You’re writing, and writing, and writing. You’re polishing your category pages. You’re toiling over countless product descriptions. You write for humans, while always keeping one eye toward search engines.
But let’s admit it: Sometimes you wonder, is your copy working hard enough? Are you persuading web visitors to buy?
Let’s look at six ecommerce copywriting mistakes that might be costing you business and explore how you can fix them.
Mistake #1: Too much product focus
This mistake is easily made. Even experienced copywriters make it.
As a salesperson and business owner you’re excited to share how special your products are (of course!). You want to talk about unique features and splendid specifications.
But you know what? Your buyers aren’t interested in all these features and specs. Buyers want to know what’s in it for them. Each time you list a feature such as a thread count of 400, pair it with a benefit such as for a luxurious feel that provides a better sleep.
A product feature is a fact about your product, while a benefit explains what’s in it for the buyer. A benefit explains how your product increases pleasure or takes away pain. And that’s exactly what your customers are most interested in.
Your oven, for instance, might have a fast preheat system (feature) which makes you more relaxed about getting dinner ready in time (this benefit is an increase in pleasure—feeling more relaxed) and it makes cooking less stressful (this benefit is taking away the pain of stress).
Before you start creating your product pages, outline a comprehensive list of features and benefits. Consider benefits that increase pleasure and benefits that take away problems, pain, and hassle. Planning what you need to write helps you write more persuasive copy, and it helps you to write faster.
Mistake #2: Meaningless drivel is soiling your pages
Formerly top-shelf words like “world-class”, “market-leading”, and “innovative” are used so frequently they’ve lost much of their impact. Now they’re just filler—taking up space without adding meaning.
Put on your devil’s advocate hat, and ask yourself for each sentence and each word: what does this mean? If you can’t come up with a specific answer immediately, then cut or rephrase until your text is concrete and meaningful.
❌ Meaningless drivel: "Innovative office chairs from a world-leading manufacturer."
✅ Try instead: "Office chairs with lumbar support used in over 150,000 offices in the US."
Meaningless drivel distracts and wears your reader down. In contrast, facts and figures increase your credibility. Where possible, include numbers and write them as digits (7) rather than words (seven) because numerals stop wandering eyes.
Mistake #3: You’ve taken an adjective overdose
Adjectives help us to explain what our products look like (appearance), what they do (features), and how they make our buyers feel (benefits). In moderation adjectives are useful, but an overdose gives your reader a headache, because it makes your content hard to read. An example:
This relaxed, romantic collection of beautiful cookware has a unique look, up-to-date yet completely classic with a result that’s perfect for your kitchen.
The problem with so many adjectives is that it slows your reader down and confuses them. What about simply saying:
This romantic cookware collection suits most kitchen styles.
When using adjectives, follow these essential best practices:
- Use only one adjective before a noun. Rather than relaxed, romantic collection, go for romantic collection.
- Don’t use adjectives to state the obvious. Don’t simply describe what a product looks like if you’re showing it on a picture.
- Choose sensory or emotional words. They make your reader feel something. Words like nice, good, or effective are rather bland. Opt for delightful, dazzling, or tantalizing instead.
Too many adjectives make your copy slurred and incomprehensible, but in moderation adjectives make your copy compelling and magnetic.
Mistake #4: Over-reliance on factual information
When potential buyers read stories, they forget they’re being sold something. Their barriers to your sales messages go down and your content becomes more engaging and persuasive.
People don’t think in abstract terms and facts. Our brains are wired to think in stories. Stories make your content meaningful as they help your readers visualize using your product.
"Facts give stories substance. Stories give facts meaning." —Lee Lefever
A story can be ultra-short. Imagine you’re selling an office chair with lumbar support. You can tell a simple story about a customer who tries different chairs and continues to suffer from back pain. Meet Sarah. Sarah finds it hard to concentrate on her work. She paces around during meetings. She’s grumpy.
Then one day Sarah buys your chair and after just 1 month her back pain is finally gone. Her colleagues notice she’s more cheerful at work. Her boss remarks she’s more productive. And when she gets home, she’s not as tired and cranky as she used to be. Even her dog notices it.
A simple story can help potential buyers visualize the benefits of your products—especially if they’re complicated; but stories also add personality. You can tell stories about the development, testing, or sourcing of your products to make your products more fascinating or to increase the perception of quality.
Follow these tips to apply the seductive power of mini-stories:
- Learn from investigative journalists. Dig deeper to uncover fascinating details. Talk to your suppliers and customer service representatives. More importantly, talk to your customers. The more you learn the more stories you have to tell.
- Keep your stories concise and concrete. Focus your story on just one simple idea.
- Avoid the obvious. Tell unexpected stories to engage, entertain, and sell.
We’ve all been educated to focus on data, figures, and facts. Facts increase the credibility of your product description, but facts on their own don’t make your content persuasive. Facts are cold. Facts don’t have soul or personality.
The most persuasive product descriptions include both story and fact. Stories engage your reader, while facts help justify their purchase.
Mistake #5: A complete lack of personality
Many big-box ecommerce sites sound like what they are: big corporations without a soul. They don’t connect, they don’t engage, they hardly sell the value of the products they offer. They simply provide bread, butter, beer, and toothpaste.
But nobody likes chatting with a faceless corporation. Nobody likes ringing a soulless call center. So why create text that sounds like a dull corporation?
To connect with your readers, you need a dash of personality on your ecommerce site. Think about your tone of voice—if your website was a real salesperson talking to a customer, how would you like her to sound? What stories would she tell? What jokes would she crack? Which words would she choose?
"Copy is a direct conversation with the customer."
Before you define your tone of voice, consider who you are writing for. Try to visualize one buyer and consider how you’d talk to her in real life. Don’t sound like a big corporation. Be human. Because that’s how you engage potential buyers.
Mistake #6: You edit in less than 5 minutes
Professional copywriters can’t write in one go. They plan. They write. They edit. Unless you’re superhuman you need to carefully edit your content.
Imagine you’re talking with your favorite customer. Now, read your copy aloud. Is your favorite customer laughing at your bombastic phrases? Does she start to glance at her phone because you’re boring her?
Re-write and polish your text until you’re able to persuade your favorite customer to buy your product:
- What objections does your favorite customer have to buying your product? Have you addressed each objection?
- Price can often be an issue, so be sure to justify your price by explaining how much value your customer will get.
- Check your engagement level. Is your content focused on your customer? Count the number of times you’ve used “I”, “me”, “we”, and “us” versus “you.”
- Ensure you’ve included a benefit for each feature.
- Cut unnecessary words. Reduce the number of adjectives. Kill adverbs like “just,” “really,” and “actually” because they don’t add meaning.
- Read your text backwards as this makes it easier to spot spelling and grammar errors. Even better: ask a colleague or professional to proofread your text for you.
Whether or not you’re a good writer doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re a good editor and that you understand the differences between crappy, good, and great copy. Once you know what makes copy good, you can get to work to improve yours over time.
The truth about ecommerce copywriting
Many big ecommerce sites treat their web visitors like numbers. You have a huge opportunity to be different. To be human. To have personality. To engage and delight potential buyers.
Your starting point should always be your ideal customer. Sell the benefits he enjoys. Always remember who you’re writing for. And don’t speak at him. Instead, try having a conversation. Give advice. Be helpful and engaging. Customers will reward you for it.