Why product descriptions are the unsung heroes of homeware websites
The homeware sector used to be synonymous with carefully curated retail showrooms, in which kitchens, furnishings or accessories are displayed in aspirational room layouts, and knowledgeable sales assistants are on hand to guide and advise, gently ushering shoppers towards a suitable purchase. However, as the global pandemic hastens the transition towards an eCommerce model, retailers must find new ways to conjure up the service and experience of those bricks and mortar stores – online.
To transform hard-won online traffic into lucrative conversions, retailers must create an eCommerce alternative to the traditional homeware showroom. Without physical displays to show off items to their best advantage in realistic settings, or sales assistants on hand to help, this means finding new and compelling ways of pointing out the details, textures, materials, uses, and unique features of products – guiding would-be shoppers towards informed and satisfying product choices. Luckily, the solution is actually surprisingly simple: carefully crafted product descriptions.
For retailers, effective and informative product descriptions will often mean the difference between capitalising on the traffic they attract to their site – or losing precious potential customers at the final hurdle. Many retailers invest significant resources on generating traffic, yet startlingly, neglect the very content that will secure sales. According to our recent analysis, almost a third of prominent homeware and garden brands have sub-optimal product description content on their sites.
So: what do effective descriptions for homeware and garden products look like? What types of information do they need to include? And how can they be used to make consumers more likely to buy?
Attention to detail is critical to effective product descriptions. In addition to providing clear and concise product imagery, it’s vital to describe your products meticulously, taking nothing for granted. Include factors such as the manufacturing process, the materials used, the feel of a fabric, how an item might look in the context of a room, and alternative uses. This detail includes both things that are visible in the product imagery, and any additional elements that would otherwise be missed, such as the muted, downward glow of a lamp which creates a cosy effect, or a sofa’s welcoming, squishy texture.
When we recently rated the eCommerce content of 50 prominent home and garden retailers, the homeware marketplace and inspiration hub Houzz emerged as a top performer in the product description category. Listings for products such its Teak Sun Lounger provide all the information a potential shopper might need to make a purchase, with a clearly-bulleted list of details about sizing, dimensions, the quality and grade of wood used, and information about the manufacturer, as well as a comprehensive overview of its key attributes and uses.
Product page for Teak sun lounger from Houzz
In addition to key details, an effective product description should also draw the consumer’s attention to each of your products’ unique benefits, providing them with persuasive reasons to move an item into that online basket. US retailer Bed Bath & Beyond assumes a functional rather than fashionable identity online, but its modest image belies an absolutely stellar approach to highlighting the benefits of its products. In the case of its ‘L-Shaped Raised Garden Bed in Sienna’, it outlines an array of potential options, explaining, for example, that this item is ‘perfect for fitting into a corner or creating unique landscaping areas’, making a ‘great use of limited space’. Further, its ‘L’ shape ‘provides opportunities to create grand entrances, and secluded patio areas,’ the garden bed is ‘reinforced with bracing boards to prevent frost push-out’, and its bracing boards ‘divide your garden into five separate planting areas.’ Unlike vague product descriptions that leave the shopper guessing, this level of detail really will help the hesitant shopper to picture the benefits and potential applications of the product, increasing the likelihood of a purchase.
A growing awareness of waste and environmental impact is influencing consumer attitudes towards homeware purchases, with sustainability becoming an essential consideration for many. Ikea is investing in renewable energies and mattress recycling, while John Lewis recently announced a novel sustainability initiative targeted at millennial customers, offering furniture items such as sofas and desks for rent, rather than purchase. These retailers are not only setting positive standards, but also connecting with their more ethically minded customers and earning reputational rewards in the process.
To reap the benefits of aligning themselves with consumers’ ethical values, retailers much include sustainability considerations in their individual product descriptions, as well. This means highlighting things like fair-trade provenance, or ethically sourced or recyclable materials. Swedish giant H&M has a sustainability section on its website and a range of ethical fashion and homeware items called ‘Conscious’, with collections made from sustainable materials including pineapple leaves, hemp, shoreline waste, and recycled glass. Every product description in this series includes a ‘Product Background’ section with transparent information about the product’s country of origin, manufacturer, and materials.
Product background information for cotton table cloth from H&M
Our research has revealed that 79% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after reading a human-translated product description, rather than a machine-translated equivalent, so an effective multi-lingual content strategy is essential for any retailer hoping to succeed in international markets. Internationalisation involves more than just translation – it must also take cultural sensitivities and nuances into account, to ensure that a brand is engaging appropriately with consumers in each of its target markets. In China, for example, affluent consumers are increasingly interested in Western furnishings, so details on the Western heritage of a brand or Western design influences of a product should always be highlighted in the product description.
Having exported its considerable US success to Canada and the UK in recent years, Wayfair’s German site is quite a triumph of the internalisation art, offering a largely mirrored version of the brand’s UK site, but with numerous tweaks reflecting the differing preferences and priorities of these respective markets. Consider the example of the ‘Grayson 2-Seater Loveseat’, which is dubbed the ‘Two-seat Axel’ sofa on Wayfair.de. The respective product descriptions are quite different, having been produced specifically for each site. In the UK, the item is offered at a higher price point, and its description emphasises the sofa’s flair and versatility. German consumers are traditionally more wary of purchasing furniture without inspecting it in person, so the lower price point is a clear incentive. The description reflects an emphasis on the product’s high-quality workmanship, something which resonates with German consumers, as well as its compact sizing (another nod to the local market, because many German consumers live in apartments, where space is at a premium).
Grayson 2-Seater Loveseat and Two seat Axel sofa on the Wayfair UK and DE sites
Your customers are online: fix your content now
Shoppers worldwide have been opting for eCommerce solutions in growing numbers in recent years, reflecting the heightened convenience and choice available online. But in a climate of social distancing, shopping for homeware items in-store has become less appealing than ever before – involving queues to even enter a store, being corralled by social distancing wardens, restrictions on touching or trying items, fewer staff on hand to help and facilities such as the creche and play areas firmly closed. Some stores, such as Ikea, have even actively encouraged consumers to shop from home. As consumers seek out new ways to shop, it is the job of retailers need to ensure that those in-store disappointments aren’t compounded by poor experiences online. Providing top-notch content, starting with the all-important product descriptions, is an excellent place to start.
How does your store measure up?
Product descriptions – including product details, benefits, and sustainability information – may often be overlooked, but these are a critical driver of revenue, reputation, and ROI for online retailers, helping to:
- Increase search rankings & traffic for long-tail searches with high buying intent
- Improve conversion rates, AOVs and product return rates
- Create positive, on-brand customer experiences
Are your product descriptions up to scratch? To find out, request a complementary Ecommerce Content Score audit of your site.