By Peter Zaballos, Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Vice President at SPS Commerce

With the growth of mobile platforms, consumers have the ability to shop when, where and how they want. That’s good news for retailers that understand how product details drive sales and build brand loyalty. There’s a wealth of research that confirms this, so if you still think less is more, think again.

Today’s consumers expect product details that go beyond size and color, which is why retailers are now pushing suppliers to provide more item information. Details drive digital. Digital drives sales. According to a recent Think with Google article, $1 trillion of retail sales were influenced by product searches. No wonder the No. 1 priority for retailers in 2016 is improving item attributes from suppliers.

Here are six tips for writing and delivering detailed digital product content that sells:

1: Know your audience.

Develop consumer personas. Instead of talking generally, give consumers names, families, ZIP codes, occupations, hopes and dreams and even a few problems. Hang this information and persona photos on your office walls. Create cardboard cutouts to attend meetings. Address your personas directly, using words they use. Answer their common questions, without waiting to be asked.

You can even go a step further by writing scenarios and short stories that paint a vivid picture of what your personas lives are like and how they are hoping you can help them. Think of these scenarios as conversation starters. “I want to buy a new refrigerator, but it needs to fit into a small space.” “My child is allergic to peanuts. What ingredients are in this product?” “My mother turns 80 next month and is going to Europe to celebrate. Which pair of walking shoes will be best for her?”

Also consider how your consumers want to receive information. Depending on the product, they may prefer written descriptions, detailed diagrams, in-depth videos or a combination of all three. And remember, you’re not the only source of product information. Customer reviews are also important.

2: Talk benefits.

Don’t just rattle off your product’s features. Also use active, sensory language to describe the benefits consumers will experience. This two-prong approach engages both parts of the consumer brain: the logical, fact-focused left brain, as well as the emotional right brain.

When communicating benefits, I like to start by reminding myself of what marketing guru Theodore Levitt once said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

So what’s the difference between features and benefits? Features describe the physical nature of your products, while benefits answer the question “What’s in it for me?” “Two back-up alarms” is a feature. “Around-the-clock security and peace of mind” is a benefit.

3: Help the buying decision.

Useful facts and stats, real-life stories and product awards all work wonders when it comes to making your products stand out from those of competitors. So do great product descriptions. When writing these descriptions, lead with your main point – the one most important to consumers, that is – then add supporting information in order of relevance.

Be sure to include all the information shoppers need: the loft of a golf club, the weight of a laptop or the dimensions of a refrigerator are all important factors that can sway a consumer’s purchase decision. Side-by-side comparisons that show how products compare to one another can be a big help as well. So can product reviews.

4: Be consistent.

Describe your products in roughly the same way and in the same order to make it easy for shoppers to compare. For instance, write an engaging headline, followed by a sentence or two that helps consumers picture, taste, touch, smell or even hear your product (even if what they hear is the silence of your “significantly quieter” blender). Then provide a bulleted list of product benefits, followed by product reviews.

By providing consistent information in a similar and scannable manner, you make it easy for shoppers to find the “chunks” that are meaningful to them. Consistency is also the key to customer satisfaction. According to a McKinsey & Company study of 27,000 American consumers, a consistent customer experience – across the entire customer journey – builds trust and boosts loyalty.

5: Cover the details.

If there are questions shoppers ask when in your stores, make a point of answering those questions online. Here are some of the most common product details shoppers have questions about:

  • Product specs
  • Technical specs
  • Available colors, sizes, flavors, etc.
  • Ingredients and allergen information
  • Whether the product is manufactured domestically or imported.
  • Care/usage/assembly instructions, including whether batteries are required and/or are included
  • Environmental features

6: Be concise.

Twenty-seven seconds. That’s the average attention span of shoppers. So use simple words and short sentences. Keep product descriptions under 150 words. Also think “grab n’ go” by using bulleted lists. In this digital age, product details truly are the secret to success. So do your bottom line a favor by amping up your product descriptions. Not sure where to start? Read your customers’ reviews. They’ll tell you what product details matter most.

7: Get serious about SEO.

If you want your products to be found, you need to take key words seriously. What are the words and phrases people type into search engines when looking for your product? Whatever they are (if you don’t know, ask your customers), be sure to keep them in mind when writing headlines, product descriptions, title tags, image alt tags and more.

Keeping these seven tips is mind will help ensure you meet – and even exceed – growing retailer and consumer expectations for product detail.


Peter Zaballos is chief marketing officer and senior vice president at SPS Commerce, which is helping retailers and their trading communities meet retail and consumer product detail expectations by using the industry’s most broadly adopted retail cloud services platform. Share your digital retail insight with Peter at @peterzaballos. 

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