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
Marketers are obsessed with the latest and greatest. We want tools that predict churn, we want marketing automation, we love programmatic remarketing.
It’s wrong to think the best marketing ideas have happened in the last few years. You’ll find, as I did, that great marketers have existed all across time.
The most valuable thing I own is an 1897 Sears catalog:
Let me tell you why
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 up front.
Think about how hard that is. These marketing storytellers had to be incredibly talented. And they were.
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 convert more new buyers.
Long, hard journey
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 e-commerce site, shoppers are going to make the final buying decision based on the information and content they saw. In other words, 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, the truth is that it’s the words on the screen that do the heavy lifting. Design and aesthetics certainly help as well.
An additional benefit of focusing on copy is that copy-focused A/B tests are much quicker to set up. In the past 10 years, copy tests have generated the best results for us.
Being effort maximizers (or lazy slobs), now we only focus on copy.
When we think about copywriting we’re only thinking about it from the perspective of buyer psychology.
This means we don’t:
- Focus on our own style preferences.
- Worry about getting recognition from other creative copywriters.
- Think about getting “oohs” and “aahs” from clients.
Also, the copywriting universe is huge. And we’re 2 people.
So, for us, the key is being super niche. So within buyer psychology, we only think about techniques to convert first-time buyers (people who have never bought from you before).
If that isn’t your focus the list below might not help. However, if you are looking for a list (based on buyer psychology) that reveals the secret to converting new buyers, this is the only list you should use.
Finally, the list
Using what we’ve learned about human psychology, we created a copywriting checklist that shows how to write product page copy that boosts sales by 10%. 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”:
Buyers like good news. But when the news is too good they start getting suspicious. A 74% discount seems too good to be true. Now the buyer is thinking:
- Is this item about to be phased out?
- Is there a defect I’m not aware of?
- Is the company about to shut down? Inventory liquidation? If so, will I be able to make a return?
If you actually want to give a 74% discount, do it like this: add a link right next to the discounted price (location is key) that says something to the effect of, “why this crazy discount?”
On click show a popup with this message:
Running retail stores is expensive. There are staff costs. Rent. Inventory costs. With multiple locations, those costs add up.
We decided to eliminate all of those costs and pass most of those savings to you.
But here’s the thing, only 7% of people in the US know about us. Most still prefer to go to retail stores and end up overpaying. We get it, changing habits is hard.
Instead of spending big money advertising, we’ve decided to offer incredible discounts (on our already low prices) in the hope that when you receive your order you will be so happy you’ll tell 5 of your closest friends about us. Think of this as a bribe 🙂
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 people that are super-specialized experts in those fields. Therefore, as marketers, we need to make sure our product story gives the reader confidence in our expertise.
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:
4: People are fascinated by surprising details:
“Why should I add in interesting details to my sales pitch?”
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.
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.
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).”
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. Visit https://www.frictionless-commerce.com/case-studies and click the Oransi study (“How Understanding Shopper Psychology Boosted Product Sales 30.56% for Oransi”).
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 have yet to discover. As a marketer, I want to let my potential buyer know they are lucky to have discovered me because had they come any other time they might have missed me.
“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.”
And finally, 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 is any lingering negative thoughts it 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 addresses lingering negative thoughts.
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 also 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.
The negative thoughts shoppers can have 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.
Listed above is our copywriting checklist. Now, let’s also talk about copywriting styles. These are:
The idea here is to leave out the punchline and let the reader fill it in.
Implied: There are over 122 energy drinks on the market. We’ve tried them all.
Stated: There are over 122 energy drinks on the market. Ours is the best.
Which do you think is more effective?
People buy from people the like. You don’t have to make your copy syrupy. Just a hint of personality is enough.
Onefastcat.com is a cat exercise wheel. It’s a really cool product invention:
To communicate how the wheel builds muscle tone they created this photoshopped image. It’s full of personality:
Sometimes, adding just one word can add personality to your copy. In this case, the writer added “unfortunate”:
In this example from Ora Organic, the probiotic bottle is talking to the reader. What a very unique and bold strategy. I love it:
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 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, 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 for cleanliness, they can visualize this. And 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.
We assume stories are expressed as words or videos.
I was on a jewelry site. Buying jewelry online can feel strange. We’re used to buying precious/intimate things in person. This retailer understands this. On their site footer they add a very subtle design element to communicate caring.
I don’t even know if that was the designer’s intent but it doesn’t matter, that’s the story I experienced.
It’s a long journey
This checklist will help you. But remember, we all have a long way to go.
If you ever feel you’ve mastered conversion copywriting, it’ll help to think about this Tweet by Jason Fried: