The Right Way to Write Product Descriptions

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Looking to move merchandise on your website? Follow these lessons to boost sales of mattresses and sleep accessories online

When visiting a brick-and-mortar mattress store, shoppers can touch a bed set, feeling the creamy texture of a ticking and the resilient firmness of cushion layers. They can eye the straightness of seams to assess quality and can lie down to determine if the mattress offers the right comfort and support. While shoppers rest-test, they can hear if the mattress crackles and can give it a sniff to ensure cleanliness.

In short, in-store shoppers can use almost all of their senses to help them choose a mattress.(If any Sleep Savvy readers have caught a customer trying to taste a mattress, tell us about it. On second thought, we don’t want to know.)

But when shopping online, consumers lose the benefit of using multiple senses to evaluate their options. If you sell sleep products online, you must fill in the informational gaps for them. One way to do that is through informative, compelling product descriptions.

On the following pages, we’ll give you tips for describing mattresses, bases and sleep accessories in ways that will encourage your online visitors to click “Add to Cart” with confidence, knowing they are purchasing products that will give them a great night’s sleep.

What to say — and what not to say

Consumers go online both to research products and to buy them, so you need to provide as much information as possible about the items you sell. Yet it’s a balancing act: You want to answer all the questions consumers might have but in a compelling way that encourages a purchase. After all, buying is what e-commerce is all about.

More specifically, properly crafted descriptions can increase your conversion rates (turning browsers into buyers), lower the number of abandoned shopping carts at your e-commerce site, reduce product return rates, decrease the number of phone calls and emails from shoppers, and even improve your search engine rankings, according to Danielle Mead in a 2019 article for BigCommerce, an Austin, Texas-based provider of e-commerce services. Mead is owner of Duck Soup E-Commerce, a Los Angeles-based web design and e-commerce agency.

Your vendors often can provide product descriptions you can use as a starting point, though you’ll want to rewrite them — both in terms of language and formatting — to fit your store’s ethos and your website’s structure. Even better is to draft your own descriptions. “By writing your own copy, you avoid being penalized by Google for duplicate or thin copy,” says Nicole Martins Ferreira, a content marketer for Oberlo, a division of Ottawa-based Shopify that helps e-tailers with drop shipping. “You also improve your chances of writing a product description that converts your customer.”

For most products, your descriptions should start with a brief — emphasis on brief — paragraph or two that appears alongside a photo. As Mead says, “This is your opportunity to be a little creative and establish a voice (personality and tone) for your brand. … Just imagine you’re at a party, telling someone you’ve just met about the product. How would you describe it so that they’d understand how great it truly is?”

Keep paragraphs short, just two or three sentences at the most, and focus on the strongest features and benefits of each product.

To hit the right note, think, “How does your product make your customers feel happier, healthier or more productive? Which problems, glitches and hassles does your product help solve? Don’t sell just a product, sell an experience,” says copywriter Henneke Duistermaat.

When writing these storytelling paragraphs it can help to start by “imagining your ideal buyer,” writes Duistermaat in an April article for e-commerce services provider Shopify.

“What kind of humor does he or she appreciate (if any)? What words does he use? What words does he hate? … What questions does he ask that you should answer? Consider how you would speak to your ideal buyer if you were selling your product in-store, face to face,” she says. “Now try and incorporate that language into your e-commerce site so you can have a similar conversation online that resonates more deeply.”

A good way to craft such language: If you have brick-and-mortar locations, ask your retail sales associates what descriptors they use when selling certain products and incorporate those words and phrases into your online product descriptions.

Be careful to avoid throwaway words, Duistermaat cautions.

“When we’re stuck for words and don’t know what else to add to our product description, we often add something bland like ‘excellent product quality.’ That’s a ‘Yeah, yeah’ phrase,” she says. “As soon as a potential buyer reads ‘excellent product quality,’ he thinks, “Yeah, yeah, of course. That’s what everyone says.’ Ever heard someone describe their product quality as average, not-so-good or even bad?”

Instead of vague adjectives, focus on features and their benefits, just as you train RSAs to do when talking to shoppers in the store. 

As we noted at the beginning of this article, shoppers can’t touch products online the way they can when browsing in a brick-and-mortar store. Help them better imagine the products they are viewing online by using “sensory words,” Duistermaat says. Adjectives like fluffy, crisp and silky can help consumers understand how products feel.

To help consumers feel more connected to a product, use “you” sentence constructions that encourage them to imagine themselves enjoying the item.

“Help your customers envision themselves using your product. Make them part of your product’s story,” Martins Ferreira says. For instance, to describe a cooling pillow, you might say, “With this pillow, you can say goodbye to disruptive middle-of-the-night flipping as you hope for a cooler side. You’ll sleep soundly, thanks to a pillow core and cover material that stay comfortably cool throughout the night.”

And if there are interesting stories behind some of the items you sell, be sure to include them. Is one of your pillows made with U.S.-grown cotton? Paint a picture of where that cotton comes from and how it helps create a soft, natural pillow.

Be careful to not oversell products by making unrealistic or unsubstantiated claims, warns Martins Ferreira.

“Saying a product is free when it really isn’t is deceptive,” she says. “Saying your product is of the highest quality when you have countless complaints about the product quality isn’t going to trick people into liking your product.”

And don’t be afraid to address in a straightforward way product features that might be considered flaws.

