Ecommerce: The Writer's Role in Conversions

Successful Web copywriting that results in conversion demands that a multitude of elements are met: Not only must copy be clever enough to draw customer attention; the use of appropriate keywords is critical to helping customers find what they want during search. Further, because they can't see and experience the product firsthand, Web copy must provide functional and technical details, including product features and benefits - all while being succinct. Considering the metrics that define a successful conversion rate are so slight to begin with (2012 data from Marketing Sherpa indicates that retail/ecommerce sites have an average conversion rate of three percent, media/publishing sites average 10 percent, while the software industry sector averages seven percent), there's little room for copywriting errors in the battle for online customers. 

Here are five common ecommerce copy mistakes all writers should avoid to ensure their Web copy contributes to a site's best shot at maximizing conversion.

1. Forgetting feelings 

Behind every computer, smartphone or tablet device is a human being who has grown accustomed to an online cultural norm that encourages and invites them to share feelings and emotions, by way of online reviews and comments, social media and digital images. If you're not inviting the human experience into your Web copy, you won't tap into a key aspect of the online Web experience users have come to expect. Instead of simply listing product features and benefits in your copy, strike an emotional chord, telling the user how the product will reduce their pain (whether tangible or intangible), increase their pleasure or otherwise boost their quality of life. The writer's role is to understand and appeal to the target audience's motivations, challenges, wants and needs. 

2. Being dramatic and generic

It's a fact that customer attention spans are more limited than they've ever been before; the successful Web copywriter understands that the right word choice captures this fleeting mind share, if only for a few seconds. That said, dramatic language is only as valuable as the picture the copy creates in the mind's eye. Consider the difference between a "the best money-saving tip," and a "tip that will save you $500 this month." One feels generic and exaggerated; the other feels relevant and personal. Which would you choose? 

3. Ignoring pressing customer questions 

How do you know what the customer wants to read in Web copy? Read the site's customer reviews. Amazon's Jeff Bezos famously provides customers with his email address and forwards their feedback to the appropriate Amazon employee with a question mark. Successful ecommerce copywriters will take the same approach: If customer comments note sizing discrepancies, or concern about a product's material, size or functionality in their post-purchase reviews, there's an opportunity to address the matter proactively in copy. This will ultimately boost the chance of conversion, and ideally, reduce the likelihood of product exchanges and returns.

4. Forgetting best practices 

The job of a successful Web copywriter is to understand where creativity is welcome, and where it's hindering conversion. A key aspect of successful ecommerce is helping customers feel the sense of familiarity with a site to complete the desired action - whether it's signing up for a newsletter, adding a product to their ecommerce basket, and/or completing the checkout process. The more you can replicate the language that is consistent with the best practices other ecommerce leaders use in the "call to action," the more familiar customers will feel with your site. 

5. Using similar descriptions 

You may sell identical products to your competitors, but using the same copy a site has already published, or using a "stock" product description provided by the product manufacturer, is a sure way to hinder conversion - even the online prominence of the site on which the product is sold. As KISS Metrics points out, producing duplicate content reduces the chances that the product will show up in a customer's search, and could even lead to the site being "penalized" with a reduced search engine ranking for publishing content that isn't unique. Even when it seems there's nothing new to say about a product, the successful Web copywriter finds a way - or risks jeopardizing conversion.

Regardless of the industry or product served, Web copywriters play an integral role in the success that any online entity will experience in the high-stakes game of attracting prospects. By following these basic standards of Web copywriting, you'll boost the odds of conversion success for every ecommerce site that puts their faith in your talents.

Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay a credit card processing firms, helping ecommerce platforms find the right payment solutions. Kristen also serves on its Board of Directors and has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.