Product Descriptions: What needs to be in your Product Details

Simple illustration of a person with their arms full of objects labelled: Fit, Size, C.O.O. and Content

Last time, we looked at the romance copy, how long it needed to be and how to get the pieces to build it. For that, we used a pre-made list of product details that was ready to be dropped into the product description. Now we’re going to look at what should be going in your product description, the meat-and-potatoes of your copy.

The short of it is: be honest and be clear, which is frankly what you should be aiming for in general, especially as someone owning a business.

Simple illustration of a person with their arms full of objects labelled: Fit, Size, C.O.O. and Content

What should be in the product details?

I’ll be honest, some folks just don’t read the romance copy. They skim like little search engine bots, grabbing only the keywords. Your product details and associated bullet points or small sentences may be the written text someone sees. That’s a super legit way to browse! Lists are just easier for some brains. Also, there’s subjectively boring stuff that is just straight descriptive and doesn’t need to be part of whatever microfiction you’ve written about your product for the romance copy.

The kinds of things that need product specifications vary beyond imagination. I picked two types of products that cover some basics, but you should always scope folks selling similar things to learn what you like and don’t like in product details. Other than the stuff that you basically legally have to have, most information in product details is up to you.

For our examples, we’re going to stick more imaginary items from our fictional folktale and myth-based bath and beauty shop. One is an oil based body shimmer and one is a textured face scrubber.

 

Look at your product objectively

When you’ve been working with products from conception to production, you’re intimately aware of all the tiny details and it’s tough to remember that your customers aren’t.

It may seem obvious to you that the textured face scrubber has finished edges because picking the right thread for the overstitching was a pain when the dye lot changed halfway through production, but nobody else knows that. There are some ways to trick yourself into thinking of your products objectively.

 

Head customer questions off at the pass

Customers are going to ask weird and obvious questions and they are often going to ask a lot of the same ones. Use your product specifications to reduce the number of folks asking how many face scrubbies come in the pair. They are absolutely going to ask you about it anyway but it’s nice when you know you’ve totally said it already on the product page.

The other side of that coin, however, is listening to your customers when they ask questions because they’re often asking because you were wrong in assuming something was clear. Here are some subjects I’ve seen folks asking about that are good to consider including in product specifications:

  • How many are in the package, or how much is there?
  • How do you wash it or care for it?
  • How big is it?
  • Does it work with [logical other item]?

What customers ask is going to vary depending on your customers and what you’re selling. Try to cover your bases and be open to adding or clarifying your product details as your curious customers ask obvious questions.

For our imaginary products, here are answers to what customers might ask:

  • Oil-based body shimmer: comes in a 20ml glass roll-on bottle
  • Textured face scrubber: comes two to a pack, machine wash & air dry, six inches square, can be used with your favourite face wash or just water.

 

What can’t we see clearly from your product image?

Product images and proper image descriptions for accessibility are their own thing. They’re a huge part of the product page but still exist outside of the product description. When it comes to product detail copy, consider what isn’t clear in the main product image or any additional images and what might be visible but is a key feature to mention.

Like with customer questions, it can be exasperating if you think something is obvious in the product photos but the reaction is that you never showed it. Keep in mind that sometimes folks don’t notice additional images, or see the images at all. Some examples of what folks could miss noticing in your photos:

  • The inside or back of a product (think shirts with the tag printed inside or pre-installed picture hanging hardware)
  • Fit (apparel specific, really but is it clear that a style hugs the body, or that it’s not lined and the images edited for modesty?)
  • Colour variance in different lighting situations (the nightmare of still images of anything shimmery or holographic)

With our imaginary products, there isn’t too much to worry about, but we should note the following:

  • Oil-based body shimmer: green, purple and pink micro-shimmer (which is info that might just do better in the romance copy anyway)
  • Textured face scrubber: stitching on finished edges varies.

Simple illustration of a to-do pad with "FTC" and "FDA" written on it.

What needs to be in the product details?

Here’s the disclaimer! I’m not a lawyer. If you’re a business person, you should have a lawyer and you should also do your due diligence and be up to date on FTC laws (and FDA, if applicable). They have great plain-language guides for everything, including online advertising and marketing.

The information I’m sharing is just what I’ve learned and observed while trying to be the person who made sure a company properly disclosed information in their copy.

