Years ago, our sales manager asked me, "Do you know what's worse than having a bad product?" And he answered my questioning look with, "Having a good product, but not saying so."
This is actually one of the most common mistakes online stores make. They focus on the template, take care of the user experience, and then forget to provide a concise, compelling description of their products. They rely on sparse product sheets that don't explain much, are often copy-pasted, and in some cases, even use machine translation.
It's easy to imagine how potential customers react to product sheets like these: they're not tempted at all to make the purchase
An online store's product sheet is a decisive factor in terms of conversions: if you don't want all your efforts and investments to be in vain, don't underestimate their importance.
Follow the best practices we've put together to create truly effective product sheets: which can not only answer all of your potential customer's questions, but also convince them to click on the "Buy" button and make their purchase.
In this article, we'll look at:
- What a product sheet is, and why it's so important
- The anatomy of a product sheet: everything you need to include
- Product photo and gallery
- Brief description, technical details, and detailed description
- Variables, quantity, and price
- Add to Cart button
- Testimonials, ratings, and reviews
- Related products
- Social media buttons
- Convincing product sheets: copywriting tips
- Emphasize original content
- Invest in quality translations
- Choose your words and tone of voice carefully
- Anticipate responses
- Talk about the benefits, not the products
- Leave room for emotions
- Successful product sheets: tips for User Experience
- Organize information above and below the fold
- Avoid the "wall of text" effect
- Choose your CTAs carefully
- E-commerce product sheets: SEO tips
- Security, speed, and responsiveness
- Title, Title and Description
- Structured data and Rich Snippets
What a product sheet is, and why it's so important
In general, all online stores, regardless of the products they offer, use a rather simple hierarchical structure: they start with a home page, category pages that sort traffic, and finally, the product sheet pages.
A product sheet is simply the page that contains the description of the product for sale. As you've probably noticed, they have a pretty standard format: text is presented alongside images, and sometimes videos. This provides the necessary information to incite the user to click on the "add to cart" button, and complete the purchase.
Because it's the last page the user visits before making their purchase, the product sheet plays a key role: you need to build it correctly if you want to increase your sales.
Here's a tip: think about each product sheet as though it were its own landing page. Don't leave anything up to chance, and take care of every detail. You should be exhaustive, but also persuasive. Your efforts will pay off.
The anatomy of a product sheet: everything you need to include
Think about it this way: when you go into a store, the more the salesperson is available and capable of telling you about the product, the more likely you are to believe them and buy it. On the other hand, if the salesperson is standoffish and unfriendly, you'll be in a hurry to leave and do your shopping elsewhere.
There are no salespeople online. Their job is done by product sheets, although the mechanisms at play are the same. The better the product sheets, the more your customers will be likely to make a purchase.
So what are the key elements in a product sheet? Let's find out.
The title's job is to welcome and inform: usually, the title of an online store page corresponds to the name of the product or service. This is an important element: try to use the words which people might use to search for the product, rather than its particular features (brand, color, etc.), but make sure to always be concise.
Product photo and gallery
Images have the advantage of immediately drawing the user's attention. Emphasize high-quality images and insert as many as necessary to showcase the product from every angle. Customers are unlikely to purchase products they can neither touch nor see.
Here's another tip. To overcome even the most skeptical users' reluctance, try to include videos as well as images.
Brief description, technical details, and detailed description
Visitors viewing a product sheet are looking for information. Seeing a photo isn't enough: before purchasing, they'll want to understand everything there is to know about the product. So the description must be both clear and exhaustive.
Careful! First, make sure the text isn't copy-pasted: Google will spot this right away. Second, don't stuff the product sheet with too much information: organize it into an initial, brief description, followed by technical details, and then add a more detailed description if necessary.
Variables, quantity, and price
Imagine a clothing store: for each product, the customer will want to choose the size and color, and they also might be interested in buying more than one item.
Don't overlook these variables. Make sure the user can identify them as easily as possible.
Also, remember to clearly display the price, the VAT, and any discounts: the user wants to know all this information when deciding whether to make the purchase.
Add to Cart button
The entire product sheet is designed to channel the user's attention here: this is the button they'll need to click to proceed with the purchase.
Make sure the button is very visible, and use a clear CTA (call to action). Add everything that might help push them to click on it: free shipping, discounts, delivery times, ease of purchase, secure payments, guaranteed returns, etc.
Testimonials, ratings, and reviews
As we mentioned earlier, people are looking for information that supports their decision to make the purchase. It has been proven that in this phase, they tend to give a lot of credit to the testimonies of people who have already bought and tried the product.
So make sure to include customer reviews in your product sheet: they are reassuring, and can give the visitor the last push they need to complete the purchase.
