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How To Create A Compelling Product Listing

Very few things in the world of commerce sell themselves. No matter what product it is you’re providing, you’re at least going to need to write a basic listing about what you’re offering and what the customer can expect to receive.

So how should you go about writing that all-important product listing? 

Let’s run through a straightforward method for creating the ideal product listing; sounds grandiose, but it isn’t as tough as many people would imagine.


Tell the truth

We’re heading right to this one because it’s a common problem. A couple of years back, I got my dad a decent torchlight for Christmas. I did some research, asked him what features he wanted and picked something out. It seemed a solid choice. When he received it, he was delighted, because it did what he needed it to do. All was well.

A short while later, I discovered that the product listing had contained several lies (or falsehoods, if you’re feeling generous), most notably about the power of the torchlight. It didn’t suddenly make it a bad buy or anything, and the product still worked extremely effectively, but it soured me greatly on the seller.

If you’re going to sell something (and your business isn’t a front for some kind of tax-avoidance scheme), then presumably you believe it has something to offer, so just tell people what that is, and don’t lie to them.

If you lie, then the likelihood of receiving complaints and returns and compensation demands is only going to grow as time goes by and sales continue, until you earn a reputation for misrepresentation that will sully your brand for years to come.

And if you don’t lie, but you simply fail to get your facts straight, then you’ll be communicating to your customers that you’re lazy or simply don’t have the aptitude for the business world.

A simple and honest product listing that’s free of jargon and over-hyped marketing speak will help your customers build a realistic picture of what you’re selling, and who you are as a brand.


But feel free to add flourishes

If I were to tell you that the office chair I’m sitting in has a tasteful two-tone style, a woven-effect seat, and smooth, comfortable armrests, I wouldn’t be telling a lie. I’d simply be putting a positive spin on something pedestrian. There’s nothing wrong with that; we all want to be sold on the magic of the everyday.

As long as you’re not deceiving anyone, you can be as heavily persuasive as you like. Describe a mouldy cabbage in the awestruck tone typically reserved for Moon-bound astronauts if you want to. You may run the risk of going overboard with the colourful terminology, but I recommend erring slightly on the side of too much.

After all, when you go to a fancy restaurant, you don’t just expect great food. You expect great presentation as well. Sort out the presentation and it’ll make a decent product seem like an amazing one.


Remember: only use swords responsibly.

If you take the time to understand your customers, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what kind of qualities and tones they’ll view favourably. Then just work and rework things until you have something you’re happy with.


Tag everything you can

In the online world, fancy packaging holds no sway. You have, at best, a demonstration video or 3D render for the user to consider. That’s why tagging is essential for search functions both inside e-commerce platforms and in external search engines like Google.

If you’re selling a black leather bag, you want to be sure it’s going to show up as a result whether someone has searched for “black leather bag” or just selected the appropriate colour and material options in a filter. If you’re not on the shortlist, you can’t be selected.


Not pictured: popular but incorrectly-tagged black leather bags.


It’s generally best to get all the information about your products in a vaguely-sensible spreadsheet and keep track of it so you’ll have the data when you need it. It isn’t so bad to build a product description entirely from scratch, but when you’re selling hundreds or even thousands of different things, all with varying configurations, that task can easily grow to take up a counterproductive amount of time.

As long as you’re not deceiving anyone, you can be as heavily persuasive as you like. Describe a mouldy cabbage in the awestruck tone typically reserved for Moon-bound astronauts if you want to.

Engage quickly with features and benefits

There’s an excellent chance that any given visitor to a product page won’t spend more than a few seconds reading it. When creating a product listing, you need to do your best to ensure that something will stick in the mind of someone who only scans it very briefly.

If you lump in unformatted grey text, no one will remember it, or care about it. But offer up a bold, colourful image, a clear and tempting description, and some strong formatting, and you’ll stand a chance of getting their attention.


Strong image, clear product breakdown, and subtle styling.


Here’s a good example of an attractive store layout. Strong image, clear product breakdown, and subtle styling. (Incidentally, the store is for sale if you’d rather skip the whole product-listing thing and move into the snack industry).

Tell the user what the product is and why they want it, and then leave it to them to decide what they want to do. You’ll never win everyone over, but you don’t need to. You’re playing the numbers game.


Match the context

The reason I said that creating the ideal product listing isn’t as tough as many people would imagine, is that what is ideal will depend on the context. If your company is built around a centerpiece product, then you’ll have plenty of time to spend getting the listing just right.

If you sell numerous products, you’ll largely need to make sure you’re ticking the format-appropriate boxes.

In the end, product listings are generally more about removing all barriers that might prevent a sale being made than they are about elevating products to mythical status, so don’t overthink them. Good luck!


Victoria Greene is an e-commerce marketing expert and freelance writer with a love of punchy, eye-catching copy. She particularly enjoys finding creative ways to make online outreach more effective.You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.

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