviews from past customers, the product description is the only information that a shopper has to go on when making a decision or learning about an item. Get as detailed as possible, and don’t fall back on meaningless phrases such as “high-quality” or “one of the best.”

Don’t: Rely on descriptions from the manufacturer.

Manufacturers often create their own product descriptions, which might seem to give you an easy out. Don’t take it! For SEO and other reasons, you want to create your own unique and memorable descriptions.

Do: Make the product descriptions interesting.

People are going to read the product descriptions, so do make the effort to jazz them up a bit. True, there are only a few ways you can talk about a product’s size and materials — but you can still try to tell a story or otherwise add some pizzazz to what you’re writing.

Don’t: Forget to proofread.

Few things turn potential customers off or set off warning bells quite like a product description that’s riddled with spelling mistakes or unusual punctuation. While one typo is probably going to be OK, too many will make a shopper wonder about the legitimacy of your company.

Do: Try A/B testing.

Product descriptions are a type of sales copy. It can be helpful to create a few different versions of each description and test those versions in front of certain audiences, to see which one is better at converting.

One last thing to remember when creating product descriptions: Don’t be afraid to get help. If this all sounds like way too much for your team to handle, or if you’re not confident in your ability to create engaging and compelling product descriptions, don’t worry. Help is available. You can use a content marketplace to find talented and skilled writers to produce the product descriptions based on your specifications.