Words Impact Conversion: 3 Tips on How to Use Them Properly
George Rowlands, Marketing Journalist
Language is a powerful tool for anybody. Let's think about an elephant walking into Starbucks, about to pay for his Caramel Frappuccino… with monkey nuts. Behold, dear readers, with the power of one sentence, I have made you think the unthinkable. Words are powerful.
Linguistic Relativity is the idea that language is the one fundamental factor in how somebody sees and perceives the world. For example, one man's green could be another man's red; red is green and green is red and there's chaos underneath the world's traffic lights.
So, does language shape the way we think? Well, it's all theory — and like all the great philosophical questions of our ancient world… there"s no way to really prove it.
For marketers though, in their infinite and unmatched wisdom, the answer is simple. Yes. When it comes to ecommerce, not much is more important than the language we use when we are trying to sell our products.
Alas, I can't teach you how to market like Maya Angelou or sell it like Shakespeare. However, I can offer you a few words about the persuasion power of our vocabulary when we're selling something online.
Copywriting is part science, part art. The science lies in the fact that certain words and phrases will elicit an emotional response from customers; the art is the application of creative skill and imagination to produce something beautiful.
First, let's tackle some of the science. The brain is more likely to decide to buy something if it can feel it, taste it, smell it, or even hear it. Sensory adjectives are the only way to help e-consumers do this, because these ends are physically impossible in a virtual world. As an example, sensory adjectives are especially important for the food and beverage industry.
Whittard's marketing team provide a masterclass in sensuality. They offer plenty of rich adjectives that are bursting with flavour — subtly sweet, sweet, nutty — and adjectives that refer to feeling and touch - smooth, layering, comforting. Finally, they provide extra information to offer an elegant and upmarket perception of their brand — naturally, luscious, Peruvian, West African — before an adjectival phrase-kreshendo... better than cake. Phwoar.
Saying that, adjectives can be as destructive as they can be constructive. Whilst having some well-chosen, sensual adjectives can help bring listings to life; they don't add any real meaning to them. Instead, the extra word-weight can make your texts cumbersome and rather saggy.
For truly dynamic, energetic product descriptions, potent verbs are absolutely necessary. The most effective product descriptions focus on what can be done, and we should do this with doing words.
It's been proven, as well. The Director of Harvard Business School analysed application letters from thousands of applicants to the biggest universities across America. He found that the more verbs prospective students used, the more likely they were to get accepted to the school. Harvard even has a list of action verbs on their website that they believe will help students have their applications accepted for jobs.
The iPhone 11 Pro is, as expected, jam-packed with features. No matter how many memes the internet chunders about having three cameras on the back, there"s no doubt that Apple, after all these years, are still manufacturing the magic wand of the 21st century.
Online, the absence of being able to go to one of those space-age Apple stores means consumers have to make do with the Apple marketing team"s verbiage of verbs. Shoot, flip, zoom, crop, cut, light, capture, and tweak - are all relatively technical verbs; wide-ranging enough to give an impression of multi-functionality. Outlining these, alongside more "human" verbs — love, play - whilst speaking directly to you, helps push consumers towards parting with $1000 of hard-earned cash on a similar smartphone to the one they already have.
The art of this process comes in finding a balance between all of these different features and techniques of writing; using them all to the same functional effect — persuasion. It's important to remember that art doesn't necessarily create something perfect; but rather creates something that resonates with a perceiver.
Choosing the right words for product descriptions can seem like a daunting task, but it's actually fairly straightforward when we follow these three simple features...
Everybody has been writing the same thing for years — the same hollow adjectives — top-notch, state of the art, sophisticated, innovative, delicious, top of the range — and other yawn-inducers. Even the word "be" and all of its conjugations are tired.
These words get used so much that they simply don't have any impact on a reader anymore. They are flatulent; nothing but hot-air. Fart words. Imagine words as if they are a knife — an old blunt one is going to do nothing to your vegetables; but one that is razor-sharp and brand-new is going to slice clean through your tomatoes.
It's absolutely vital to know what you are selling and know who you are selling it too. To do this to a proper extent, you need to have obtained a buyer persona.
Marketers don't use the same language when they're selling to the older generation as they do for the younger generation. They shouldn't use the language they would use when selling a hand wash — luscious, sensational, effectual — as they should when they're selling a new FPS video game — explosive, extreme, intense. Effectual marketers don't even use the same language when they're selling men's underwear compared to when they sell women's underwear.
Selfridge's product descriptions for women's underwear are focussed on how the product looks. This bra is described extensively with low-frequency verbs that paint a vivid picture — cupped, underpinned, whipped up. Furthermore, they use low-frequency adjectives — tactile, sheer, seduced — to create an alluring text with strong undertones of sexuality.
The copy written for men's underwear is more heavily focussed on functionality. They use adjectives at the opposite end of the sexy spectrum — specialist, focussed, lightweight, anti-bacterial, breathable, comfortable. Apparently, men need their underwear to be — understated - whereas women's underwear is very much overstated.
Finally, always remember not to overdo it. It's ok to refer to a product as groundbreaking... when it actually is. You might think the product is a miracle, but others might think of that as blatant blasphemy. Revolutionary? Give it a rest.
In the same way that adjectives can be blunt and useless, they can be too sharp and potent. It's important for marketers to keep their feet on the ground, especially when they are new to the game. Actually describing what something is will keep expectations in check, whilst also increasing trust in a brand.
There's tonnes of lists online that claim to be the world-leading, definitive list of super-duper words that will sell your product in seconds. But, the truth is that it's not that straightforward. As I mentioned before, copywriting is an art and art is an application of time, energy, and ultimately love.
For me, if you don't have thesaurus.com bookmarked and visited at least three times per day then you are not a real copywriter. However, inspiration can come from anywhere. Words are all around us — listen to the radio and understand how speech can flow depending on the rhythm of syllables, read a newspaper and see for yourself how beautiful words can match and share the same sentence in kinship, and listen to songs and pay close attention to how metaphor and idiom can be used to creatively express emotional concepts. Even memes can be useful. In fact, any humour can be fantastically effective for reader resonance and shareability.
Not being a natural wordsmith is no excuse. Charles Dickens babbled as a baby just like everybody else. Writing depends on practice and experience, and the flare that you need is a byproduct of this. Luckily, there are companies out there, with heaps of experience and knowledge of the rules of product descriptions inside out... ready to do it for you.
For better or for worse, the internet has, and continues to, turn marketing on its head. Where customers would usually lean towards whatever was closest, cheapest, or simply available at the time; the internet has splayed the market. There are options everywhere a consumer looks and unfortunately for you… most of those options are exactly the same as yours.
You need to find that teetering balance between construction and destruction. You should straddle the line between science and art. Great copywriters know what the rules are, but the greatest copywriters know when to break them.
I challenge you, dear reader, to find all of your product descriptions and read them out loud. Highlight all the adjectives and verbs and ask yourself whether they could mean more. Explore new meaning; unearth new rhythms. Give your words some electricity.
Words impact conversion.