Creating a Haiku Deck (love this tool) yesterday about how stories are the new e-commerce currency the need to share tips on HOW to write great ecom copy was clear. There is a new sheriff in town after Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, a new sheriff with new laws. The “SEO Optimized” era is dying hard. Look at this example from an online e-commerce powerhouse of the old “content as SEO” days:
Solid feature copy with hints of major REI themes by using words such as:
- Cleverly Converts.
- Customizable (actually misspelled on REI’s page).
- Single Tug.
Solid product feature copy. Now let’s look at words customers use in reviews of REI’s exclusive daypack:
- Favorite daypack.
- Water resistant (but not water proof).
- Like colors.
Customers naturally tell stories. Here is my favorite customer story from this REI daypack:
Love using this pack for day trips. It was great for storing layers after and early morning ride turned into a warm afternoon. Also, large enough to hold a few items from the farmers market. The thin straps were great for my small frame when biking – larger packs and straps are heavy and can cause chaffing in the heat. Even better the pack easily adjusted so my boyfriend could wear it another day. The only con is that there are no exterior pockets like the larger version of this pack has so you have to open the drawstring to get any items. Note: my boyfriend like the mini version so much he bought one for his daughter and the larger with top pocket flap for himself. After just a few weeks of use I’m looking forward to using this on summer hikes with the water bladder insert very soon! Highly recommend this versatile bag.
from Washington, DC
About Me Casual/ Recreational
Ecommerce Copywriting Tip #1: Mine Customer Reviews
REI.com rules SEO with their “Daypack Selector” content, but their copy is missing a chance for engagement. Here are ways REI’s copy could be more engaging:
- Include Staff notes in reviews (several reviews noted a desire for exterior pockets, so good idea to recognize the trend with a note).
- Lift examples from reviews.
- Use same words as reviews.
- Quote from reviews (with permission and attribution).
REI.com is a favorite ecommerce website. I’m using one of the best online e-retailers to illustrate an important point – Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates changed everything. Google’s insistence on ever improving social shares and page heuristics (time on site / page, pages viewed and lower bounce rates) mean even GREAT ecom merchants need to rethink things.
Ecommerce Copywriting Tip #2: RETHINK & Curate Content
Google’s algorithm changes haven’t worked their way into HOW online merchants approach creating their “store”. Most ecommerce merchants have social share widgets throughout their site. Social shares aren’t enough. Social shares, those ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter widgets, are a good start, but social shares without becoming a social business is a mistake.
Think of social shares are a pledge to become a “social business”. Social businesses LISTEN more than they PITCH or PREACH.
REI.com missed an opportunity when several customers made suggestions for pockets on their REI daypack. When customers note an improvement and there is no Staff Note silence erodes hard won “social shares” legitimacy. Are they LISTENING or not is the question every customer who The day when putting a social widget on a product page was sufficient is over. When a customer makes a suggestion say THANK YOU.
Ecommerce merchants must RETHINK their content.
Not all content is equally engaging and TOTAL ENGAGEMENT is not the goal since a website without pause is a lie. The goal is to know where the rich veins of User Generated Content (UGC) exist and to support, encourage and mine them. Since not all content is equally engaging, ecommerce merchants should curate and create content. Curating UGC may be the most valuable non-merchandising / merchandising any ecom merchants does.
Rethink & Curate Many Types of Ecommerce Content
- Videos (promotes long time on page and videos are easily shared).
- Copy – need more than technical SEO now.
- Reviews and User Generated Content (if you don’t have UGC aplenty good luck with that).
- Gamification – UGC and social shares are so critical now you MUST reward, value and appreciate customers who share.
- The Ask – If you are NOT asking for User Generated Content, comments, videos, surveys, polls and shares you are nuts.
- Review the Reviewer – the more your ecommerce website becomes OUR website the more money it will make.
Ecommerce Copywriting Tip #3: How Your Site Becomes A Trusted Source
Ecommerce merchants must embrace the CONVERSATION. REI.com, as good as they are and they are among the best, is looking dated. REI.com is content rich, but social poor. They have an amazing amount of social content, but REI’s social content (the content from its users) isn’t seamless inside of their store. Trust goes up when YOUR website becomes OUR site.
