How to Manage Customers’ Expectations with Product Descriptions
What are the main expectations of a person browsing your site? They want to find something awesome, buy it, and feel confident about their purchase. This sense of confidence is based on the notions of product quality and delivery from their experience as online shoppers.
The secret to managing customers’ expectations lies in giving just the right amount of information in just the right place, so the customer not only becomes interested in making a purchase, but also willing to make the transaction.
One of the means of managing customers’ expectations is product descriptions, a versatile and much-discussed component of ecommerce. So stick around for a bit and find out how to make your descriptions fulfill their two primary duties: inform and convert.
How to inform your customer
This blog post, or the Printful blog in general, is a link in the chain of managing our customer expectations. If you’re our customer, we manage your expectations, and then you, in turn, manage the expectations of your end-customers.
How does one do that? By supplying customers with relevant information that makes them feel secure, usually in the form of shipping and return policies, terms of service, and product descriptions.
And because we (Printful and you) are so closely linked, you should get to know how things work on our side, so you can communicate it on your side. So here’s a quick recap of the parts of the Printful model that can influence what you want to communicate to your customers.
The Printful model
Keep in mind that Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipping service. We fulfill the product only when an order has been made.
We don’t keep all of our products in stock at our warehouse, so when we get an order for a product that isn’t in stock, we order it from our suppliers. This is standard procedure in the drop shipping industry, and it’s included in our fulfillment time.
Fulfillment takes 2-7 business days. We ship nearly 98% of our orders within 5 business days, and more than 50% of our orders are shipped within 3 business days or less.
Then you add shipping times on top of that, and get an estimate of when your end-customer will receive their order.
However, an estimate’s an estimate, and unpredictable external causes sometimes beat statistics. So, when calculating shipping times, don’t oversell them. You can even add one day for safety — your customers won’t mind getting their order earlier than anticipated.
You don’t have to, but we suggest telling your customers that their products are made to order. Let them know there’s going to be a bit of a wait, but turn it into an advantage by stressing that their products are custom-made rather than mass-produced.
Bonus: go behind-the-scenes
If you choose to give your customers details about the fulfillment process, you can take it a step further and build even more credibility by providing production photos and/or videos of the products you sell. This will also help your customers get a better visual idea of how their custom products are made on-demand.
While providing such behind-the-scenes footage might not be possible for all fulfillment services and suppliers that you use, here at Printful we’ve created a gallery full of our photos and videos to help your customers get a closer look at how products are made.
Once you’ve downloaded the photos and videos, you can use them to your liking! Add them to your product listings, incorporate them in your About Us page, or use them in email and social media promos.
View the gallery and download production footage for your store!
Proactive problem solving
For third-party services like Printful, there can be some bumps in the road. Products can get lost or damaged during fulfillment or in transit, or go out of stock.
So, sh-… life happens, but then you fix the problem. For example, if an order is lost in transit due to a carrier error, we offer a refund or a reshipment.
When it comes to stock, as a store owner, you can’t predict the stock issues of your fulfillment service. Sometimes your fulfillment service will also experience problems they hadn’t predicted, either.
If a product’s out of stock at Printful, it means there’s an issue with our suppliers and you’re likely to experience delays. In this case, it’s a good idea to inform your customer that there’s an unexpected stock issue that will prolong delivery time.
However, there are some things you can do to minimize the possibility of stock-related hold-ups and keep your store running as smoothly as possible. Check out the video below to learn more.
Bonus tip: if you have huge volume, you can try ordering products in bulk and storing them at our warehouse for faster fulfillment.
The way our stock works is also reflected in the Printful Terms of Service page: “All delivery estimates given at the time of placing and confirming order are subject to change. In any case, we will do our best to contact you and advise you of all changes. We try our best to make Product delivery as simple as possible.”
Your customers appreciate having all the facts, so study Printful’s policy, subtly let them know about the possible hiccups, and reassure them that you’ll stay in touch and won’t leave them hanging.
It’s also essential that this info is easy to find on your store. Generally, it’s found on separate pages (Policy, Terms of Service) that are linked in the header and/or footer of the website. You can also link to the pages in your email campaigns, during checkout, and, yes, even in your product descriptions.
Monki did a good job here, not going into all the technical details in that tiny product description space, giving people time to get excited about the product.
Check out the Startupvitamins (below) example of product descriptions (below). The information is cleverly divided between tabs. One tab gives the basic product specs, the other explains shipping, returns, and tax, and the third contains the creative description which urges the buyer to grab the product.
Writing product descriptions that sell
Imagine someone’s browsing your store. They come across a thumbnail of a product and click on it. They’re directed to the product page. They look at the product photo, the price, and the description. And in a matter of seconds they’ve decided whether to buy it or not.
When writing product descriptions, think of that person and those precious seconds.
What makes a product description work
David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, has said:
I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me you find it “creative”. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.
This can be applied to product descriptions, too. More to the point, Ogilvy’s statement hints at the fact that “interesting” depends on context. “Creative” may not work for your audience. Overly wordy, witty, or quirky copy can distract them or bore them.
The role of context in product descriptions is also emphasized in one research conducted by Conversion XL. They found that for tech products it’s clarity in text and formatting that works, but design-type products get results with longer copy where format isn’t crucial.
Yet product descriptions aren’t just miniature ads, they’re also manifestations of your brand voice and an SEO tool.
“Some companies do product copy so well that it’s almost a feature of the product itself,” Conversion XL have observed. So your copy should be as good as the product or better. As for SEO, Google can’t see images and doesn’t think fondly of duplicate content. If there are several websites with the same product descriptions, Google will think they’re poor quality.
Conclusion? Product descriptions need to be researched, worked on, and re-worked. So you can see why mastering the art of the description is such an investment.
Product description tips
Your first step towards product description glory is changing Printful’s default product descriptions. Our descriptions give you the product details, but you should rewrite them so they match your style and customer needs.
Here are some product description writing tips and tools to get you started:
- Use the Coschedule Power Words Tear Sheet to add some emotion and appeal to your copy.
- Do a keyword search to help you become more search-engine friendly.
- Add a small dash of literary devices such as alliteration (a truly terrific tee) or metaphor (time is money) to liven up your text.
- Let your copy breathe and make it readable: give it plenty of white space and use bullet points.
- Check the natural flow of the text by reading it out loud.
- Make sure the copy is contextually relevant to your target audience.
- Remember that the copy goes hand in hand with everything else on the page.
Keep your customers happy
Now that you’ve scrolled to the end, hopefully, you’ve developed a sense of the many-sided nature of the product description.
On the one hand, it’s a powerful element on your store that can either drive your potential customers away or invite them in. On the other, it’s a tool you can use to manage your customers’ expectations and let them know that they’re in good hands. And on top of it all, it’s an important SEO vehicle.
In this day and age, word-of-mouth has been partially replaced with likes and shares. So make sure to speak to your audience in their language and remember that context is king.
Once again, don’t worry about being creative, worry about making sales and what that entails for your store. To keep you going, I’d like to sign off with another brilliant line from Mr. Ogilvy:
The Benton & Bowles agency holds that ‘if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative’. Amen.
Do you have any words of wisdom or thoughts you’d like to share? Let it all out in the comment section below!
This article was originally published in May 2017; it has since been updated.