You have the attention of the user who is viewing your online store's product sheet. Why not seize this opportunity to show them other products for sale in your store? That's exactly what the "related products" section does: it introduces them to new resources, and may convince the customer to add more products to their shopping cart.
Here's a tip. Carefully examine correlations to make sure that useful products are suggested to the user: you'll get better results.
Social media buttons
These days, we tend to share everything we like or that seems interesting to us. Encouraging this trend can be a way to gain indirect advertising and make your online store visible to a wider audience. So don't forget to add social media share buttons.
Convincing product sheets: copywriting tips
If you review the elements that make up a product sheet, you'll notice how many texts and micro-texts you'll need to prepare: titles, brief descriptions, technical details, calls to action, etc. Don't underestimate the importance of this content: these are the words that will convince customers to make the purchase. So you need to be thorough but not overly wordy, and be engaging and convincing. Above all, remember that you're not just writing for your customers, but also for search engines.
Here are a few tips for successful copywriting.
Emphasize original content
The bigger the project, the greater the temptation to copy content from other websites or from manufacturers' catalogs. You must resist this temptation, though. The success of your online store depends on it.
Search engines severely penalize copied or duplicated content, while rewarding original, high-quality content. Plus, if you're just copying text from elsewhere, you're losing out on the chance to implement a few persuasive levers that could help increase your sales.
Invest in creating unique, original text for each product sheet: maybe start with your most important products, then complete all the rest later.
You can use the same descriptions only for products that differ in size and color, but in this case, make sure to add canonical tags to these pages.
Invest in quality translations
Writing original text is always the best solution, but if you decide to translate text made available by foreign producers, at least make sure that you're providing good translations.
There's nothing worse than text that's hard to understand or that has grammatical errors: users will immediately recognize machine translations, and they'll think the company who published them is unprofessional. Your credibility depends on it!
Choose your words and tone of voice carefully
You don't just need to know your products well, you also need to understand the people you're talking to: this will allow you to know what to say, and to find the best words to do so.
Try to establish a direct dialog, using clear and simple language while maintaining a tone of voice that's consistent with the brand's positioning. Unless you're working in special sectors, like luxury items or very formal businesses, you can address your customers informally, to be more personal and engaging.
Put yourself in your potential customers' shoes: what information would be useful to them, what would convince them, what might bother them, or what might they ask?
Try to anticipate them by immediately providing all the necessary information and answering all the most common questions up front. This will result in more persuasive text and - another advantage - it will reduce the amount of time customers need before deciding to make a purchase.
Talk about the benefits, not the products
There's a famous quote by Philip Kotler, one of the world's most influential marketing experts:
"People don't want a drill machine, they want a hole in the wall"
What does that mean? It means that in reality, people aren't buying a product: they're buying a solution to their problem. Sometimes they're buying a better version of themselves, or the social prestige that derives from purchasing an object.
That's why the product sheet copy shouldn't only describe the product's technical features: these are important, but they should be accompanied by the main benefits that the product guarantees. In other words, talk about the hole, not just the drill!
Leave room for emotions
Although we're convinced that our decisions are completely rational, neuromarketing reveals that our decisions are much more influenced by cognitive bias and emotions than we'd like to admit.
Understanding these mechanisms can help you create more persuasive text. In general, if you can transform the benefit resulting from the purchase of your product into an emotion, you'll achieve a higher level of customer engagement and you'll significantly improve their likelihood of making the purchase.
Successful product sheets: tips for User Experience
As we saw earlier, there are many elements that go into a product sheet. You'll need to organize the text, images, and "buy" buttons in a way that gives everything the right emphasis and leads to the final goal: finalizing the sale.
So here are a few useful tips to help you best organize your product sheets, and therefore guarantee an ideal user experience for your online store's visitors.
Organize information above and below the fold
Only a more or less consistent percentage of users who arrive on your page will read it all the way through and truly view all the content on it. This means the top part of your product sheet is crucial.
The part of the page that is immediately visible in the first scroll is often referred to as the part that's "above the fold". This limited space should include everything that is most crucial for the customer:
- brief description
- price and payment information
- "buy" button
What about all the rest? That goes below the fold, or after the first mouse scroll. If you succeed in capturing the customer's interest with the information placed above the fold, they'll scroll down and you'll be able to cement their decision with the content located below the fold.
Avoid the "wall of text" effect
Like a physical store, the product sheet's page should look attractive and welcoming: customers should feel at ease and enjoy browsing through the content on offer, finding everything in its place, exactly where they would expect it.
Avoid creating pages that are too full and crammed: make empty space your ally in creating a balanced, airy feel. Try to make your pages easy to read and help them load quickly: use titles and bold font wisely, organize your text into paragraphs, and use bullet points or numbered lists where possible. This improves legibility, not just for your users, but also for the search engines.
Choose your CTAs carefully
A product sheet's call to action is represented by the classic "Buy" or "Add to cart" buttons.
