copywriting for ecommerce

Great copywriting is more than rattling off a list of features and benefits. Our human brains have different parts dedicated to processing different things. And guess what. The part that processes features and benefits isn’t the same part that makes decisions. The part of the brain, the limbic or reptilian brain, that makes decision is used for processing emotion, not logic. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that people buy on feelings and not figures. That’s why.

What that means for copywriters is that we have to stop appealing to the wrong part of the brain. We need to write copy that incites action from the part actually making the decision. We need to write to connect and no one feels a bond with a feature or benefit. Here are five ways to take your copywriting to the next level by leveraging emotion.

Be Clear aka Respect Your Reader

Recently my husband and I drove by a huge office building on a trip to a neighboring town. Curious as to what type of company needed that much office space, I looked up the address and found its Facebook page. I went to the About Us section to see what they did. Here’s what I read.

We’re making lives better…one interaction at a time. We combine passionate people with powerful solutions. Join us and together let’s change the game!

Okay… that’s nice. But what do you DO? It took going to Google and reading reviews from former employees to find out this company was a call center. (Note: While looking up that chunk of copy I saw a news article that they are closing. I feel like communication was part of their problem. Just sayin’.)

The point is, your readers or customers deserve to know what the hell you’re talking about. As writers, we sometimes fall in love with our words. We use the pretty ones and stand back in marvel when we’ve created that perfect little slice of language – or at least the one that’s perfect in our minds. But you’re not the reader. Chances are (unless you are me) that your audience is not made up of other writers. Writing with respect for your customer means being clear and saying what you mean.

Dan Roam wrote a really good book called Blah Blah Blah on using visuals in communication and, at the beginning, he covers the levels of confusion in writing: blah, blah squared, and blah cubed. One blah is boring, blah squared is confusing and blah cubed is misleading. Good copywriting is none of these things and copy that perpetrates any of the above is not only sub par, it’s disrespectful to your customers. No one wants to do mental gymnastics in the middle of making a purchase decision.

Use Emotive Language

Emotive language evokes emotion from your audience or customers. It’s the difference between saying, “This is a blue shirt,” and “This limited edition tee in a cheerful shade of blue is available at a bargain price.” Yes, the first version is way more concise but it also falls flat as a pancake. The difference is the second sentence used emotional language to make the reader feel some things. Limited edition implies scarcity, which is likely to make the reader feel a sense of urgency. Describing the shade of blue as cheerful evokes a certain level of happiness or satisfaction. And saying the price is a bargain plays up the urgency again while also injecting some sense of safety in the purchase.

Of course, you can definitely take this too far. And try not to go too literal with it. “This cheerful blue tee will make you feel like you are riding upon the wings of a unicorn” is probably a little much. Again, respect the customer by not talking to them like a jackass.

If you’re looking to add some emotive language to your aresenal, Bushra Azhar has a great list of emotive words grouped by the emotion you’re trying to create. It’s a handy resource and great to get the emotional, creative juices flowing.

Be Relevant and Helpful

Don’t talk to your customers about crap they don’t care about. Just because YOU want them to know your t-shirt is made by your buddy Jim in this really cool looking old factory in downtown, doesn’t mean they’ll care. What they’d rather know is how the sizing compares to that of their favorite brand. That being said, some of your customers will care about how your t-shirts are made. That’s where the concept of skimmers, swimmers and divers comes in.

I don’t know who came up with this concept originally but it’s a good guide for copywriters to keep in mind. Skimmers are the people who come to your site and want the nuts and bolts, nothing more. They don’t want to spend a lot of time hanging out with you. They shop like my husband – get in, get what you need and get out. Swimmers go a little deeper. These are the people who look at the product page, read the reviews, look at the sizing, then buy. Lastly, we have divers. These are the shoppers who want to read all of the above, plus visit your blog to learn more about your business and where those darn t-shirts come from.

While figuring out how to present these varying levels of information on a site comes down to UX design, deciding which information belongs where and the best way to convey it often comes down to a copywriter or content marketer. Front load your product descriptions with the most relevant, pertinent information and create helpful resources or buying guides for those who want to take a more in-depth look before purchasing.

Make Them a Star

Storytelling is all the rage in marketing these days and everyone advises to “make the customer the hero.” Often, when we hear this we think about grand storytelling campaigns, especially told via video like this one from GoPro. But it is possible to do this on a smaller scale, even in product descriptions.

For example, if your customers are eco-conscious and you sell a product that’s good for the environment, don’t tout how green your product is – tout how great your customers are for using it. Make them feeling like buying your household cleaner makes them a better mom because it’s safer for their kids. In short: stop talking about yourself. Be the Yoda to your customer’s Luke Skywalker.

Great copywriting starts with customer-first thinking. Crawl inside the heads of your customers and figure out what makes them tick. What makes them feel good? What does winning look like for them? Draw a line between your product and that feeling while honoring their power in the decision-making process and you have copywriting gold.

Hold Their Hand

Your customers won’t know what the next step is if you don’t tell them. For every piece of copy you write, always be thinking, “What do I want them to do now?” Then, for the love of all things holy, tell them. Don’t count on them to see the button below. Don’t throw links to eight other blog posts at the bottom of the page when what you really want is for them to download your ebook. Give them a clear path and point them directly at it.

I recently listened to a keynote by Joey Coleman at Social Media Marketing World where he compared the customer journey to an emotional roller coaster. And he’s not wrong. But one of the ways he talked about alleviating that was by holding the customer’s hand and letting them know what will happen next. So tell them what to do next, and then pave the path for them. Spell out what will happen after they click the buy button BEFORE they click the buy button. A good example of this is listing a delivery date on the product page. They know when they’ll get it before they commit.

Don’t leave your customers in the dark. Use your copy to let them know they’re not alone when they shop on your site, even if you can’t physically hold their hand. (Also, physically holding hands with customers in any capacity is more than a little creepy. Don’t do that.)

Copywriting Isn’t Just Copy Anymore

Do you feel like a lot of what I covered above reaches beyond copywriting? That’s because it does. The days of rattling off features and benefits are gone. If you want to be a copywriter in today’s world, you need to have a deeper understanding of the business and the customer. Copywriting is an essential part of customer experience and your words have the power to shape customer relationships.

As online retail continues to grow and customers are faced with more and more options, great copywriting is needed now more than ever. In a world where we don’t see our customers, look them in the eye or shake their hands, our customers aren’t feeling the love. They are missing the connection. The five methods above are key ways in giving that connection back to our consumers.

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