Like I said before, be clear and be honest. Nothing makes me hotter under the collar than looking for something’s country of origin and only learning that a product is “designed in [U.S. City].” Pal, that is great, thank you for sharing, but you also need to say where the product is manufactured. It’s a law and also your customers are going to ask you anyway so be up front.

 

FTC and FDA Regulation

Now, I’m gonna make the assumption that all product labels follow the Fair Packaging and Labelling Act as is appropriate for whatever item they are. Here’s a simplification of the basic requirements:

  • What is it? (“a statement identifying the commodity, e.g., detergent, sponges, etc.”)
  • Who made it? (“the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor”)
  • How much of it? (“and the net quantity of contents in terms of weight, measure, or numerical count (measurement must be in both metric and inch/pound units).”)

For cosmetics, you need to look at FDA labelling laws as well. Here are the ultra basics:

  • Name of product
  • Identity
  • § 740.10 warning (cosmetics with unsubstantiated safety)
  • Net quantity of contents
  • Directions for safe use
  • Warnings
  • Name and place of business
  • Ingredient declaration
  • Any other required information

 

Well dang, that is awesome, that’s basically some stuff we already went over, just clarified. So, updated, the info we need is:

Northern Lights:

  • Oil-based body shimmer
  • comes in a 20ml/0.676 fl. oz. glass roll-on bottle
  • This product contains no preservatives. Store in a cool, dry, place and use with clean hands.
  • This product contains essential oils. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using products with essential oil.
  • Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, fragrance, tin oxide, mica, iron oxide

Allerleirauh Textured Scrubby:

  • Textured facial cleansing cloth
  • Two pack
  • Machine wash warm, lay flat to dry
  • Six inches (15.24 cm) square
  • Can be used with your favourite face wash or just water.
  • Stitching on finished edges varies.

 

For this imaginary business, which I guess I have to name now, all items are made by hand in California. That means we can just append the following to all products:

Handmade by Aesoap Bath in California, USA.

 

Country of Origin

FTC has some pretty strict, but clearly laid out laws regarding claiming or implying “Made in the USA” on things that are not, in fact, made in the USA. That’s what that “designed in” nonsense I was complaining about earlier tries to circumvent.

If your product is an automobile, textile, wool or fur item, then any U.S. made content needs to be disclosed on the label. If it’s made in the States but from fabric from Mexico, then you need to say that on the label too. You don’t have to say it on the product description, from what I understand, but dang, why not?! For that face scrubby, let’s amend the “made in” text to this:

Handmade by Aesoap Bath in California, USA from fabric woven in Mexico.

There’s a lot of weirdness with some brands around the country of manufacture disclosure. Just, be honest and straightforward.

Ingredients and fibre content

It’s good to say what things are made of so your customers can make informed decisions. And if you’re dealing with cosmetics or textiles then it’s the law.

Cosmetics labelling, I linked to earlier, but here’s the ingredient section specifically. It’s not as easy-read as FTC, but I think they do a really good job explaining a whole lot of info.

Textiles have specific content labelling requirements, there’s a good plain language guide here. It gets INTENSE. There’s so much fibre content law and so many people lie all the time. I’m not even dipping into it.

 

Okay. Let’s put it all together then and see what our final product specification copy looks like for these imaginary products:

Northern Lights:

  • Oil-based body shimmer
  • comes in a 20ml/0.676 fl. oz. glass roll-on bottle
  • This product contains no preservatives. Store in a cool, dry, place and use with clean hands.
  • This product contains essential oils. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using products with essential oil.
  • Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, fragrance, tin oxide, mica, iron oxide
  • Handmade by Aesoap Bath in California, USA.

Allerleirauh Textured Scrubby:

  • Textured facial cleansing cloth
  • Two pack
  • Six inches (15.24 cm) square
  • 100% cotton
  • Machine wash warm, lay flat to dry
  • Can be used with your favourite face wash or just water.
  • Stitching on finished edges varies.
  • Handmade by Aesoap Bath in California, USA from fabric woven in Mexico.

Writing product details really just comes down to being truthful with your customers and anticipating their questions. Oh, and complying with any specific laws.

 

Next time we’re going to look at how to take all this delicious copy we’ve created and seen how we can optimize it to include those useful SEO keywords while maintaining a basic respect for the customer.

 

This post was originally published on my Patreon. Patrons get early access to posts and their support keeps me going on a lot of levels. Thanks, y’all!

 


Also published on Medium.