As we mentioned above, the customer's attention should converge upon this element, to encourage them to click and proceed with the purchase. Given its importance, it's never a bad idea to run A/B tests, if possible, to find out which version of the button leads to more conversions. In any case, it's good practice to make sure it's highly visible, easy to click (including on mobile, where there's less space), and located close to all the elements that can help make the sale: guarantees, discounts, etc.
Online store product sheets: SEO tips
When creating your online store's product sheet, you need to consider not just your potential customers, but the search engines too: Google, Bing, and Yahoo - to name just the largest ones - can in fact become your best allies in bringing relevant traffic to you, meaning new potential buyers.
So, here are some best practices for optimizing your product sheets that you can't do without.
Security, speed, and responsiveness
Regardless of the optimizations you'll make on each individual product sheet, there are also some tips for SEO that apply to the entire online store.
Let's start with security. Data tells us that more and more people are shopping online, but in order for them to do so, they need to feel safe. The most important thing an online store should do, therefore, is display the SSL certificate that allows the transition from HTTP to HTTPS.
Careful! In July 2018, Google started to flag sites that still used HTTP protocols as unsecured, making the transition to HTTPS basically mandatory for everyone, not just site owners handling sensitive information and financial transactions, like with online stores.
If you want to learn more about this topic, read Google's guide on Protecting your website with HTTPS protocol.
The second factor to consider is your pages' load times. Not only are users unwilling to wait, many search engines also demand fast-loading pages.
Amazon, for example, knows that there's a correlation between its performances and its sales: it estimated that every extra 100 milliseconds spent rendering the page results in a 1% loss of sales. That's why, despite the thousands of products in its catalog and a Home Page that isn't at all minimalistic, Amazon makes it all load in barely 1 second!
Final point: responsiveness. If we consider that over 33% of purchases in Europe are made via smartphone, and that this trend is growing, it's clear why any online store must be optimized for mobile browsing. Even in conditions of low connectivity, pages should always be lightweight enough to load quickly, and all elements should be easy to read and click.
Title, Title and Description
These are the first three elements you should take care of to optimize your product sheet.
First, you should set up the title tags (Header): remember that these serve to organize the page's content, and are divided according to their priority, with H1 indicating the main title, down to H6 for any notes or additional details. Your product sheets should include the product name under H1 and use H2 for the name of the brand and secondary keywords.
Next, create a unique tag title for each product sheet. The tag title specifies the page's title, and it's very important because it will be linked to your site in the SERP (search engine results page).
Tag titles should be no longer than 70 characters, and begin with the key word. Depending on whether your online store sells one brand or multiple brands, and on the weight of the brand, you can try to structure your tag title as "Brand | key word" or "Key word | Brand".
Finally, pay attention to the meta description: although Google doesn't directly use this element to increase the PageRank, it is often displayed in the SERP snippet. If it's persuasive, it will have a positive influence on the CTR (click-through rate), or the percentage of clicks.
Highlight benefits (discounts, free shipping, etc.) in your meta description and don't forget to insert a call to action.
As we mentioned, a product sheet absolutely must have images, for a very simple reason: if you want your online store to be successful, you need to try to satisfy your customers, and since your customers can't physically touch the products, they'll at least want to see it up close and from different angles.
Once you have them, make sure they are optimized for the web:
- Crop the images so that they are not larger than they need to be, and reduce their weight as much as possible by saving them in the most appropriate format: JPG for photos, GIF for animated images, PNG to maintain transparency. Try out different options until you find the best ratio between image weight and quality.
- Rename the image files using the names of the products they portray: use keywords within the file names to improve your positioning.
- Insert the ALT text tag for each image: you can use both the product's name as well as a few secondary keywords.
Especially if you have a lot of products and/or many images, this optimization process can be rather long and onerous, but remember:
- Reducing the image weights contributes to faster load times for your pages: this is important both for improving navigation, especially on mobile, and as a factor for positioning.
- Optimizing product images can help direct organic traffic through Google Image Search.
Structured data and Rich Snippets
A good title and a valid meta description will give you a SERP snippet you can be pleased with, but competition is so fierce that it's worth taking an extra step. Use the microdata provided by Schema.org (a standard supported by Google as well as Bing and Yahoo) to create Rich Snippets.
As you can guess from the name, Rich Snippets are snippets enriched with extra elements like stars, number of reviews, and prices.
Rich snippets, like meta descriptions, don't have a direct effect on page rankings, but they definitely catch users' attention and make your message more compelling, increasing your total CTR.
Now that you've learned how much you can do to optimize your online store's product sheets, you're ready to get to work. Of course, if you haven't begun working on your online store yet, there's plenty of information available about how to get the best start: choose the version of WebSite X5 that best suits your needs and create your virtual storefront today. Your customers are waiting online.