If you’re looking to boost conversions, you need to be thinking about writing copy that converts. The latest survey and studies in 2020 show that the average conversion rate of e-commerce websites is 2.86%. The industry average is kinda pathetic.
Let’s go back in time
The most valuable thing I own is an 1897 Sears catalog:
What made these guys great at conversion copywriting?
While modern marketers can use high-quality product images taken from multiple angles and videos, these marketers had to rely on hand-sketched product drawings. And because the catalog was expensive to produce they had to cram a lot into it. The font size is 6:
But the biggest challenge was that they had to send these catalogs from Chicago to small cities in inner America. Many of the people they were trying to persuade had never even been to Chicago let alone see the Sears mega warehouse. And buyers had to pay upfront.
Think about how hard that is. These marketers had to perfect conversion copywriting, and they did.
Writing copy that converts
When it comes to conversion copywriting there are so many schools of thought: some think it’s an art-form, others are convinced it’s scientific.
Also, there are a dozen different copywriting styles.
Copywriters get into copywriting because they have a passion for writing. Over time, they start picking up on subtle aspects of buyer psychology. They use these lessons to write even better copy.
We started from the other end of the spectrum—with A/B testing.
The goal wasn’t to write better copy, the goal was to optimize conversion rates.
Conversion copywriting didn’t come easy
First we tested design concepts.
After that, layout concepts.
And many other things.
Over time, it became clear that copy tweaks were driving the best results.
Why? On an eCommerce site, shoppers are going to make the final buying decision based on the information and content they saw. In other words, the copy is the primary driving factor. As much as we like to believe design and aesthetics are the primary things that make the most amount of difference, it’s the words on the screen that do the heavy lifting.
After 11 years of relentless testing we isolated the 9 most important conversion triggers.
Here is our conversion copywriting checklist:
- People are skeptical of “too good to be true”
- They find expertise sexy
- They root for people who beat the odds
- They are fascinated by surprising details
- They are visual animals
- They need motivation to break habits
- They love personalized experiences
- They like knowing they’ve stumbled onto something rare
- We must resolve their negative thoughts
Conversion Copywriting Examples:
1: People are skeptical of “too good to be true”:
Marketing works by making claims. Claims like “removes 99% of allergens.” Trouble is your potential customer has been burned before. They aren’t so sure about this claim. Our job as copywriters is to identify any product story claim that may be considered “too good to be true” and write an explanation to diffuse that thought.
Looking to dig deeper into too good to be true strategy?
2: People find expertise sexy:
There is a reason you don’t take medical advice from your florist brother-in-law. We are living in a highly specialized and technical world where shoppers are looking to buy from super-experts. To optimize conversion rates our expertise needs to be apparent.
3: People root for people who beat the odds:
It’s human nature to want to support people who have overcome the odds. We want to see David take down Goliath. What challenges did you overcome? Don’t hide, talk about them.
Skiplagged.com is a site that helps you find cheap flights. To drive home that point they used this copy: “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us… but we won.” Screenshot (click image to see zoomed view):
4: People are fascinated by surprising details:
There are 2 reasons why surprising details optimize conversion rates:
Reason 1: humans are incredibly curious. We are information-seeking machines.
Reason 2: digesting a sales pitch requires mental processing. It is taxing and can get monotonous. Interesting details act mini energy boosts, giving the reader a burst of excitement that propels them to continue exploring our sales pitch.
One way to unearth these interesting details is to do a Google search about your product category. “Room air purifier” and “dog wheelchair” are examples of product categories. Your search will lead to a blog post or newspaper article with an interesting stat or trivia. Work it into your copy.
Fact: it takes the average user 7 years to acknowledge that they need a hearing aid. Most people don’t realize this and it’s a surprising detail.
Now, let’s think about someone visiting Hear.com (not a client). To drive home this point we added a “guess how long …” question to the top of the page:
Now the user can interact with it. This is what they see when they make a wrong selection:
And when the correct choice is made:
The whole point of our concept is to help the majority of visitors discover this surprising detail.
How long can we expect a new visitor to stay on our site? Globally, the average session duration for e-commerce is a measly 2 minutes 32 seconds.
Looking to dig deeper into People are fascinated by surprising details strategy?
5: People are visual animals:
Human beings are designed to absorb visual input. In fact, more than 50% of the cortex—the surface of the brain—is devoted to processing visual information (source).
Use copywriting to evoke a mental image and drive the sale.
This is what was on a card found in a hotel bathroom:
MGM Resorts has saved 794 million gallons of water in the past 5 years, which is the equivalent of 1,200 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Did the swimming pool flash in your mind?
Another example: $6 billion dollars is an abstract figure. Most humans can’t relate to it. So, I’ll make it visual by saying:
“At $50,000 a year, it would take 120,000 years to pay off $6 billion. That’s the lifetime earnings of 3,000 people. (source: Netflix’s show Space Force).”
Looking to dig deeper into People are visual animals strategy?
6: People need motivation to break habits:
We think too much about our direct competitors (other companies that tell what we sell).
Your bigger competition is the shopper’s mind. Shoppers use creative tricks so they don’t have to buy your breakthrough product. 2 creative tricks:
- ‘Pretend this isn’t a problem’ strategy
- Use workarounds
‘Pretend this isn’t a problem’ strategy:
Imagine you are a company that sells long term food storage (this is freeze-dried food that has a shelf life of 25 years). People buy your product because they are concerned about being in an extended emergency situation where they don’t have access to food.
Here is a line that will give buyers the nudge to move forward:
It’s tempting to hope one never has to be in an emergency situation.
And 9 times out of 10 that’s the case for most of us.
