How to create rich product information, in five simple steps

June 7, 2011

Boden's delicious summer layouts

 

I’ve been trawling Etsy, the handmade craft website, in search of nice stuff for a friend’s new baby, and I noticed a real variation between the mini-boutiques. Some I’d be happy to buy from straight away, no question.  Others are sending lots of worrying little signals that the product or the service simply aren’t going to be up to much.

There are a million and one reasons why a physical product may not sell well online.  A lot of these (like current trends and your competition) are well outside your control.

The one that is firmly in your control is the way that you showcase your products online.
Unless you’re simply providing something at the lowest price, your product information has to
actively sell your product to the person browsing your site. You’re not there in your lovely
boutique, using all your friendly powers of persuasion – it’s just pixels. So what do you do?

Here are five steps to providing information that reassures your customer and motivates her to buy.

1. Use photographs that capture the physical appeal of your product

This is basic, but still not everyone does it.  You need high quality images, probably taken from several angles (for example, the front, the back, the top).  It’s great to be able to click through to view the image in greater detail, so that the viewer can spot details like the fabric weave or the stitching.

If you’re selling clothing or accessories, it’s very helpful to see the product being worn.  The UK fashion site ASOS uses small catwalk videos to demonstrate how their clothes look.   They use models but if you look closely, you’ll see that they also tell you the model’s size and height so that you can calculate how it might look on you.  Don’t use grumpy sad models unless you’re selling high fashion. Grumpy sad babies are just heartbreaking.

Asos tells you exactly how tall and thin the model is

2. Provide all the practical information. Nicely.

Customers need colour, dimensions, specification, care instructions…if you can provide good detail here, you’re removing another layer of customer anxiety about buying.  Check out ASOS again, for their elegant display of somewhat boring information.

3. Signal product availability, if that’s an issue

You can use this to communicate limited editions (only 3 left!), or signal low stock and your replenishment cycle, if there is one.  White Stuff (UK women’s clothes) gives a stock indicator for every item, which stops customers from putting something in their basket and then finding out right at the end that they can’t actually buy it.

White Stuff's stock level information

4. Show clear price and shipping details

If you can’t send it overseas, I need to know as early as possible so that I can move on.  If you’re sending something delicate that requires lots of packaging and therefore high postage costs, I need to know. Lay it out clearly.

5. Add a dash of social proof

The social proof isn’t so much numbers, as some evidence that other buyers liked the product and would recommend it. Testimonials are reassuring. Press coverage is great, as are endorsements by the right kind of well-known user.

Good reviews, in an open review system, can be very powerful.  White Stuff and Boden provide detailed customer reviews, which presumably also provide the parent companies with a stream of powerful customer research.  Keep in mind your brand position when thinking about the right kind of associations: you can do creative stuff here.

Take action: Have a look at your site and see if there are improvements that you can make to the product information, that will reduce uncertainty in your buyer’s mind. Selling a service, not a product? I’ll cover that in an upcoming post, but much of the same advice applies.

Want advice? Leave a comment below with a link to your online product and I will give you some feedback on what’s working and how it could improve.

This is a real change in blogging style for me, so I would love your feedback.

If you have a site which you know is underperforming, take a look at my Web Clinic service, where I can help you work out why and where your site is losing customers.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy June 7, 2011 at 10:18 pm

This is really useful information, as it shows *what* to do and why other ways are problematic.  Regardless of what your product or service may be, there are tips for how to present it so that the reader/viewer (ahem: prospective buyer!)  has no obstacles to keep them from plunking down their payment — and that their experience is going to be pleasant all the way through.

Love this post!  Thanks :-)

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Anonymous June 8, 2011 at 9:41 am

I enjoyed reading this, lots of great information! Thank YOU! 

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Julia Gersen June 8, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Love this post!  Especially the mention of the etsy world of handmade since it is where I shop and sell.  As a seller it is hard to really see my own products through the eyes of a buyer so this is all really great to think about!  I’d love your honest feedback on my etsy shop for MommaFix fair trade kids products.  The link is: http://www.etsy.com/shop/denisejacobsohn.  Such a great help, thanks!

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Ali Mac June 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Hi Julia!

Love your babies and kids, they are adorable, and the photos are beautifully styled.  I think you’ve got four things to think about.
 
1. making the single item view with alternative photos as good as it can be

Make sure you have a definitive shot that shows the whole of the outfit with details – occasionally the photos aren’t very clear – and ideally make that the main photo. Other photos are lovely and as you’ve done it’s good to have some worn by a model and others just shown flat.  Check out Boden’s listings for inspiration.

2. using clear titling above the items

The first few words is all that shows in your gallery listings, so I’d make the start more precisely descriptive and leave the quirky to the end or as the start of your detailed description underneath. So with ‘Can I get a lime with that?’ I couldn’t work out from the photo what it was you were selling.

3. detailed descriptions of individual items

There is lots here and you give loads of detail.  It can be hard to scan so if possible use some bold text or subheadings to break it up. I looked around Etsy, quite like this one and this one.  You don’t want it all corporate but you do want it clear.  Get someone to check the text as it occasionally has errors or little style quirks.  The C A P S style comes across as a bit odd.

4. how items are organised

You may not have much control here, but I’d check with your customer.  Clothing, dresses, shawls might be better than an age-driven listing.  Or it might not! 

As a potential customer, I’d also be keen to know more about the fabrics and your inspiration.  Very nice work, though, you have a lot to build on.

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