Tips On Making YOUR Website Our Trusted Source
- Curate as much content from customers as you create (sends the WE LISTEN signal).
- Reward great customer suggestions (free daypacks for the customers who suggested the pockets).
- Add a crowdfunding option (ask for Quirky-like product suggestions and fund a few).
- Weave User Generated Content (UGC) into every aspect of your website (don’t force into a corner).
- Mine social web to pull great comments, suggestions or ideas INTO your website (with permission and attribution).
- Gamify reviews, comments and suggestions.
- Create “Like Me” tribes (link is to ScentTrail Marketing post).
Another way of saying this tip is the LESS you create and the MORE “THEY” contribute the better the new ecommerce life gets. Do any three of these ideas and your website is well on its way to being a “social business” not simply a “social share”.
Ecommerce Copywriting Tip #4: Tease Don’t Smother
Think about the last conversation you had with a close friend. Did you talk all the time? No, you listened as much as you spoke. Same is true for your ecommerce website. Ecom sites “listen” by acting on suggestions (adding those exterior pockets on REI.com’s daypack for one example), being easy to reach, being present and responsive on social nets and teasing not something clicks.
A common error is to OVERSELL a click. Never use more words, images or navigation than is needed to promote the conversation you want. Problem is you and your customers may want different conversations at different places. You may want to convert to dollars off your video page while your customers want to share. Align your marketing with their use to create trust.
When you treat customers like sentient beings able to figure things you create respect. Remember John Lennon’s advice – you get the love you make. Think of your customers as smart people who love you and they are more likely to do just that. Speak of your customers as stupid idiots who don’t understand your greatness (even in offhanded conversations with staff) and those negative beliefs will show in your marketing. The webs is nothing if not a huge lie detecting amplifier, so tease your links don’t smother them, be appreciative and thankful for any and every communication (no matter how “negative” it appears).
Ecommerce Copywriting Tip #5: Tell The Never Ending Story
Google has been more consistent than most are willing to admit. It was clear as far back as 2003 Google wanted merchants to create great content. Many merchants such as REI did just that. In the old pre-Panda and Penguin algorithm change days “great content” was optimized within an inch of its keyword life often sacrificing engagement and customer experience.
This is a new day and STORIES are bred in our bone. We crave great stories. In Rachel’s example above she couldn’t HELP but tell a story about her use of REI’s daypack. Stories are the anchors that prevent our brains from spinning off into ADD space. Stories provide relevance, inclusion and calm. Your ecommerce website should start telling your story on your ABOUT page.
Themes developed in ABOUT should be repeated and reinforced throughout your website. This tip may feel familiar since it echoes advice shared in Storytelling Is The New SEO:
Storytelling Is The NEW SEO struck a chord as more than 15,000 people have viewed the Slideshare deck. While many seem curious few are changing their ecommerce approach. Those who step in, make their ecom websites social, connected, engaging and responsive will win hearts and minds faster. Some ecommerce merchants just caught up to social shares.
This post advises skipping right over the “social shares benefit SEO” stage and concentrating on improving engagement. If your Key Performance Indicators don’t evaluate speed and quality of inbound links and social shares, conversion efficiency across a number of Calls To Action and how your online reputation is growing or declining then please come compete with us (lol).
Times are DIFFERENT. There is a new E-commerce about in the land. I picked on one of the better online merchants in this post so others wouldn’t feel like they’ve missed the “new ecom train”. What worked yesterday is gone. Your ecommerce website must write great, engaging and inclusive copy this holiday selling season. Copy that appears beautiful no matter what kind of devices is being used and copy that promotes the brand advocacy your site must create to thrive.
Good luck and I will be glad to review your copy and share reactions, thoughts and ideas. Ecommerce is HARD and I don’t see EASY around the bend. If this post creates a sense of overwhelming dread take deep breaths and start small. Start with copy for the 20% of your products that generate 80% of your sales. Look at how YOU write about the product, blend in how your customers talk about your product and research how others describe the experience and feeling of the products you sell.
Related Haiku Deck: Stories Are The New Ecom