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When Less Is More

Tidy up those item descriptions to increase the chances of a sale.

There was a time when lengthy explanations and exhaustive declarations were needed to convince wary online lookers to bid or buy. Today, savvy shoppers know a good deal when they see one, beginning with a satisfyingly succinct, yet persuasive product description. Here are the keys to presenting concise and compelling item descriptions that quickly convince buyers your goods are exactly what they’ve been looking for—without the long-winded pitches.

Buyers’ time is precious—don’t waste it

By today’s nanosecond pace, folks are on the go, in a hurry and somewhat less patient when it comes to long-winded sales pitches. When it comes to their shopping, be it for necessities or whimsical indulgences, they’re reluctant to spend too much of their valuable time try to make a purchase decision. What buyers want are details, quickly and clearly stated, plus supporting elements like photos to help solidify their understanding of the item for sale.

Within mere moments, they can decide to make a purchase, and complete a transaction with just a few additional mouse clicks. Many such purchases occur within the span of five minutes or less. Therefore, if your item descriptions are too lengthy and lope along before getting to the point, the shopper will likely lose interest before reading the third sentence.

You have to communicate quickly, with near-urgent purpose, to improve your potential to tender a sale. Read on to see how today’s enlightened sellers make the most of those precious moments with customers.

Give them the facts, fast

Before you craft your product description, take a no-frills assessment of the item itself. Rather than think of clever and creative ways to descriptively dress up the bauble you hope to sell, see it for what it is and describe it plainly and honestly. Be sure your item descriptions speak to these key points:

  • All distinguishing and authenticating details
  • Details of item completeness or lack thereof
  • Any and all imperfections
  • Provenance of the item (where you got it, how long you’ve owned it, and so on)

Most buyers have thoroughly researched the items they seek, well before coming upon your listing. If you’re vague about your item details or otherwise ambiguous in representing it, the savvy buyer will move along to seek another offering from another seller. Therefore, give buyers the facts up front (including relevant keywords in your item titles, whether at auction or on a fixed-price sales site) so they can quickly decide if you have the right stuff.

Be sure your text looks as good as it reads. Use short sentences and simple language

Yes, grammar still counts

As trite as it seems, spelling and grammar do count. Misspellings and poor sentence structure will slow down shoppers, causing them to struggle to understand sloppily crafted descriptions. Use a computer-based spelling and grammar checker if you need, and dig out the dictionary when your electronic resources fall short. Though it can be a tough pill to swallow, understand that your skills in the written language will have direct reflection upon you and your business, for better or worse.

Make it easy on the eyes

The physical appearance of your product description is of equal importance to its content. In other words, be sure your text looks as good as it reads. Use short sentences and simple language. If you need to use multiple paragraphs, keep each to about three sentences and use visual paragraph breaks to make the description more legible. And, if you plan to use HTML coding for your description, be sure to use a font style that’s easy to read, a font color that doesn’t clash with the background, and a font size such that isn’t painfully tiny or overwhelmingly large.

A quick hook can still help

Don’t fret that you’re forbidden from including a certain amount of “sales appeal” to your descriptions. Though you’ll want to get to the point when presenting the facts, there’s still enough room for a bit of pitch that could entice a sale. A good sales “hook” might incorporate the following:

  • A bit of nostalgic language or phraseology that’s suited to the item’s time period
  • A reference to a current trend, such as the revived interest in items like yours
  • A bit of humor that might invoke the sort of fun or whimsy your item represents
  • Historical events or styles that account for the manner in which your item was designed or manufactured
Include moderately sized images (about 2 megapixels) to ensure they’ll load quickly

Though you don’t want to distract or annoy your buyers with excessive promotion or hard-sell verbiage, recognize the persuasive power of a brief sales hook. Keep the hook to a single sentence if you can, or no more than two.

Close the deal with a photo finish

Of course, a good photo is still worth the proverbial thousand words. Include moderately sized images (about 2 megapixels) to ensure they’ll load on screen quickly. If it’s important that your potential buyers be able to view exploded views, consider an image hosting service to store large-size photos for a buyer’s more detailed inspection, if they choose. Usually one good photo can properly accompany textual details to present a full representation of the item. Additional pictures can be included if specific details need to be shown.

Things to avoid

As a final point of review, avoid the following as you craft your item descriptions:

  • Overtly verbal stinginess, as found in objectionably brief one-liners like “Item as pictured”
  • Intentionally ambiguous language that sidesteps or otherwise avoids disclosure of pertinent details
  • Use of subjective language, for instance: “This is the best you’ll find for sale anywhere.” This adds nothing to a buyer’s understanding of the item.

If ever you wondered about the need for concise and direct engagement of buyers, recognize that succinct yet thorough communication is essential in addressing today’s breed of online shopper. Well-paced engagement and information sharing is key to your sales success, as it brings the benefit of improving the perception of you and your business, too.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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