Imagine you sell an adult hybrid exercise bike like this:
It’s smart to assume many people looking into buying an adult hybrid bike already use other methods to workout, like running on a treadmill or running outside.
So if you want to convince them to buy your adult hybrid bike it’s a good idea to talk about how running places a lot of pressure on the joints.
People need motivation to break habits: My story
7: People love personalized experiences:
If you have a technical product, your product page is likely long. Some visitors are looking for just the facts, others are interested in the complicated details. Give them both a voice. At the top of the description, add a menu like this:
How much time do you have to learn about [product] today?
[I have time] [I have 2 minutes]
For shoppers who select [I have time], show the full pitch. For those who select [I have 2 minutes], show the condensed version.
PS: We have a case study about this. Oransi case study.
Interested in learning more about Personalized Experiences?
8: People like knowing they’ve stumbled onto something rare:
It is human nature to want to feel special. We like knowing we’ve discovered something other people are yet to discover. As a marketer responsible for conversion copywriting, I want my visitor to feel lucky to have discovered my solution.
“Most people hunting for the perfect emergency medical kit give up in frustration. They never make it to this page.”
“In the past week, only 77% of our visitors discovered this page. That’s a shame because we believe this is one of our top products.”
“Over 63 million households own a dog in the U.S. Only 1% of those households buy raw pet food for their best friend.”
9: We must resolve shoppers’ negative thoughts:
Now, if you’ve done all the steps described above you have created a buyer who is itching to buy.
But, if there are any lingering negative thoughts, they will derail the sale.
No matter how convinced the buyer is, if there are any remaining nagging thoughts in their mind it’s going to hold them back. This is just how it is. Therefore, as a marketer, we need to anticipate all negative thoughts so we can tell a story that not only amplifies desire but also resolves them.
Imagine a shopper is on checkout and sees your shipping price. We know from studies that online shoppers hate paying for shipping.
So it’s quite possible our shopper is turned off by the shipping charge. Therefore to address this, right next to the shipping price, add a link that says “shipping price explanation” and on click show this popup message:
No one likes paying for shipping. We get it. These days most retailers give free shipping. But how do they do it? Have carriers stopped charging for shipping? Of course not. The only way to give free shipping is to either increase the price of the item or underinvest in post-sale customer service. One way or another you will pay for it. We just prefer to be transparent about it.
Wholesaleaccessorymarket.com is a wholesale site. They sell large orders. I went to their product page, added an item to the cart, and saw this message:
This is a perfectly logical message. It logically explains the reasoning. But shoppers buy for emotional reasons. Some people will read this message and think “I don’t understand why I need to wait 7-10 days”. Here is one way the retailer could address this:
Waiting 7 – 10 business days sucks
We get it. But we had a challenge. We obviously want to offer both lightning-fast shipping and incredible value. But, when only 1 can be picked we choose incredible value. 87% of our customers favor this. If you can wait 7 – 10 business days you’ll see this Down On The Farm Patriotic Unisex Blend Tee is worth it.
A shopper’s negative thoughts will change based on factors unique to your marketing pitch. But one question shoppers will have no matter what you are selling is “am I overpaying?”. This is a universal question. So we might as well nail price justification.
Our Buyer Psychology Copywriting Philosophy
Copywriting is at the heart of what we do at Frictionless Commerce. Take that away and we don’t have a business. It’s the most important thing we do.
Our philosophy around conversion copywriting:
— Copywriting is salesmanship in writing. Our goal, as Joseph Sugarman would say, is to cause a person to exchange his or her hard-earned money for a product or service.
— Don’t write for professor grading, or other copywriters.
— If it helps, imagine yourself a journalist who just got the scoop on a breakthrough product and is sharing it with the world.
— The copywriter’s job is to help the buyer weigh the pros and cons of a decision. To help them through the decision-making process.
— To get the juices flowing be as outrageous as possible with the first draft. Be as out there as possible (this product was built using space dust, it cures cancer). It’s like screaming at the top of your lung. We can always tone down the copy in the editing process.
— The idea isn’t to be original for the sake of being original. We have an existing 9 point buyer psychology playbook (described above). We use this over and over again. If you’re the bomb go ahead and make our playbook better.
— Rational reasons for buying are black or white, but they can only take you so far. Emotional reasons for buying are like clay; they can be shaped.
— People use logic to justify an emotional purchase.
— Good copywriters are like good debaters, they can build a case for either side of an argument.
— The goal of content is to be read in its entirety.
— Always use implied statements.
— Use recognizable analogies to make a point. If you are talking about a home air purifier reference how finicky hospitals about keeping their environment germ free. Readers recognize and believe hospitals prioritize cleanliness; they can visualize this. That mental image creates a halo effect for our room air purifier story.
— Great content is confident. The reader feels they are talking to a knowledgable, trusted friend.
— Great copy should feel a little eerie. Like the writer is reading your mind.
— Great content writers are enthusiastic. Not too enthusiastic; just the right amount.
— It’s possible to put the reader in a trance. This can be achieved with wordplay.
— Editing is where copywriting magic happens. The first draft is always “not great”. Greatness emerges during the editing process. Our editing philosophy: work on the first draft, give it a rest, revisit after 24 hours. Do as many editing cycles as is time permittable.
— Our goal isn’t to write the best content in the world, that’ll take 12 years. Our goal is to be 100% confident that what we have will outperform control in a head to head test.
— Good content is highly personal. Feels like it was written for an audience of 1.
A LITTLE ABOUT US
Thank you for reading this conversion copywriting article. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert?
Our goal is to optimize conversion rates for your site.
If you’re on LinkedIn much you
can should definitely connect with me. On LinkedIn, I post ecommerce conversion ideas every day, multiple times a day.