To optimize your product descriptions for conversion beyond your geek consumer base, simply listing product features is not enough. To increase consumer confidence, you should also explain in detail what your product is designed to do. It's the user benefits in combination with the product features that lift conversion.
Look no further than Bruce Springsteen if you don't believe me.
[This post is part of our ongoing series, The Art and Science of the Enhanced (A+) Page.]
Long before content merchandising existed, a young guitarist named Bruce Springsteen threw a few product features into a catchy tune, named the song "Racing in the Streets," and has since sung that song on stage 1,000 times to several million fans around the world:
I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396,
Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor...
If you're a car geek, you'll know immediately that Bruce's ride rocks. The 396-cubic-inch V8 pumped out 425 horsepower, barely grimaced in the upper 6,000 rpm range, and could hit 140 mph if you had the guts to sit behind the wheel.
And while there's some online debate as to whether Fuelie heads were the best choice for this car, the Hurst aftermarket shifter was golden.
But Bruce's aim was Billboard, not eBay. His winning formula: sound muscular and cash the royalty checks. Having seen 20 plus Springsteen shows, and having owned at least one copy of every one of his albums in every format known to everyone from Jerry Garcia to Steve Jobs, I can attest that there are many things about Bruce one may want to emulate.
But his product description writing is not one of them.
Read on while I explain how to write factual, compelling content that leads to sales, satisfaction, and success. In other words... let me in I wanna be your friend, I want guard your dreams and visions.
As poetic as they may be, who aside from Boss fanatics and Chevy freaks would hit the "Buy Now" button if these features were on a product description page? Do Fuelie heads improve gas mileage? Can a 396 pull my boat trailer over the pass, or should I opt for a 427? Maybe I'd be happier with a Little Deuce Coupe? Or a Prius?
Ok, enough's enough. Here's a real-life e-com example, courtesy of brother and Newegg, of a product description to sink our teeth into.
Challenge: You've just updated your home office with a Windows 7 PC. You need a network or wireless printer so your kid, who uses a Mac, can use it to print out a take-home exam, "Should Lady Gaga be banned from the Yankess clubhouse?" ("My kid's school would never assign that exam!" say you? Think again: Gaga made a debut in academic curricula via a course at the University of South Carolina in spring 2011.)
Give these a read and see what you think:
If you don't see the information you're looking for, hit the "specs" tab, and this is what you'll get.
Now about that challenge... based on the content you see here, can you tell if the brother MFC-7460DN All-In-One Up to 27 ppm Monochrome Laser Printer with Networking and Duplex Printing is for you? Answer: MAYBE.
(FYI: If this feature list gives you 75 percent or greater confidence that this printer is for you, you are a certified printer geek.)
Let's take that MAYBE and make it a YES. Here's the winning formula:
Check out this example from a Newegg page of some better user benefits for the Olympus PEN E-E-PL1 Digital Camera:
In particular, look at this one:
It's a simple equation: The first half of the sentence lists the features, and the second half, starting with "which offers," converts those features to user benefits. It's won't cost much to do, and that added piece of content will increase consumer confidence and boost sales.
We'll talk about the use of headers in a future post. But for now, if I were in charge of this product detail page, I'd include an abbreviated version of this equation in each of the headers for the cheaters (i.e., most of us) who only read headlines.
Thus, instead of
Stunning 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD
why not this?
Stunning 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD for Easy Viewing
Hammer home the user benefits of your product in section headers and cheaters galore will thank you with their credit cards.
We could spend days exposing merchandisers across every product line who break this rule. But in the interest of brevity (sic), let's look, somewhat randomly, at how top brands have addressed one particular feature of one particular product.
The product is cordless power drills, and the feature is "torque."
Look torque up on Wikipedia and you'll think you're being stalked by your high school physics teacher. Don't let the gibberish disarm you; at its heart, torque is a measurement of the "turning force" on an object, such as a bolt. Hence, it's a very useful measurement for power drills.
The greater the torque, the greater the ability to drill into difficult materials. You don't need much torque to hang pictures or install sheet rock, but you'll want a high-torque drill to drive bolts into metal posts. And there can be a difference of a couple hundred dollars between a low-torque and high-torque drill, so this is not an academic exercise.
However, very few, if any, drill manufacturers explain the user benefits of torque. For example, below is a summary of how the brands of the four top-selling cordless drills on Home Depot describe the torque in their drills:
Makita 18 Volt Lithium Ion: Motor provides up to 450 in. - lb. of torque for the power to drill or drive in a variety of materials
CP: (Oh, really? A variety of materials such as, um, paper? Concrete? Krypton?)
Ryobi P850 1/2 in. 18-Volt Cordless Drill: 24-position clutch for high-torque applications
CP: How much torque?
Milwaukee 2601-22 M18 Red Lithium 1/2 in. 18 Volt Compact Drill: Compact motor delivers 400 in.-lbs. of maximum torque
CP: This means that I can, um, drill a bolt into a, um, what exactly?)
DEWALT DC759KA 1/2 in. 18-Volt Cordless Compact Drill: No torque reference
CP: Torqueless drills rock!
Here's how Content Ping would do it:
Compact motor delivers 400 in. lbs. of maximum torque, making it ideal for many construction tasks, including drilling into hardwoods, metal, and concrete. (How's that for a last-chance power drive?)
Browse retail sites across product lines, and you'll find that less than 50 percent of product descriptions, if they have any useful product detail content to speak of, include user benefits in their copy.