An eCommerce website is any website which sells goods or services online from a single vendor. Not to be confused with marketplace platforms like Amazon or Etsy which host products from multiple vendors, eCommerce websites are standalone and personalised to a particular store or brand. These ‘digital shops’ allow businesses to market the goods or services they have on offer to a wider audience, facilitating growth and increasing profits.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve built your website yourself using an eCommerce platform like Shopify or if you’ve hired a web developer to do it for you, you’ll still need to fill out every page with quality content to promote your brand and start turning clicks into sales. But how does what you say and how you say it affect customer engagement?
The power of written content
Words. Are. Powerful. That’s the jist. But why? Written content is there to educate potential customers about what your business has to offer and build up their trust. The entire eCommerce sector is centred around the transfer of funds in exchange for something, so if the language you use is inaccurate, inconsistent or incomplete, trust breaks down and sales are lost.
The words you use on your eCommerce website can also impact your rankings on search engines like Google. In an effort to reward quality content, Google assesses websites and analyses a number of written content metrics, including word count, keyword usage and duplicity with other websites. Providing the bare minimum or copying written content from existing websites tells Google that you aren’t dedicated to meeting the needs of your customers and results in a ranking penalty.
Working in a digital design agency, we regularly see brands with the potential to dominate their sector due to the unique products or innovative services they offer, but their language choices hold them back. Unleashing the power of accurate, thorough and trustworthy written content, optimised for search engines and tailored to your brand, is one of the fastest ways to grow your business. So, where should you start?
Define your target audience
eCommerce gives businesses a wider reach; rather than physically visiting a store, patrons browse and purchase online from wherever they are situated. No brand can successfully appeal to everyone, which is why it’s even more important to truly understand your audience and the group or groups of people to target. The best way to go about this is to ask yourself the following question – “Who needs what I’m offering?”
The use of need over want in the previous sentence may seem like a strange choice, but it’s no accident. When you understand what a customer needs, you understand their motivations for buying your product or service.
Say you sell expensive statement jewellery on your eCommerce website, your first thought might be “My customers don’t need this, they just want it!” But why do they want it? What problem will you solve in Jenny’s life if she buys one of your remarkable necklaces? Perhaps she feels like a wallflower – people are always speaking over her and the necklace will serve as a reminder that Jenny is actually rather extraordinary. In which case, the group of people you should be targeting are those seeking a means to express their vibrant personalities. This should become your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
As you can see, it’s not all about demographics. Yes, measures like gender, social class and age are useful markers for understanding who visits your website to make a purchase, but once you’ve defined the needs of your customers, you can start honing in on how to attract them with words.
Define your tone of voice
No matter what you’re selling, your brand should have a distinctive tone of voice. If used consistently, it will build trust and rapport with your customer base by personifying your brand and evoking particular emotions. The impression you want your brand to make should be closely tied to the needs of your target audience, so a good place to start when defining tone of voice is to think about what kind of business your customers would want to work with.
Let’s return to Jenny in the example above, who’s seeking an extraordinary necklace to make a statement about her personality. Would you adopt a formal tone to give the impression that you’re a jeweller who’s accomplished and sells high-quality pieces, or would it be better to embrace enthusiasm through passionate, energetic and bold statements, since she seeks something eye-catching and different? Well, we think the answer is both…
Tone of voice continuums are a great tool for helping you to determine a direction to take for your brand and considering several at once can add real depth to your written content. At Create8, we use three continuums when defining tone of voice for the brands we work with. These are: Formal/Casual, Serious/Fun and Calm/Enthusiastic.
We consider each dimension independently first, considering how the brand wants to come across as well as what might appeal to the target audience. Check out the continuums below to see where we think our example jewellery store falls:
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Formal language conveys professionalism which can be useful for businesses if they want to appear functional, accomplished and an authority in their field. A casual tone, on the other hand, appears friendly, accessible and relaxed, which could help to build rapport with customers. Both have merit for a business like our jewellery store – and that’s why we think in terms of continuums rather than absolutes.
