How to Write Copy That Converts: An Ecommerce Guide

ecommerce copy writing guide

In ecommerce, words matter. Great products are important, strong visuals are essential, but words are ultimately what allow you to tell great stories, connect with your website visitors on an emotional, human level, and build a loyal customer base.

To build a successful ecommerce business today, you can’t afford to be lazy when it comes to the copy you write and put on your homepage, about page, FAQ page, and most importantly, your product pages.

In order to drive more conversions through copy, you have to be intentional, you have to be meaningful, and you have to be incredibly strategic.

This quick guide will help you understand the difference between writing copy and writing copy that converts.

Everyone Is Thinking About Copy…Are You?

Competition for the attention of online visitors is fiercer today than it has ever been before. With new startups, businesses, and websites popping up each day, you need to be able to quickly differentiate from competitors and start building trust from the moment someone lands on your website. When it comes down to it, you really only have a few seconds to prove to your visitors that your website is worth visiting. In order to convince them to stay where they are, you have to capture their attention. The fastest and best way to do it is through effective copywriting.

If you’re not entirely convinced of the importance of copy, all you have to do is perform a quick Google search to find all the blog posts that have been written about the topic over the past few years. Here’s just a small sample of great resources that have been published recently on the subject:

From these resources and others, it’s clear that a lot of people are thinking about, recognizing the value of, and benefiting from effective copy on websites.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, how often do you think about the copy on your website, and what are you doing to optimize it?

How to Optimize Copy for Conversions

There’s a big difference between writing copy for your website, and writing copy for your customers. In the first scenario, your goal is simply to fill the pages and sections of your website. In the second, your goal is to give your visitors the information they need to buy your products.

So how do you do it?

Here are 7 best practices that will help you optimize the copy on your ecommerce website and within your product pages in order to ultimately drive more conversions:

1. Use Trigger Words – advertisers have long utilized the psychology of language and words to sell products and ideas to people, and the same principles that have been used for 5+ decades can be applied to your ecommerce store today. In 1963, famous advertising guru David Ogilvy published a list of the most influential words you can use when selling a product. They are:

  • suddenly
  • now
  • announcing
  • introducing
  • improvement
  • amazing
  • sensational
  • remarkable
  • revolutionary
  • startling
  • miracle
  • magic
  • offer
  • quick
  • easy
  • wanted
  • challenge
  • compare
  • bargain
  • hurry

In addition to these words, there are numerous phrases that you can leverage to drive action. In his blog post on the topic, Kevan Lee includes a handful of phrases that can be incorporated into your website and product pages to:

  • imply exclusivity (ex. “Get it before everybody else”)
  • imply scarcity (ex. “Sale ends soon”)
  • build trust (ex. “Try before you buy”)

To see all the phrases in his lists, read the blog post.

The trigger words and phrases you use will depend on the goals you have and the action you’re trying to get people to take. You can test different words and phrases in your homepage headline, your product descriptions, your email subject lines, and in your special offer graphics.

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Warby Parker using copy to build trust

2. Keep It Short and Simple – Remember, you don’t have a lot of time to capture the attention of your would-be customers and convince them to buy. As such, it’s essential that you keep the copy on your product pages relatively short and simple if you’re selling clothing, accessories, and other similar goods. People don’t spend a lot of time reading lengthy paragraphs these days. Instead, the are skimming and searching for certain words and phrases that will convince them they’re making the right decision.

When you’re writing copy for your product pages, try to get to the point as fast as possible, while still including all the information your visitors will need to understand what they’re buying. Illustrate the benefits, make your promises, and trim the fluff.

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Product page example from Death Wish Coffee

Important: it’s worth noting that there are exceptions to this rule of thumb that apply to certain industries—if you’re selling complex technology products for example (computers, hard drives, etc.), some have found that including more copy on your product pages is actually more effective in driving people to come to a decision and purchase.

3. Use The Language Your Customers Use – Another great way to connect with your would-be customers on an emotional level is to use the copy that your customers use when describing your products. If you’re like most ecommerce shops, you’re likely accepting testimonials and product reviews from all customers. Testimonials from happy customers often have the best language about your products and can easily be repurposed and used in product descriptions, headlines, social media advertisements, emails, and promo graphics.

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Example of copy that can be pulled from a review from Anthropologie

4. Tell Stories, Sell Benefits – Successful ecommerce business owners don’t sell products—they sell stories and experiences. They sell a better and more enjoyable way of living. To convert more customers, your product pages and entire shop should be full of statements and copy that paint pictures and pull at the heartstrings of the people who visit your website. It’s not about them buying your products. It’s about you solving their problems and making their lives better. 

To tell more stories on your product pages, think about the benefits that your products offer and the promises you can make. Think about how your customers’ lives were before they had your products, and how they’re lives are now that they have your products. Are they happier? Healthier? Stronger? Less stressed? Better dressed? Use what you know about your customers to tell stories that leave would-be customers hungry to buy.

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Examples from Fitbit

5. Address Objections and Build Trust – Copy should also be used to make your visitors more comfortable and confident about buying your products and giving their money to you. You can build trust and confidence by including more FAQ language within your product pages, adding trust language and trust badges during checkout screens, highlighting actual feedback from happier customers, or by even giving people the opportunity to try products before they pay for them (as you saw in the example above from Warby Parker). 

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Example of copy being used to overcome objections from Rent the Runway

6. Get Feedback on Design – At the end of the day, you can have the best copy in the world, but if no one can read it, it doesn’t matter. When updating and building your product pages, it’s important to make sure the fonts, font sizes, and placement of copy all lend to an easy-to-read experience for your visitors. If they can’t read it, they won’t stick around long. Get feedback from customers about the usability and readability of your site on an ongoing basis to make sure you’re not missing out on sales just because your product pages are hard or unpleasant to read. You can get feedback by sending them follow-up surveys after they purchase products, reaching out over the phone, or by implementing a live chat tool like HappyFox. Remember to take mobile into consideration too, as many people now do most of their online shopping from their smartphones. 

7. Test Everything – Finally, when you’re making copy changes to your product pages or anywhere on your ecommerce site, make sure to run A/B tests to find out which words and phrases actually drive more conversions. Avoid make sweeping changes to your website without being able to analyze how conversions are impacted. To run A/B tests, you can use tools like VWO and Optimizely, or hire companies like Experiment Engine to design, build, and manage tests for you. 

How are you using copy to boost conversions on your ecommerce site? Tell me in the comments below. 

William Harris

William Harris is leading content at Sellbrite and is also the Founder & Growth Marketer of Elumynt, LLC., VP of Marketing and Growth for a top 700 online retailer and former head of Marketing for When I Work, a VC backed SaaS company. William is also a contributor to leading publications like The Next Web, Search Engine Journal, Social Media Today, and Sellbrite and a speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, search engine optimization, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding. Follow William on Twitter (@WmHarris101), LinkedIn, and Google+.