Ecommerce Brands Ecommerce Marketing
Is Copywriting Killing Your Online Store's Revenue? 5 Expert Copywriters Share Their Advice
10 min read time
Published on Jan 28, 2020
Written by Daniel J. Murphy
We get it — you’re working hard to increase your ecommerce revenue. You hired a web designer to improve your store’s UX. You updated your product images with high-res shots. You even changed your pricing strategy to see if discounting would attract shoppers.
But still no revenue growth.
Don’t give up just yet. There’s another area that you may have overlooked: your ecommerce copywriting.
Copywriting is often low on retailers’ priority lists. They think that copy is a nice addition to their store but doesn’t have a major impact on sales. The opposite is true. Copy has the power to motivate purchases from even the most hesitant shoppers.
We collected five copywriting tips from experts like Ann Handley, David Ogilvy, and Joanna Wiebe. Even if you have never worked in advertising or written an ounce of “copy” before, using even one of their tips can improve your message. Start with whichever you think will be easiest to apply, and add others as you get the hang of it.
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week
1) Before writing, ask two questions about your customer.
Don’t start writing your next product description just yet. Before you begin, stop and ask yourself this: do I really understand my target customer? To persuade someone to buy your product, you have to know what motivates them. Otherwise, you’re filling white space with copy that “sounds good” to you but isn’t connected to shoppers’ interests and needs. Advertising legend David Ogilvy agrees:
"Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."
Don’t be a dangerous copywriter. Ask yourself these two questions before you start writing:
- What is my target customer trying to achieve?
- What stops them from doing so?
Talk to your customers to get the answers. You could send them a survey, but interviewing them is even better.
Need a temporary solution? Go to Amazon. Reading reviews for products like yours is a quick way to understand what shoppers want from your brand.
This customer research leads to copy ideas that stick with shoppers forever. Like Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign.
Most retailers would balk at the idea of discouraging shopping on Cyber Monday. But Patagonia knew that this message was exactly what their environmentally conscious, outdoor-loving customers would appreciate. And they were right. Despite what they asked, Patagonia saw sales increase by close to a third, to $543 million, in the year following the jacket campaign.
Dig deep to find out what makes your shoppers tick. If you’ve done that research, your copy ideas will motivate shoppers to buy your products.
2) Write about what matters most to your customers (and only that).
You’ve done your research, so you know what shoppers hope to get out of your product. Now it’s time to channel those wants into your copy. Here’s what legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz suggests:
"Tap a single overwhelming desire existing in the hearts of thousands of people who are actively seeking to satisfy it at this very moment."
People want to hear how your product is going to make their lives better. Pump them up by explaining how your product will help them achieve their goals.
Don’t jump the gun, though. If you immediately tell shoppers “here’s how my product will solve your problems,” you’ll bore them to death. Ease shoppers in by following the AIDA copywriting formula.
- Attention: Captivate your shopper with bold, catchy copy.
- Interest: Pique their curiosity with product details.
- Desire: Show that your product fits shoppers’ goals.
- Action: Tell the shopper what they need to do next.
First, you grab shoppers’ attention and introduce them to your product. Now that they’re familiar with your product, you can tell them how it’s tied to their goals and direct them to make a purchase.
Clarisonic uses the AIDA formula to show how their brush will get rid of breakouts — something their shoppers badly want to do.
Right at the top, there’s a catchy alliteration — a breakthrough for breakouts — to grab shoppers’ attention. With the customer focused on the ad, Clarisonic can dive into how their brush gets rid of breakouts. They list which skin issues the brush improves, and they back up their claims with data. Convinced, shoppers can purchase the brush through the “shop now” button.
Too many marketers try to create desire for their products. That doesn’t work, and it isn’t necessary. Listen to your shoppers, and learn their existing desires. Make that the focus of your copy, and your shoppers will have good reason to make a purchase.
3) Use specific, concrete details to bring products to life.
It’s tempting to lean on vague adjectives — great, better, easy — when you write ecommerce copy. They’re the everyday words that first come to mind when you write.
Here’s the problem: shoppers’ eyes glaze over when they read general descriptions. Vague adjectives don’t add information about the product, so customers ignore them. Or worse, they lose interest and stop reading.
To keep your customers interested, give them specific, concrete descriptions — physical details that grab shoppers’ attention and provide a clear idea of what to expect from your product.
Not sure whether your copy is too vague? Ask yourself whether it meets the 4 C’s of copywriting:
- Clear: Is the meaning of your copy obvious?
- Concise: Are you using fewer words to say more?
- Compelling: Is your description attention-grabbing?
- Credible: Is your description believable?
If you find yourself using a general adjective, take copywriting teacher Ramit Sethi’s advice and give examples instead:
"Any time you find your copy drifting into the clouds, bring it back down to the ground level with some specific examples."
By “examples,” Sethi doesn’t mean anecdotes or testimonials (though those might work in your ecommerce copy). Instead, he wants writers to back up their claims with details. To explain this tip, he shows two ways to pitch a weight loss program.