So, the tone of voice we would adopt in this instance would be more formal than casual, more fun than serious, and considerably enthusiastic. This, in theory, portrays the brand’s personality as being somewhat unconventional, as well as accomplished and passionate about the remarkable, upscale jewellery pieces it sells.
Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is and the tone of voice you’d like to use in communications, you’re almost ready to start writing! But first, let’s talk about writing with purpose…
The different types of written content on eCommerce websites
An eCommerce website typically has more webpages than informational websites, simply due to the nature of eCommerce, and understanding the purpose of each page on your website is fundamental to creating quality written content.
Let’s start by considering the pages on your website. At a minimum, your site map will look something like this:
Each page on your website has a different purpose. The ‘Home’ page, for example, acts as a face for the brand, whereas the ‘Product’ pages market individual items or services. When determining page purpose, it’s helpful to split written content into two distinct categories: informational content and marketing content.
Informational content: The purpose of informational content is to provide customers with details about your brand and website. It’s advantageous to include brand-related information (e.g. ‘About’ page or ‘Our Story’ page) on your eCommerce website because it will help to establish rapport with your audience, especially if you utilise an appropriate tone of voice. It’s also sensible to include service-related information (e.g. ‘Contact’ page or ‘Troubleshooting’ page) to ensure your site is easy to navigate and your service easily understood.
Marketing content: The purpose of marketing content on eCommerce websites is to encourage customers to actually buy something. Whether you’re describing products accurately, thoroughly and in an engaging way on your ‘Product’ pages or featuring snappy promotions and giveaways on the ‘Home’ page, quality marketing content is the most likely type of content to convert customers into buyers.
Ready, set, write!
We’ve covered the who (target audience), how (tone of voice) and even why (purpose)… but what about the what? What should you actually write on each page of your eCommerce website?
We recommend starting with brand-related informational content (e.g. ‘About’ page or ‘Our Story’ page) – tell your visitors exactly who you are and why your business exists. Be sure to adopt your decided upon tone of voice to start solidifying your brand’s persona and better appeal to your target audience. Remember that the purpose of brand-related information is to give details about what you have to offer and build or maintain relationships with potential and returning customers, so include your USP here.
Written content on eCommerce ‘About’ pages varies by industry, and what you choose to write will depend entirely on the nature of your business and your personal preferences. Here’s a few ideas to get you started: Company History, Company Values, Mission Statement, Production Process, Meet the Team.
The insider trick is to keep it simple. If your content is long-winded or overly complex, visitors will lose interest. If you fail to tell them why they need what you’re selling at every possible opportunity, they’ll have to infer it for themselves and only the most desperate will proceed through the purchasing journey.
eCommerce Website ‘Home’ page
Your ‘Home’ page should include both brand-related informational content and marketing content. It’s the first page your customers see when organically visiting your site, so it needs to make a great impression. Be engaging! Sing about what makes you unique in an eye-catching heading and plaster calls-to-action all over the page, just don’t forget to be consistent with your tone of voice.
Strapline: A short, snappy version of your USP (10 words or less).
e.g. “Jewellery as unique as you.”
Blurb: An engaging summary of the company and its products or services. You can use snippets from the ‘About’ page here if you’re struggling (30 to 80 words).
e.g. “Every piece of jewellery in our store is entirely unique and has been handmade by our award-winning contemporary jewellers using only the finest materials. From the intricate and ornate to the wonderful and wacky, we have what you need to Make Your Statement.”
Sticking to the tone of voice we defined earlier, our ‘Blurb’ has complex sentence structures and industry standard language to keep the tone more formal than casual, but we’ve upped the enthusiasm and fun with descriptive adjectives and a hashtagable phrase (“Make Your Statement”).
At least 3 short summaries of products, services or categories worth featuring. Change these regularly to ensure you’re marketing a variety of things and keeping it fresh for repeat customers (10 to 30 words each).
e.g. Introducing the Wild Collection: Characterised by swirls of vibrant colour and distinct geometric shapes, this collection pushes every boundary. Go on, drive yourself wild… Shop now!”
