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How to manage customers’ expectations with product descriptions

By Marianna Zvaigzne on May 12th, 2017 - Reading time: 6 minutes

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 comes from their experience as online shoppers and their notions of product quality and delivery.

The secret of managing customers’ expectations lies in giving just the right amount of information and in just the right balance, 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 talked-about 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.

Part One: Inform

You can think of this blog post, or the Printful blog in general, as a link in the chain of managing customers’ expectations. If you’re our customer, we manage your expectations, and then you, in turn, manage the expectations of your end-customers.

And how do you do that? By supplying your customers with relevant information to make 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 have to know our way of doing things. 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

Firstly, keep in mind that Printful is a print-on-demand drop shipping service. We fulfill the product only when an order has been made. You don’t have to, but we suggest telling your customers that their products are made to order, so they know there’s going to be a bit of a wait.  

We don’t keep all of our products in stock at our warehouse, so when something isn’t in stock, we order them from our suppliers when an order for that product comes in. This is standard procedure in the drop shipping industry, and it’s included in our fulfillment time.

Fulfillment takes 2-7 business days, and we ship nearly 98% of our orders within 5 business days. More than 50% of our orders are shipped within 3 business days or less.

Then you add your shipping times, and you can see an estimate of when your end-customer will receive their order. However, an estimate’s an estimate, and unpredictable external causes sometimes beat statistics.

Tip: When calculating shipping times, don’t oversell them. Add one day for safety, your customers won’t mind getting their order earlier than anticipated.

Expect the unexpected

And for third-party services like Printful, there can be some bumps in the road which can lead to a disgruntled end-customer. 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 Printful’s fulfillment exceeds the 7 day mark, that’s on us, and we upgrade shipping at our cost to make up for the time lost. If an order is lost in transit, we offer a refund or a reshipment.

Regarding stock, as a store owner, you can’t predict the stock issues of your fulfillment service. And sometimes your fulfillment service will also experience problems they hadn’t predicted.

However, the solution to a problem can be just around the corner. The silver lining in the scenario we had was the creation of our Alternatives tool. It helps you prevent out-of-stock issues and keeps your store running smoothly.

The other good news is, there are things you can do to minimize the possibility of stock-related hold-ups:

  • The rule of thumb is, the less popular the product, the greater the risk of delay, so be realistic with your delivery times on your store if you’re selling less popular items.
  • Keep in mind that less common sizes, like XS or 3XL, are more likely to have to be specially ordered from suppliers.
  • Widespread colors like white, black, blue, red, navy, gray, and heather colors are almost always in stock at our fulfillment centers.
  • If you have huge volume, we can order extra stock for you. Visit printful.com and get in touch with us.

These are some of the reasons why the Printful Terms of Service page reads: “All delivery estimates given at the time of placing and confirming orders 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 delivery of products 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 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 even in your product descriptions.

 

monki.com

monki.com

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.

Startupvitamins (below) also has a nice way of separating the types of information into 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.

startupvitamins.com

startupvitamins.com

Part two: Convert

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.

Find out what works…

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 subtly 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.

Let’s call a pot a pot: Home Depot know the value of fact over fiction

Let’s call a pot a pot: Home Depot know the value of fact over fiction

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.

ModCloth are known for their punny outlook on life

ModCloth are known for their punny outlook on life

…and then get to work

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.

Final thoughts

Now that you’ve scrolled to the end, hopefully, you’ve developed a sense of the dual 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 hand, it’s a tool you can use to manage your customers’ expectations and let them know that they’re in good hands.

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!

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  1. Tutuapp

    Now if we talk about description vs actual product what better example could be of games, their trailer and the actual game lol. But really a great article Marianna, indepth and helpful. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    1. Marianna Zvaigzne Post author

      Haha that’s good, the same could also be said about movie trailers – I’ve already lost count of the trailers that turned out to be better than the movies.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you enjoyed!

  2. Patrick

    So would it be enough to prepare description per type of printful product and then reuse it for different graphics or should I create different description per each graphics-product combination?

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Up to you! You could write about your designs in your product descriptions. But the most important factor is to make sure it describes the product itself.

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