How to Write Product Descriptions that Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

By Anna Bradshaw
CopywritingEcommerceBrand Builder Expertise

About the Author: Anna Bradshaw is a copywriter and content strategist for CPG brands. She helps businesses find their core messages and writes data-backed copy that's packed with flavor. She writes from North Carolina where she lives with her husband.

Product Descriptions aren’t the flashiest element on your site – they’re not as flashy as your tagline, or as fun as great photography.

But good product descriptions are absolutely essential for any successful ecommerce venture.

They’re what your customers are scrutinizing just before they either click to add your item to their cart, or… they click back to check out the rest of your selection (if you’re lucky), or click all the way back to the search results, and choose your competitors instead (ouch!).

Think beyond the product description

In the old days of the internet, we had fairly standardized product descriptions that followed Amazon’s lead. They almost always contained a description paragraph followed by a list of bullet points.

Sites like Shopify made this format really simple and easy. The page template has space for photos on the left side, and on the right side you see the product name, description, and Add to Cart button.

Mobile views condense this so that everything is in one column, with photos slotted in below the product name.

But these days, brands are expanding beyond the basic template box. Now, product pages are being built with custom code to include videos, icons, charts, infographics, customer quotes and unboxing videos, and more.

The end result is an interactive product detail page that goes way beyond just a description.

Justin’s uses a product page format that gives you all the details you’d want in a visual way. They even link to recipes from the PDP.

If creating fully designed custom PDPs sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. The basic description format still works too!


Foodstirs shows that a simple paragraph and list of bullets can still feel fresh.

Figure out what job your PDPs are doing for you


What do your product detail pages (PDPs) need to do? Do they need to:

  • Educate shoppers about a new kind of product they’re not familiar with?
  • Help them choose which item from your product line is right for them?
  • Help them figure out if they’ll like the taste and texture of your product?
  • Help them figure out if their kids will like the taste of your product?
  • Explain why your brand’s products are better than the cheaper competition?

Some PDPs have to do all of this. If you’re selling cookies made with a new sweetener, you’ll have to do some education. You’ll have to help folks pick the flavor they’ll like, assure them that their kids will probably like them too, and convince them they’re worth paying more for than Oreos.

But not all PDPs have to do this. You might be selling one SKU - in that case you don’t need to help anyone choose between products.

Or, you might not have any cheaper direct competitors.

Or, you might be selling a familiar product that is self-explanatory.

The best way to figure out what jobs your PDPs have is to talk with shoppers.

You can proceed without research, but you’re likely to make mistakes. It’s easy to think our keto banana bread mix is completely self-explanatory, but shoppers may disagree.

And remember, if they’re confused, they won’t purchase.

You can do this research a few ways:

  • Informal chatting with shoppers at your farmers market stand or in-store demo
  • Online services like usertesting.com and UsabilityHub.com
  • Sending an email survey to your email list with carefully chosen questions
  • No customers yet?

As you talk with them, you’re going to be listening and watching for confusion, frustration, and curiosity. What questions are people asking about your products? Those are the questions your PDP needs to answer.

Ok, Let’s Get Down to Writing Your Product Description

Once you’ve got your strategy nailed down and you know what questions you need to answer, here’s how to write and format your description.

A short paragraph that paints a picture

Remember when paper catalogs were a thing? (Tip: they still are, and quite profitable for some businesses too!) Each item would have copy that described it in cutesy, imaginative terms. With consumers’ shrinking attention spans and competition for SEO primacy, those descriptions have all but become a thing of the past.

But don’t write off romance copy yet.

If you’re a Parsnip brand, then I assume you’ve got an amazing, wholesome product that’s a far cry from the CPG giants racing each other to rock bottom prices for sub-standard goods.

If you’re not competing on price, that means you’ve got to sell more than just a widget. You’ve got to sell an experience or an outcome.

You’ve got to sell productive workdays, not just coffee.

You’ve got to sell peaceful afternoons, not just ready-to-eat after-school snacks.

You’ve got to sell slow summer evenings on the porch, not just all-natural ice cream.

Your first short paragraph of text is a chance to do just that. Paint a picture of life that’s a little sweeter with your product in it.

In writing Beauty Bar Chocolate’s copy, I focused on what the special ingredients do for you.

Outcome-focused bullet points

Bullet points have been proven to make it easier for readers to skim longer sections of text. And that’s good - you always want to make it easier for readers to absorb your message. So don’t be shy about using bullet copy in your product descriptions.

A couple quick recommendations:

  • Group your bullets by category with headings for each one, such as “5 Ways to Use our Herbal Face Wipes” or “The Key Ingredients that Set Magic Skin Serum Apart.”
  • Focus each bullet point on a benefit, not a feature. Here’s an example of a benefit-forward bullet:

Soothe irritation and get glowing skin with rose water

See how desirable that makes the ingredient? Now here’s the same bullet, but with the feature as the focus:

Infused with rose water, which can help soothe irritation

It’s not bad, but it’s not great. And when you’ve got one chance to make the sale, you want great, not good.

When it makes sense, elaborate on the benefit of each feature.

The Basic Facts – As Many as Possible

The vast majority of buying still happens in a retail setting. Even though 100 million people have Amazon Prime accounts, and ordering everyday items like clothing, diapers, and groceries online is now mainstream.

Just because it’s commonplace doesn’t mean ecommerce businesses aren’t still losing sales to their brick and mortar competitors.

So remember that when you’re writing your product pages: you’re still trying to sell someone something sight unseen. Un-felt. Un-sniffed. Un-tried on.

It’s not enough to say a skirt “hits above the knee”. Take the extra time and get those extra details into your description: What’s the skirt length in inches, how tall is the model, what’s the fabric, will it be opaque, will it arrive wrinkled… giving your customers a heads up helps relieve their anxiety about ordering something, not liking it, having to return it and then start all over again.

Counter Culture Coffee uses simple descriptions, but then they add helpful visual details below, along with a bit more story.

Other Things to Include on Your Product Page

Reviews

In that vein, I always recommend my clients allow for customer reviews on the product page.

Hearing about size, fit, and quality from third parties does wonders to increase your credibility and help new customers feel more at ease clicking “Add to Cart.”

Shipping and Return Policy Information

You might think it’s enough to have this on your FAQ or Customer Service pages, but shoppers will often be checking for shipping details and your return policy when they’re deciding whether to take that last step and click Add to Cart.

So make sure you make these logistics easy to find!

Related Products

Sometimes a product just doesn’t hit home. Save those visits that are on the brink of abandonment by suggesting products that might be a better fit. This is a great opportunity for cross-sells and upsells too, especially if your products are meant to go together (Bread and jam, swimsuit tops and bottoms, picnic baskets and blanket…).

Jeni’s uses a simple, traditional product description and a clever yet not-overwhelming related products banner.



So remember: painting a picture with a short paragraph, using outcome-focused bullet points, and including very clear facts about your products are all great ways to write product descriptions that stand out in a crowded marketplace.

When you include these elements in your product descriptions, you’re equipping your potential customers to buy with confidence.