Alluring photographs are critical to draw shoppers into an item listing. But, once browsers have arrived, the power is in your pencil to turn them into buyers. By using language that is both informative and reflective of your brand’s personality, you have the chance to capture hearts in ways that visuals alone cannot. Let these tips guide you through the process of crafting shop copy that engages and informs customers. The advice focuses specifically on writing great item descriptions, but you can apply it throughout your shop, from your Policies to your About page.
1. Find Your Voice
Your writing voice establishes your shop’s distinct personality or style. When developing a voice, think about your target audience and the image you’re trying to convey to them. Are most of your customers moms with young children, for instance, or teenagers sporting some cool new accessory? Kathy Wesselius, owner of Felix Street Studio, a handcrafted bag business based in Scottsdale, Arizona, says her customers are typically men engaged to be married or women shopping for a gift for their husbands or boyfriends. She tailors her product line and listing descriptions accordingly. For example, she markets a shaving kit bag as a gift for grooms and poses this question in the item’s description: “Are you looking for a classic, rugged, practical, handmade gift?” Since Kathy is older than many of her customers, she occasionally asks her kids for advice on striking a more youthful tone.
Some shop owners adopt a voice that reflects their own personality. Erin Elowe Proctor, metalsmith and owner of Saturn 5 Studio, a jewelry business based in Westminster, California, tries to inject humor into her listings. “I want readers to feel like they’re talking to me,” she says. For example, one of her descriptions for a personalized pendant etched with a pet portrait warns, “You are dealing with a crazy cat lady!” Erin says, “As a shopper, I’m attracted to that. I bought Unicorn Farts lip balm just the other day from an Etsy seller because the listing was so fun to read; I wanted to buy her products and then hang out with her afterwards.” If you’re not sure how to translate your voice onto the page, Erin suggests describing your product aloud into a tape recorder, playing it back and typing down what you said.
Point of view is another key element of voice. It might be tempting to use the “royal we” or third person when describing your products, but doing so can confuse shoppers about who’s creating your products. If you’re a solo operator, it’s best to use the first person perspective in your listings. In fact, it can be a big selling point for shoppers who love to personally connect with makers.
Keep in mind that your voice can – and should – change over time as your shop evolves. Kathy of Felix Street Studio says her shop’s voice has gone from quirky to refined since she started it in 2009. Back then, she was a one-woman operation, so she used the first person point of view throughout her shop. Now that she has a three-person staff, she writes about her shop from a plural perspective. “As my shop and my product has evolved, I have taken a more professional tone,” she says. “I want my brand to be perceived as elegant. Plus, it’s not just me making and shipping and doing everything anymore; it’s a team approach led by me with a very talented staff.”
2. Think Physical
A detailed description can help narrow the gap between shopping in a brick-and-mortar store and buying online. Gittit Szwarc, a self-proclaimed “jewelry engineer” and owner of Knobbly, an Etsy shop based in Tel Aviv, recommends thinking about what information a buyer might be gathering if she were shopping for an item in a physical store. One thing Gittit has learned is that numerical measurements alone tend to be less than helpful, especially when people are shopping for jewelry. “Most people can’t eyeball 1.5 inches and don’t keep a ruler by their computer,” she says. Instead, Gittit uses physical reference points such as “chin length” and “just below the collarbone” to convey size, and then includes specific measurements and other technical information further down in the item details.
3. Get Mobile-Friendly
These days, more than 50 percent of traffic to Etsy comes from mobile devices. That means shoppers are more likely to be experiencing your shop on a smaller screen – perhaps at the same time they’re checking their social media accounts, texting friends and scanning their email inboxes. As a result, it’s more important than ever to create descriptions that are concise and memorable. Include the most important information in the beginning of each listing to draw readers in and to make your shop more search-friendly. (Check out How to Get Found in Search for more detailed advice.) A metaphor or a highly descriptive word can get a paragraph’s worth of information across and entice readers to linger over a mental image, adds Gittit of Knobbly.
Look at your Shop Stats on a regular basis to determine what keywords people are typing in to find you. “If I find that after a few months no one searches the term ‘atomic rocket’ then I use something else. It’s a constant experimentation,” notes Erin of Saturn 5 Studio. To strengthen the selection of keywords, try this trick: Pretend you are a shopper and search for your item using Etsy’s search bar. In a drop-down list, Etsy will auto-suggest the most popular real search terms that buyers are actually searching. Do you see terms in this list that describe your product? Incorporate these words in your tags and titles to increase the listing’s search relevancy and connect with more shoppers.
5. Edit, Then Edit Some More
Show the same quality and care in your writing that you put into your products by proofreading descriptions for grammar, punctuation and clarity. Trim out unnecessary tidbits and do spot checks: Is the writing style consistent with your other listings and the rest of your shop? It can pay to enlist a fresh perspective. “Write a sample description and bounce it off some people,” Erin suggests. “My husband, my mom and a couple of my Facebook fans are often willing to read something for me in exchange for a coupon code.” She’ll ask these helpers, ”Are you bored to tears? Is this too much information? Am I missing something?” She says, “Even if you don’t feel like you have friends who would be willing, you can find people right here on Etsy Teams.”
Editing your work with fresh eyes before hitting Publish can also cut down on customer questions later. Case in point: Erin was writing a listing for an astronaut cat pendant when “Ground Control to Major Tom” started playing on Spotify. The song inspired her to write what she thought was a great description, until she set it aside and read it again later. “I realized I got so into being funny that I forgot to mention how big the pendant was,” she says. “Sometimes writing doesn’t always come through the way you intended the first time.”
What’s the most memorable piece of writing you’ve encountered in an Etsy shop? Share a quote in the comments.
Julie Schneider is a Brooklyn-based artist, writer and teacher. When she’s not writing and editing Etsy’s Seller Handbook, she’s carrying on her family’s pun tradition or crafting up a storm. Keep up with her latest projects on Instagram, Twitter and her blog.