The Challenges Behind Writing Product Descriptions

Here's the thing


I started at Indix at the end of last year as Product Marketing Manager. Product information is close to my heart, because I spent two years of my professional career as a Product Description Writer for the then 'Amazon of Europe.' This online marketplace was thriving in France, and they wanted to create an English site that specialized in tech gadgets. The products offered ranged from USBs and cameras to video games and printers. There were eight of us, and we needed to create descriptions for over 300,000 products.

At the time, stores were moving online fast, and retailers needed to advertise their products in a way that both educated the buyer and enticed them with original product copy. Because product descriptions are copyrighted, we had to create unique content for each item and maintain a consistent voice across eight different writers. The guidelines for writing these descriptions were as follows:

- Describe the product’s benefits and what problem it solves.

- List important features that are not clear from the product photos.

- Explain why the customer should buy the product from our website versus the competition.

- Find any missing product specifications and attributes.

The Challenges of a Product Description Writer

This last guideline was by far the most challenging. Each day, I received a list of products and the attributes that the seller provided us to work through. Often, many of the specifications were missing, and I had to figure out what they were. I was working most often from only a title and occasionally, an image; I had to crawl the manufacturer’s website for pictures, attributes, etc., and if this was unsuccessful, try to find a PDF of the manual online. I had a quota and was allotted about an hour for each product. Quite often I had to leave attributes blank, and ended up feeling frustrated by the lack of information.

What Makes it Difficult to Create Good Product Content?

This lack of information is where the problem with product pages lies. Far too many times, we see missing or inaccurate details in product copy online. No matter how creative you get with the descriptions, if you’re missing key attributes, you risk a higher chance for returns, customer dissatisfaction, and a general lack of interest in the product. It’s important to remember that product descriptions replace the 'touch and feel' aspect of shopping in a physical store. How can you describe the way something feels if you don’t know from what material the product is made? How can you explain the taste if you don’t know the ingredients? Well-crafted, enticing product descriptions are dependent on having all the necessary information about the product.

I know the challenges I faced all those years ago still exist within commerce today. At that time, if I had access to a database of product attributes, I would have been more successful at my job. This would have freed up more time for the creative aspect of writing descriptions. Having more information available means more time can be spent writing rather than researching. This accomplishes the goal of getting products online quickly with more detailed product information.

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