Calls-to-action: Calls-to-action are links to other pages on your website. They usually follow on from features (e.g. “Shop now!”) but can also stand alone (e.g. “Join our newsletter”) (2 to 5 words each).
Testimonials: Depending on the nature of your business it might be beneficial to include testimonials from happy customers on your ‘Home’ page (maximum 3 testimonials of no more than 80 words each).
‘Category’ pages are an essential part of your eCommerce website. They display all of the products or services within a particular group on a single webpage which makes them ideal for visitors who are unsure about exactly what they want or are just browsing. Well-structured ‘Category’ pages with high-quality written content typically get more traffic from search engines than ‘Product’ pages because they rank better for keywords.
Since ‘Category’ pages allow customers to compare similar products before making a purchasing decision, it’s necessary to include useful, comparable information for each visible product, including product name, product specifications and price. Depending on the nature of your business it may also be beneficial to include additional information, such as stock availability, customer rating and shipping details. The more useful information visible from the category page, the better, but be sure to avoid low-effort content or overuse of keywords, as readability should always be at the forefront.
It’s good practice for each ‘Category’ page on your eCommerce website to be topped with a banner that includes the category name and a short description in your tone of voice. Filters are also worth implementing because they allow your customers to narrow down the products visible on each ‘Category’ page based on specific criteria (such as colour, size or price).
Arguably, ‘Product’ pages are the most important on your eCommerce website because they represent the stage in the purchasing journey where customers decide whether to add a specific product to their shopping cart or not. The quality of written content can make or break a conversion in much the same way as the quality of images can, so it’s vital to give accurate and thorough information and correctly implement your tone of voice so as not to break down trust. Do not change information (e.g. product name or price) from how it appears on ‘Category’ pages, as this will cause confusion.
Product descriptions should include all product features in an easily digestible format. Some businesses choose to use bullet point lists because they can be skim-read, but this isn’t a necessity so long as you follow some golden rules:
Do some keyword research to see what people are searching for in relation to your product or service and include these in your product description – this will help you to rank higher on search engines. However, be careful of keyword stuffing as it will impact readability and discourage potential customers. For more information on keyword research, check out this helpful blog: https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research.
Talk about benefits
Don’t just focus on product features, let your customers know how the product or service will benefit them. Use powerful descriptive adjectives to trigger an emotional response.
e.g. This 12 carat gold chain with elaborate sapphire pendant is perfect for special occasions, or even day-to-day wear if you’re feeling adventurous!
Be honest: Exaggerating benefits or fabricating information may help to secure sales initially, but it will soon come back to bite you. You’ll lose repeat customers and gain a reputation for being dishonest which will massively impact conversion rates.
Don’t be a copycat: Never use product descriptions provided by your manufacturer or taken from a competitor as duplicating content results in a search engine ranking penalty.
You should always check your written content for spelling mistakes and dodgy grammar. Error-free content is easier to read, boosts credibility and improves search engine rankings.
‘Contact us’ page
Service-related informational content (e.g. ‘Contact us’ page or ‘Troubleshooting’ page) helps customers to understand and navigate your website and/or business. Include helpful information such as contact details, opening times, delivery information and FAQs. You should still implement your tone of voice, but dial back the emotive language and get straight to the point with technical information.
Leave it to the professionals
Recognising the importance of high-quality written content on your eCommerce website is essential to gaining and retaining customers and growing your business; underestimating its power risks you falling behind your competitors and losing out on a huge chunk of profits.
Writing impeccable content is no easy feat, so sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Hiring an experienced content writer may seem like an unnecessary expense but the pay-off is definitely worth it.
Are you looking for a digital design agency to develop your eCommerce website? Or do you need help producing superior written content that turns clicks into sales? Contact Create8 today by following the link below and our team of Manchester-based creatives will be happy to help.