I know that most bloggers tend to just write about blogging unto itself, but today, in honor of the fact that we’re right in the heart of the
Christmas Holiday buying season, I’d like to talk about what makes a good online store, and how so many companies do such a poor job that they are losing sales left and right.
I’ll start out by showing what is perhaps one of the worst online stores I’ve seen in a while, Sled Warehouse. Don’t tip off my son, but we’re looking for a tri-ski sled for him because he’s just that kind of young lunatic and we have a nice sledding hill right behind our house. Digging around, we found two locations online that had the kind of sled we sought, Sled Warehouse and Highlights for Kids.
But while Highlights has a reasonable page of information for their PT Blaster Sled, Sled Warehouse seems to have forgotten the entire area of product descriptions. See for yourself by going to this page and clicking on the “PT Blaster” image.
You’re doubtless expecting some useful information about the product, perhaps a description of its components, ideally a customer review or two, and a larger picture. That’s not what you get, though, and that’s why their site is so poor and why I would be unsurprised to find that they have a very low visitor to customer conversion rate.
Now, while we’re looking at product descriptions, it’s worth pointing out that as companies have gone online, they seem to generally have forgotten how to write compelling descriptions of products. Exhibit A is Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP), a generally troubled company anyway, but am I the only one who remembers getting these splendid catalogs with personal descriptions of each of the featured products by [recently ousted/resigned] founder Richard Thalheimer? Now their site is yet another database-driven shopping destination that’s just as boring as all the others.
Consider this cool 7-inch portable DVD player, which should be incredibly easy to write about. But as you see if you go to the page, the site doesn’t even have a description, instead just including a tedious set of bullet points highlighting features.
Didn’t the online team at Sharper Image get the memo that people buy solutions, not features? Sheesh.
Sharper Image is hardly alone in this, however. Consider how Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) describes a very similar portable DVD player:
“Entertainment deprived? Take one tablet and enjoy. The COBY TF-DVD7050 7″ TFT Portable Tablet-Style DVD Player is the latest advance in portable DVD player design. Its thin monolithic design is easy to carry and use. Lets say you’re going on a long trip with the family. Set this DVD player in the back seat and your kids will be fully entertained (for the length of the DVD). Use the built-in rechargeable battery (lasts about 2 hours per charge) or plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter (DC car adapter is included). The 7-inch diagonal screen can easily be held at a position you find most comfortable. In addition to playing DVD, you can also play CD audio discs including CDR and CDRW with MP3 files. Listen through its 2 built-in speakers or simply plug in an optional headphone for private relaxation and enjoyment. COBY TF-DVD7050 is a tablet that is possibly therapeutic. Audio Output – Coaxial Digital Out ,3.5mm Headphone Jack Speaker Output – 2 x Stereo Speakers Color System – NTSC (PAL compatible) Power Supply – DC 7.4V AC Adapter Screen Control – On screen display Jack for adding an optional headphone for private listening Multiple Subtitles/Viewing Angles Built-in Anti-skip Circuitry Convenient On Screen Display programmable menus”
Starts off really well, but after a sentence or two, it’s all about tedious feature listings (which, ironically, would be better presented as a bullet list) and nothing that sells me on the product.
Fortunately there are some online retailers who really understand how to sell, rather than how to describe features, and there’s no better example than the amazing, fun, and entertaining J. Peterman Company. Here’s a potentially boring product: Irish Fisherman’s Sweater.
Before you click on the link, how do you think the copywriters at Amazon.com would try to sell this sweater online? Or Victoria’s Secret (which, once you stop staring at the beautiful models, is a surprisingly boring and pedestrian commerce site)? Or even Sled Warehouse?
J. Peterman really, really gets that it’s not about features, though, and here’s their wonderful description:
If you have an online store, you should be asking yourself what you need to do so that your product descriptions are so wonderful, so that your text really is helping to sell your product rather than just describe it.
And doesn’t that sweater just look and sound so darn cosy for these cold winter days?
The point here is that while it’s pretty straightforward to pour data into a Yahoo Store template and even get some pictures up and online, the benefit of having someone who can write some creative prose about your best selling products can really reap great benefit and transform your online sales from moribund into delightful.
Oh, and from an SEO perspective, wouldn’t you rather be perceived as cool, linking to a hip store like J. Peterman than something boring and tedious like Amazon.com anyway?
Not convinced? Read this wonderful description, or this one to see really splendid product copywriting in action.
Now, you with online stores or product sales, what’s your excuse for not having something equally engaging and compelling?