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Don't Build Your eCommerce Business on Flimsy Copy

Steve Geick, Senior Digital Specialist, Metric Digital

Your website is the most important advertisement that will ever be written for your business.

That's especially true if you're an eCommerce shop owner. Your revenue is exhaustively dependent on:

  1. The volume of traffic that flows through your site.
  2. The likelihood that those visitors will convert into paying customers.
  3. Your shop's average order value (AOV).

eCommerce owners are keenly aware of the elements at play when it comes to their online revenue, but certain fundamental building blocks tend to receive far less attention than others when it comes to planning, optimizing, and scaling the online sales funnel.

Website copy is perhaps the most crucially overlooked example.

As video and photography continue to weigh heavily on the minds of everyone involved in marketing products online, there's a tendency to pay less attention to the role that language plays in conveying value and closing the sale.

The wrong approach to website copy can absolutely crater your conversion rate. The damage can also ripple out into AOV, along with having an impact on whether your customers return to your site for repeat business. The wrong approach to writing website copy goes something like this:

  1. Start with the product. Describe it to the best of your abilities (or have an intern do it). List out features and benefits on your homepage and product pages.
  2. Save the emotional storytelling for those links in the footer - the "Our Story" page and press section. Restrict customer-focused content to the FAQ.
  3. Note that your site is not converting as well as you would like it to. Invest in expensive A/B testing software to optimize your conversion rate, and hire someone to run it.
  4. Notice that it isn't making much of a difference.
  5. Have the social media intern take a crack at running your A/B tests.
  6. Conclude that you need a new website. Shell out to have one designed and built.
  7. Time to write copy for the new website. That social media intern has since moved on to their next internship, but maybe they can help out over the weekend.

A/B testing is great - especially for larger sites with the traffic to yield statistically significant results. But the amount of time and money you would need to spend in order to optimize your website experience on A/B testing alone is simply not in the cards for most small-to-mid size eCommerce shops. Haphazard tweaks to the site copy and user experience aren't the answer either. So what is?

The answer is a better starting point.

By building a better starting point for optimizing the website experience, an eCommerce shop owner can effectively decrease their future site optimization workload and financial burden. A product-centric, description-oriented approach, followed by attempts at optimization, will ultimately yield a lower overall conversion rate than a customer-centric approach built on emotional triggers. This is because the customer-centric approach is more likely to resemble your site's theoretical fully-optimized experience.

Whether you're starting from scratch, or revamping your site copy in an attempt to boost conversion rate, here's a simple framework for mapping your website experience more tightly to the psychology of your shopper:

Step 1: Start with the customer.

Interview them. Study them. Offer them free Amazon gift cards in exchange for their time. Read about what other marketers have learned about them. Whatever you do, find out what goes through their head when they're shopping for the types of products that you sell. It's possible that the topics they bring up have little-to-no alignment with the words and sentences that blanket your site, in which case you'll know that writing more appropriately-targeted copy could result in higher conversion rates.

Step 2: Pick your triggers.

Boil down the small handful of critical triggers that determine whether your shopper buys your product. There are tons of great theories about the multitude of emotional and psychological triggers that might play a role in the decision-making process of the modern consumer. Here's a basic list to get you started:

• Relevance

• Scarcity

• Authority

• Proof

• Value of Outcome

• Likability

• Familiarity

• Trust

• Price

• Perceived Competitor Value

• Fears and Uncertainties

You'll notice that some of the triggers above carry a positive value (like familiarity), while others are more negative and prohibitive in nature (like price and perceived competitor value). Pay attention to this dichotomy of motivation vs. friction as it relates to your shopper's experience on-site. What are the forces motivating them to make a purchase? Where are the points of friction preventing them from becoming customers? Which of those two forces is winning the battle for your shopper's psychology?

Step 3: Prioritize your triggers.

Break them down into three tiers based on how important they are to your most discerning shopper. To concentrate the impact of your most important trigger, limit Tier 1 to the one trigger that plays the most outsize role in your shopper's decision-making process.

Step 4: Map your triggers to your site structure.

The goal is to leverage your most powerful triggers by placing them in the most high-impact areas of your site. In eCommerce, that means the very front of the site (mostly above-the-fold on the homepage), and the product pages. Even if you're sending paid traffic directly to category or product pages, your return traffic will repeatedly encounter your home page as they switch between devices and return through organic and direct channels.

The cart and checkout pages should also be considered high-impact zones, though clouding those pages with too much text is almost never a good idea.

Tier 1 triggers should be addressed in the high-impact sections. Write to the Tier 2 triggers on category pages and in the deeper sections of the home page and product pages. For the customers that still need to do some additional digging and wandering through your site in order to be sold, give the Tier 3 triggers some love in those in-between pages like the About page, mission-oriented pages, and the FAQ.

Step 5: Hire a professional.

As an owner, your expertise is likely the product and industry specific to your business. You wouldn't be expected to code your website, or produce your own graphics, and you shouldn't be expected to write your own copy either.

Letting your designer or web developer lump it in as an add-on won't get you much farther.

And that intern or entry-level social media associate? If they've got the language chops and marketing knowledge to hack it, then sure. But eCommerce copywriting tasks are too often hoisted onto underpaid and under-qualified young workers who lack a framework for handling the job. If hiring a pro isn't in the cards, have your writer interface with as many customers as possible, and provide them with a trigger-based framework for mapping their work to the psychology of the customer. Then have them take a shot at the copy.

Step 6: Test, test, test.

Remember, this framework simply provides a better - and hopefully more profitable - starting point for future optimization. It will not yield a perfectly optimized website, but it's a start.

Focus on the things that make your shopper tick. Worry less about describing your product and more about mapping the language on your site to the psychology of your customer.

Know your triggers, prioritize them, write to them, and you could be on your way to higher revenue and lower costs overall.

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Steve Geick Senior Digital Specialist, Metric Digital The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing