Retail copywriting that persuades is more essential than ever before. Today’s consumers have shorter attention spans, less brand loyalty, and seemingly infinite choices when they shop (either in-store or on your eCommerce site). The right words can turn shoppers into buyers, and finding the formula that works for your brands is critical.
Let’s have a look how you can craft copy for your retail business that will do just that.
Great retail copywriting touts benefits, not features
When you’re invested personally and financially in a product, it can be easy to slip into the trap of feature-laden retail copy. After all, you spent months sourcing and developing that incredible shatter-proof yet flexible clear covering that’s on your newest product. It’s only human to get caught up in things and figure everyone else will be amazed by it, too.
Sorry, but they’re most likely not. They are, however, very interested in how that new clear covering can change their lives. Instead of talking about the feature itself, focus on how it increases safety. Or how it will be easier to clean. Or that it creates greater longevity for the product. Just don’t talk about the special acetate formula that led to it.
Veteran copywriter and marketer, Daniel Caughill of The Dog Tale, uses this example to illustrate why benefits—not features—should be the story.
“Don’t say your food processor has Three-Blade Hyper-Speed Functionality—say it will pulp a carrot in three seconds. Don’t talk about how your baby stroller comes with E-Z Click Car Fasteners—let people know it goes from stroller to car seat in five seconds.”
Bottom line: translate features into benefits that resonate. And don’t get lost in a sea of industry terms that only company insiders will understand.
Great retail copy prompts action
On the floor of a physical retail store, it’s all about notching sales. Copywriting for online retail / eCommerce is no different. You’re not trying to make people think about something they might remember to buy in six months. There’s a reasonable chance they may never return to your eCommerce store. You need to craft messages that will close the deal.
That’s why a sense of urgency is vital. If it’s a sale item, make sure buyers know it’s only available at the special price for a limited time. FOMO is a terrific motivator for a buyer who is on the fence. Only a few items left in stock? Let people know that as well. Saying exactly how many are left is a great tactic—just don’t overdo it or people will start to think you’re not being truthful.
For long-term success, you need to use urgency in the appropriate measures. If you’re always having 24-hour sales or screaming that inventory is low, buyers will begin to tune out and ignore your messages. Great retail copywriting feels like you’re sharing some valuable inside information, not shouting at people like a street barker.
Great retail copywriting sparks emotion
Yes, you need people to buy your stuff. But your messages need to be about more than just, well, your stuff. Think about why your product will connect with someone. What will it communicate about them? How does it fit into their identity? And how does it make them feel?
Maybe that sounds like too much existential mumbo-jumbo for you. But outside the most basic household staples, just about every purchase people make comes with an emotional component.
Josh Strawczynski, founder and Managing Director of JMarketing Agency, explains, “It’s the emotion that sells, not the product itself. People don’t get excited about owning a new car because it contains 557 differently shaped pieces of metal. They get excited because of the emotional value they attach to it. The feeling of power, success and status. When writing, those are the emotions you are trying to unlock, and you do this by painting a picture of how your product solves their core problem.”
It’s not always easy to tap into the emotions surrounding a purchase decision. Admittedly, it’s easier when it’s an automobile instead of a brand of laundry detergent. But there are emotions attached to nearly every purchase—and everything else in life, for that matter—and you need to tap into them.
The Importance of Storytelling
Great copywriters often leverage storytelling to create this emotional connection.
What does that mean?
It goes beyond feature / benefit writing and create a story around your product that your customers can relate to. It communicates in your brand’s voice and helps tell your overall brand story.
Have a look at this product story from Shinesty:
It creates a fictional and humorous backstory that wraps around the features of the product. Its copy is fun, irreverent, and communicates this shirt is for fun people. Their buyers can connect to that, and that makes them more likely to buy.
Great retail copywriting instills buyer confidence
Now that we’ve covered positive emotions surrounding a purchase decisions, let’s talk about a negative one, and learn how retail copy can combat it.
You see, whenever we buy something, we question ourselves. It’s part of being human. Is this definitely the right one for me? What if I wake up tomorrow with buyer’s remorse? Should I do more research just to make sure?
Fact is, there is no shortage of consumer anxiety—hello, global pandemic—out there in the world right now. Finding ways to address the questions and doubts that creep into the minds of every buyer will make your retail copy stronger and more effectively.
Here’s more from Strawczynski of the JMarketing agency.
“In the buying phase, our brains are looking for reasons not to purchase. We are fearful of making the wrong decision, of leaving value on the table. What if a new version is released next month, what if the store runs a sale, maybe a competitor has a better product. A good writer identifies these underlying anxieties and writes to overcome them. This frees the consumer’s mind, reducing anxiety and inching them closer to purchase.”
When you’re writing or reviewing retail copy, don’t think only about what will motivate consumers to purchase the product. It’s just as important to think about what will stop them. Ask yourself what will sow doubt and identify the barriers to purchase.
If your product carries a hefty price tag, you may need to reinforce the lasting quality or unique characteristics of the product. Is it some kind of new technology? There’s a good chance you’ll have to carefully explain the problem it solves. And if your product is in a highly competitive category against offerings that are similar, retail copy needs to bring the differentiating qualities to the fore.
Finding ways to establish the expertise that’s behind the brand can also help. If the company has founders with profile, make them part of the retail copy. A track record and success with other, similar products can give new items a halo and help persuade shoppers to buy. Your retail copy can build credibility.
Great retail copywriting has personality
While your messaging needs to prompt action, people still want to buy items with identities they appreciate. Most of us don’t like to spend time around people with personalities that we find off-putting—the same can be said when it comes to products. Retail copy needs to create a persona for your product that will be appealing to the people who are most likely to buy it.
As discussed earlier, great storytelling is a powerful way to build personality in your product copy.
Jessica Rose, CEO of Copper H2O, believes that establishing a personality through retail copy is even more important for online brands than items sold in brick-and-mortar channels. She notes that, “Physical retailers have the benefit of actually interacting physically with their customers and showing personalities that way, but online retail stores lack this benefit. As a result, it’s essential to show some personality in your copy-writing in order to differentiate yourself from other sellers and create a genuine connection with your customers.”
When we’re buying online, there are only a few cues that inform you about product personality. Photography and an eCommerce site’s design are important, but a brand may not be able to count on those elements. That’s certainly true if it’s sold on an online marketplace like Amazon or Walmart.com. That means retail copy has to do the heavy lifting and provide personality for the buyer.
It’s challenging. Space is at a premium when it comes to retail copy, so every word or phrase needs to do some work. But the effort is definitely worth it, as Rose explains.
“Based on our own research and experience, we found that adding some personality to your copy can increase customer interest, trust and loyalty. And, that can increase conversions by as much as 30%. You can add personality in many ways, including by just conveying warmth in your copy and showing that you care for your customers and your community.”
Make the investment.
It’s almost impossible to rack up online sales without crafting messages that are at least informative. Make them compelling and your chances of success increase exponentially. In a crowded marketplace, at a time when shoppers have myriad options, getting retail copywriting that works is an investment that pays off.