- Vague: “You’ll look great.”
- Specific: “You’ll finally be able to fit into your high school jeans and be the envy of all your friends.”
The second, more persuasive version illustrates what “great” means: fitting into your high school jeans and being envied.
To see Sethi’s advice in action, check out how the luggage company Away describes their suitcase wheels.
Away doesn’t just describe their suitcase wheels as “premium.” They explain what makes the wheels high quality, from their “whisper-quiet” sound to their 360-degree movement. After reading, shoppers aren’t wondering whether the wheels are the “roll of a lifetime” — they have several reasons to believe that’s true.
Vague adjectives are filler words. They don’t motivate purchases because they don’t say anything new. To drive sales, give shoppers specific details that help them imagine your product experience.
4) Tackle shoppers’ objections head-on.
It doesn't matter how big or popular your business gets — you’ll always have hesitant shoppers. Some people may like your product, but, for whatever reason, they are hesitant to buy it.
You might think it’s better to leave their objections out of your copy. Why share the fact that people are questioning your product?
It sounds counterintuitive, but copy that tackles customer objections builds trust. Say what shoppers are worried about, and then explain how your product will still achieve what they want. You’ll erase their doubts, and you’ll boost their confidence in your product.
It's tricky though: how do you talk about product concerns without making your product sound bad? Copyhackers’ founder Joanna Wiebe recommends using the “even if” formula:
"You take the benefit [of your product] and tack on 'even if,'...and put in the thing they’re actually thinking. The real objection they have, you just pop it in there. Now you’ve got a benefit statement that’s more likely to be believed."
Let’s say you’re selling protein bars, and your vegan shoppers are worried about whether your snack is plant-based. You could reassure them by saying, “Get 10 grams of protein in every bar, even if you're a vegan — our bar is 100% free of animal products.”
Feel free to replace “even if” with similar phrases. Casper tackles their shoppers’ worries with “whether” in their product description.
The company knows shoppers won’t invest in a $600 mattress unless it fits their sleeping style. To reassure customers, Casper addresses their objections — “whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach” — before explaining the mattress’ other benefits.
Not sure why some people don’t think your product is right for them? Consider your initial research in section one. What did shoppers say is holding them back? You can also check out Buffer’s five common shopper objections to brainstorm possible concerns.
Don’t pretend like your shoppers’ worries don’t exist. Write copy that addresses them head-on so customers feel comfortable buying the product.
5. Put your copy through the “so what?” test.
When a shopper visits your online store, every other site is competing for their attention — Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, you name it.
To keep people engaged, your copy can’t be indulgent. It has to be punchy and concise.
How do you know what copy is worth keeping or pitching? Put your writing through the “so what” test. Copywriting expert Ann Handley describes this trick on her blog.
"In writing, the idea is to reframe a piece of communication from the perspective of the reader, by asking “So what?” and then answering “Because…” until you’ve exhausted your ability to reach a reasonable answer."
Putting your copy through the “so what” test uncovers the juiciest product details. You get to the bottom of what makes your product valuable, and you make that the focus of your copy.
To see this trick in action, consider Glossier product descriptions.
The copy under “why it’s special” keeps answering the “so what” question. Take a look at the first bullet point.
- The lip gloss’ applicator is fuzzy and doe-foot shaped. So what?
- Those features mean the applicator scoops up just the right amount of gloss. So what?
- So that means you’re able to get just the right amount of shine on your lips with just one swipe.
In a single bullet point, Glossier packs in every reason why shoppers will love the lip gloss’s applicator.
Make your ecommerce copy as meaty as possible. You’ll naturally reduce the length of your writing, so it’s quicker for distracted shoppers to consume. More importantly, you’re making a strong case for your product by sharing the most compelling details.
The psychological game of ecommerce copywriting
Psychologists are always trying to answer the question, “What drives human behavior?” The same curiosity drives persuasive ecommerce copy. The goal is to find words that resonate with shoppers and push them to make a purchase.
You can’t find these words unless you understand your customers’ motivations. When you understand what they want, then you can start writing (and only then). Explain how your product fits customers’ goals with clear, compelling language.
Rest assured, you don’t need writing experience to create persuasive ecommerce copy. Anyone can use the tips and formulas in this post to craft revenue-boosting copy: words that speak to shoppers’ deepest desires and make them believe in your product.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week.
Written by Daniel J. Murphy
Dan is a B2B marketing leader with over 7 years of experience helping SaaS startups grow. Before joining Privy, Dan was the Director of Product Marketing at Drift. He’s also worked in demand generation, brand marketing and marketing ops. Dan loves to geek out over marketing strategies and technology. He co-authored “This Won’t Scale” with Privy’s CMO, Dave Gerhardt at their previous company.
Subscribe for Updates
Get our best content on ecommerce marketing in your inbox 2 times a week.