Celia Anderson

7 December 2015

Writing product descriptions

I was on a three-hour flight recently and, predictably, my laptop’s battery conked out before we’d reached 10,000 feet. So, what else? I reached for the in-flight magazine.

The pictures of the Revlon Colorburst trio immediately caught my eye; the price tag quickly put me off.

Then the product description changed my mind.

“Moisturising formula, is it? Peppermint fragrance, you say? Colour that lasts hour after hour? Ah go on then take my money, stewardess who seems to dislike me intensely based on the behaviour of hundreds of passengers before me.”

This is the power of the product description: a critical part of the journey on which most shoppers find themselves. After all, justification is such a huge part of the purchasing process. Did I need three chunky lip balms that, according to my eldest sister, resemble something from Crayola’s preschool collection? No. Should I have splurged some of the holiday spends? Probably not (and don’t tell my husband). But c’mon. It ‘glides beautifully on the lips with the perfect flush of colour’.

Popping the questions

But it’s not just about justifying those indulgent, unnecessary purchases. Day to day, we buy plenty of the things we need, as well as the things we want.

Product descriptions have the power to answer all the questions your customer might be stewing on. Written well, they can also provide the right answer to that one question which is preventing the shopper from hitting ‘add to cart’.

Will that shirt flatter my figure?

Well, of course. We’ve added strategically placed darts to the back so that it nips and tucks in all the best places. See how great it looks on the model in the picture who, glad you asked, happens to be the same size as you.

Washing machine dialIs this washing machine worth the extra £100?

Naturally. Because it’s been given a five-star review by this leading magazine, so you know it’s built to last.

Unlike that other one you’ve been eyeing: we’re not saying it’s going to catch fire but it’s probably going to catch fire.

That handbag is more than I usually spend on rent. Is it worth it?

Probably not, but look how pretty it is and see how the luxe silver branding plaque gleams in the light, and imagine aiming the designer tag directly at the snarky mums on the school run.

The golden rules

Each product is different and requires a host of varying considerations. When we’re writing about a designer crib shoe costing hundreds of pounds, the language and structure is going to be entirely different to waxing lyrical on a galvanised cantilever arm.

Some products need only the simplest sentence; other items are better suited to a 300-word litany and a bunch of hammer-it-home bullet points.

But when it comes to writing any product description, we say that a writer must always obey these three golden rules:

1. Be captivating

Tell a story, use some compelling statistics, use lots of imperative verbs to provoke the customer into action. They’re already interested in the product so don’t bore them with bullets (though by all means use them to break out vital elements).
2. Be human

Check out this lovely packaging copy from Oatly dairy-free drinks (a company which deserves a clap on the back for its ‘Wow – no cow!’ slogan alone).

Oatly

A great example of having fun with your copy – and even breaking a few rules – while getting across what your product is all about.

But a word of warning: don’t get crushed under the wheels of the banter bus. It’s hugely annoying when a brand breaks a sweat trying to demonstrate that they ‘get you’. Mentioning no names.

3. Don’t waffle

By all means, get creative with your product descriptions, but make sure the whole thing’s tied back firmly to the product’s linchpins: the things which make it worth choosing over all of its competitors.

Try making a bulleted list of the product’s best features, fleshing each one out and developing them into a series of  descriptive paragraphs. Then go back through and painstakingly demolish any extra words which aren’t absolutely critical.

And, as a final point, be precise. We’re not including it as a golden rule because we don’t have to tell professional writers how important accuracy is. But make sure there’s not even a speck of ambiguity in a product description.

Or a customer could end up as disappointed as one of our writers who, on opening the packaging of her ‘hand-shaped artisan flatbread’, was disappointed to unveil a piece of bread that wasn’t shaped like a hand at all.


The Siblinc team love writing product descriptions, that’s why we decided to specialise. It just so happens that original on-page content is only growing in popularity, so we’re growing too. 

If you think you’ve got what it takes to join our team, we welcome CVs and samples from people with the right blend of impeccable accuracy, efficiency and creativity. Send to hello@siblinc.co.uk

Oatly image from www.packagingoftheworld.com 

  • Oatly
  • Washing machine dial

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