“For example, if several people notice that the material is thinner than expected, you can mention that in your copy without drastically impacting sales,” Martins Ferreira says. “It gives your customers an honest expectation of the product before they receive it.” The key is to acknowledge a product’s potential flaw and then focus on its strengths.

As a practical matter, you also want to write product descriptions that include consumers’ most frequently used search terms, which will help push your product pages to the top in search results.

“By optimizing your product descriptions to include specific keywords, you can help improve your chances of ranking high on Google,” Martins Ferreira says. “Without product descriptions, you may be able to optimize your images for keywords, but your product page may not appear high in search results due to a lack of content.”

Consider your form

How you visually present the information in each product description is as important as what you say.

You may want to follow those initial descriptive paragraphs with bullet points that provide more detail in a format that’s easy for busy consumers to quickly scan. Bullet points, Mead suggests, “should generally be used for specs (like dimensions) or short phrases (like features).”

You also can use bold and colored text to draw attention to key features and benefits, though don’t go wild. Such design techniques should highlight information, not distract or confuse shoppers.

More detailed information about dimensions, components, warranties, etc. often is best presented in a chart that consumers can find either by scrolling down the product page or clicking on a “Product Specifications” or “Product Details” tab that will take them to a webpage with more information.

As with all parts of your website, test your product pages on desktops, laptops and smartphones — both iOS and Android — to ensure your descriptions are easy to read and properly formatted across formats.

Facilitate comparison shopping

No, we’re not encouraging you to send shoppers to your competitors. It is nice, however, if visitors to your e-commerce site can easily compare one mattress or pillow you sell with another. Start by writing and formatting product descriptions consistently. For instance, in your charts of detailed features, always list descriptors in the same order for every product. For mattresses, that might be product name followed by construction type followed by height followed by special features, etc.

You also can build functions into your website that allow consumers to select several mattresses they want to compare directly to each other, head to head, on a single webpage.

Another way to help consumers compare is to create your own scale that places every mattress you sell on a continuum in terms of comfort and support. A number of retailers have had success with such custom scales.

Use others to make the sale

You know the power of word-of-mouth and testimonials to sell products, and product pages are an ideal place to post reviews from happy customers. They typically describe a product’s features and benefits in ways that you might not. That fresh, genuine praise can go a long way toward giving other shoppers confidence in their purchase.

And tout your best-sellers, Duistermaat says. “Most buyers are attracted to buying something that’s popular,” she says. “When it comes to your e-commerce website, highlight the products that are customer favorites.”

Share your passion

Finally, when it comes to writing product descriptions, Duistermaat sums up the key goals to keep in mind: “Share your knowledge about your product. Tell stories and explain even the tiniest details. Make an effort not to be boring and instead delight your web visitors with seductive descriptions,” she says. “Most of all, write with enthusiasm because your passion for your products is contagious.” 


The 5 Ws and 1 H: Questions Your Descriptions Should Answer

When writing product descriptions for items sold online, retailers can follow a rule journalists use when writing news articles — always include the who, what, where, when, why and how to tell a complete story, writes Danielle Mead in a 2019 article for BigCommerce, an Austin, Texas-based provider of e-commerce services. Mead is owner of Duck Soup E-Commerce, a Los Angeles-based web design and e-commerce agency.

We’ve adapted Mead’s examples for retailers who sell sleep products.

    • Who would use this product? The majority of mattresses, bases and sleep accessories suit a wide variety of consumers, but when a product fits consumers’ specific needs, call that out, for instance, telling pregnant women that a body pillow will help them get more comfortable as their bodies change.
    • What are the product’s basic features and functions? Include dimensions, materials and components, as well as features and functions (cooling fabrics, Bluetooth compatibility, washable covers, etc.).
    • Where would someone use this product? This question may be less important for most sleep products, which are used in the bedroom, but you can, where it makes sense, note if a product is especially well-suited to a child’s room, guestroom or second home.
    • When would a consumer use this product? Again, for most sleep products, this answer is obvious — at night, for sleep. But when a product has features that make it ideal for certain circumstances, point that out. For instance, emphasize that a dual-sided pillow with cooling features on one side and a cozy surface on the other side is perfect for year-round comfort and also nice for guestrooms and visitors with different sleeping preferences.
    • Why is this product more useful or better than its competitors? Highlighting features and benefits of each product conveys this information without diminishing the value of other products you offer.
    • How does the product work? This is especially important for adjustable bases (and can be aided by video explainers) but also for products such as two-sided mattresses.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3 — or A/B

Are your product descriptions as effective as they could be? There’s one way to find out: Test them.

Nicole Martins Ferreira, a content marketer for Oberlo, recommends A/B testing, also called split testing, which basically involves creating two versions of your website — one as a control and one as the experiment — and sending half your visitors to each site to see which performs best. (For more on A/B testing, check out https://oberlo.com/blog/ab-testing.)

“Test different formats, lengths, words and more,” Martins Ferreira writes in a January blog for Oberlo, a division of Ottawa-based Shopify that helps e-commerce retailers with drop shipping. “Split testing your product descriptions can help you optimize your product page to improve your conversion rate.”

You may find that the paragraph and bullet point format that works well for most retailers isn’t effective for you. Or you might discover that a version of your site that allows consumers to easily compare products leads to 20% more purchases than a site without that feature. You’ll never know unless you test.


Photos and Videos Help Tell the Story

Photos that show sleep products in their best light and videos that explain important features can go a long way in helping to sell items online.


Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines and as a publications director. She is a past editor in chief of both Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. She can be reached at japalm623@gmail.com.

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