The Biggest Mistake in E-Commerce Copy Part II: Rectify the Mistake


Now that you understand the biggest mistake in E-Commerce copy (underestimating the value of content), and you know that the easiest and cheapest way to set yourself apart from the competition is by creating a unique tone to tell your story, you should be well on your way to loading your pages with copious mounds of Pulitzer-worthy copy, right?

Cue the sound of screeching breaks.

Creating copy is one thing; creating magnificent copy is an entirely different story.  Attempting to write brilliant, authentic content that adheres to a cohesive tone throughout the site can seem downright daunting.  Don’t worry; it’s completely natural to feel overwhelmed.  I do this every day, and I still get stuck on a regular basis.  However, I’ve learned over time that mustering up creativity is often the most difficult part of the writing process, and you shouldn’t let it intimidate you.

So, due to the popularity of my previous post (thanks for your interest!), The Biggest Mistake in E-Commerce Copy, I decided to illustrate this concept by providing examples of sites that have used their tone as the premier selling point.  Once you get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun, and best of all, it’s FREE.

The Ché, she like The Manolo.

And I do.  In fact, of all the sites I read on a regular basis, this one stands out in my mind as the site who has best achieved the objective.  The Manolo Shoe Blog is written in third person, from the perspective of a Manolo Blahnik shoe, and it details the latest trends in celebrity and designer fashion (with a heavy emphasis on designer shoes).  The icing on the cake is that The Manolo writes with an accent so vividly that you can picture a haughty little Spanish (I’m going with Spanish because Manolo Blahnik himself is Spanish) designer-man airily waving his bejeweled hand as he speaks.   It is smart, witty and sophisticated, and despite the premise, not in the least bit silly or cutesy.

“Manolo says, the Manolo admits to having had the mostly blah reaction to the recent rise of the ankle-bootie-sandal trend. Perhaps this is because the Manolo had not yet seen these spectacular Jimmy Choo Embellished Ankle Wrap Sandals!

Are they shoes? Are they booties? Are they sandals? Who cares! They are gorgeously super fantastic!

Here’s another excerpt:

Manolo says, needless to say, the Manolo approves of using the promised acquisition of beautiful shoes as the carrot to spur oneself to greater accomplishment. Of the course, if one were really serious about the resolutions, one would also use the stick to enforce compliance with the new regime.

Imagine how much more motivated you would be if you swore to all your friends that if you did not meet your goals you would appear in public, at the fancy restaurant for the Dia de San Valentino Festival of Amour, in the bright orange Crocs.”

The posts where he writes about his past or fabricates elaborate stories in response to reader questions are the most entertaining, but unfortunately too long to place here.

Granted, I love fashion (specifically shoes), but I’ve visited fashion sites that capture my attention for all of five minutes before I’m on my way.  The Manolo Shoe Blog is so entertaining I am having trouble writing this blog post because I keep getting sucked into its entertaining, satirical content.  I routinely snicker aloud in my cube while reading it.  But don’t take my word for it.  The Wikio has placed the Manolo Shoe Blog just outside the Top 20 Fashion Blogs (#21) and Fashion Hippo placed it in the Top 10.  The Manolo has garnered so much attention that he is now a weekly feature in The Express, a Washington Post Publication.

Even Manolo Blahnik himself delivers praise on his protégé, saying “Manolo the Shoeblogger?  Sorry, not me.  But it’s very funny, isn’t it?  Hilarious!”

The Manolo Shoe Blog does not sell anything, and it lists the same products you can find fishing through the Saks Fifth Avenue website.  However, its unique copy has generated thousands loyal readers, the attention of well-known publications and even a top fashion designer.  Imagine if The Manolo were an e-commerce store.  If your content provides something that users find valuable (whether it be a laugh or useful information about your products), they will keep coming back for more and help to evangelize your brand.  Creating the unique copy, it’s “super fantastic!”

An E-Commerce Example: Headphone Solutions

This principle of content applies to e-commerce stores, as well.  You don’t have to adhere to the tone above, but you should create a persona that is both unique and valuable to your audience.  Remember the DVD player store mentioned in my previous post?  Well, it is really an online store called Headphone Solutions, and the owner has been kind enough to let me feature the store by name to give readers a tangible example.

Headphone Solutions is an outstanding site with a lot to offer: the design is eye-catching and edgy, the prices are competitive, you receive free shipping for orders over $98 (the majority of headphones on the site cost more than that, so it’s a great deal), etc.  However, this is an excellent site in a niche with a deluge of other excellent sites, many of which offer similar deals.  So why shop here?  Well for one, the motto is “We Will Help You Choose,” and they do just that.  Whether you’re looking for headphones based on a certain function, price, your lifestyle or a particular brand, each section presents various headphones that fulfill your specifications.  Once you choose a set of headphones, the page gives the good, the bad and the ugly so you’re well aware of what you’re buying.

Ok, so comparing honesty may be a fruitless task, but we really give honest reviews. Since we absolutely refuse to offer you anything we wouldn’t use (or at least recommend) ourselves, all of the headphones listed on the site go through a rigorous process to be listed. First, we compile a list of the industry’s leading products based on tech specs, user feedback, and industry reviews. Then, we order each of the products and pass them around to our team of in-house audiophile experts, whose jobs we all hope to acquire someday when they’re put in jail for stealing too many products. Finally, we post the very best-reviewed items on the site with our experts’ 100% honest reviews pinpointing the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with each pair.”

This is brilliant – unlike other sites that simply sell you products for profit, Headphone Solutions has built a comprehensive buying experience just as good as, or better than, what you would find in an electronics store. They make it clear that they want to provide information to ensure customer satisfaction, even if it highlights less-than-ideal characteristics of the product. Customers are provided with multiple methods for finding a pair, and once they have narrowed down their options, they can read real reviews by users and headphone experts alike.

“The sound was captivating; I could have been sitting right by Beethoven himself. Acoustic songs also sound unbelievable; every strum is discernible and you can literally hear the singer breathe between lines. As music gets more complicated, the headphones sound slightly muddier, but compared to other similar models, they’re outstanding…The only major qualm with the [headphones] is that volume affects performance.”

The owner himself has expressed his desire to keep reviews entertaining and brutally honest to ensure that customers make the best and most informed decision.  He compiles the research for you and by adhering to the unique tone, provides information that customers find valuable.

I should stress that the above examples are meant to be just that – examples.  Use them as a guide when writing your own original content and you’ll set yourself apart from the competition.  Reach deep down to find your singular voice and flesh it out across the pages in your site.  When you tap into that latent creative voice and bring it to life, you’ll find that it takes on a life of its own, and writing thousands of words suddenly becomes a hobby instead of a burden.  Your enjoyment will shine through your text, entice your visitors and hopefully convert them into loyal buyers.