The Unofficial Shopify Podcast

Conversion Copywriting

Episode Summary

Radically Improve Sales by Getting Into Shoppers' Heads

Episode Notes

In our last chat with Rishi (AKA the Shopify product page guy), we talked about why product pages are important ( It was one of our most popular 2021 episodes. 

So I invited Rishi back. This time we dug into how to rewrite the product description so it connects with the psychology of your shopper.

Rishi has been experimenting with conversion ideas for the last 13 years. He’s discovered a 9 point conversion copywriting ( framework.

Frictionless Commerce (Rishi’s company) specializes in helping Shopify sites improve product page conversions by 20% in 90 days. They A/B test to prove their ideas make you more money.

PS: they are probably the only digital marketing agency that I know of who takes inspiration from a 130-year-old Sears catalog (


Rishi also has a weekly buyer psychology newsletter:


Never miss an episode

Help the show

What's Kurt up to?

Episode Transcription

The Unofficial Shopify Podcast
Rishi Rawat 2

Kurt Elster: Today, on The Unofficial Shopify Podcast, we have a returning guest who earlier this year recorded one of our most beloved episodes of 2021. It was about product detail page optimization. We talked almost entirely about how to write a good product description. It was a powerful episode that really resonated with people. So, back by popular demand is Rishi Rawat from Frictionless Commerce, and we are going to go even deeper on this topic of product detail pages but talk about the difference in new versus returning buyers.

For me, as an eCommerce professional, this is just a thing I know, right? It’s nothing I question. I know that there’s a difference there. But if you’re new to it, if you haven’t thought hard about it, there’s a lot to unpack there. And certainly, I am going to learn some things. So, we’re going to dive into it with Rishi, who is perfectly adept at this, because he specializes in radically improving product page conversion rates, and he does that by trying to implement product stories, and he does it in such a great way, where a Sears catalog from a century ago is one of his greatest resources for inspiration.

So, Rishi, how you doing? Thank you for being here.

Rishi Rawat: I’m super excited. I’m doing well, Kurt. It’s a beautiful day here and I’m excited to be chatting with you, and there’s so much we have to cover, so yeah, thanks for having me back.

Kurt Elster: Well, the previous episode, we talked about product detail page, and really it was like we were talking about description, right? That was a lot. The meat of it. Why do you think that episode resonated so much with people?

Rishi Rawat: I think one of the key things that we discussed last time that I think was revolutionary for the audience was that we have this narrative of a static product page, so whether Kurt goes to a product page, and if I go to that same product page, and Vanessa from Virginia goes to that same product page, we are all shown the exact same description, and we know intuitively that Kurt’s shopping habits are very different than Vanessa’s, and so I think we just have taken this for granted for so long, and I think when we spoke last time we talked about this idea of using your product description as a way for your shopper to self-select who they are.

Are they new to this category? Have they been searching for a solution for a long time? Are they price sensitive? And I think that idea was like shocking for the audience, because they had always thought of their product page as being this one thing, and suddenly it became five different things, which kind of increased their workload, but also made it exciting for them because they could now hyper personalize it. And the best part about it was we didn’t talk about using automations to let the user self-segment. We talked about it in the context of let the users let themselves tell us what category they fall into and then personalize the page, and I think that was really interesting.

Kurt Elster: No, absolutely. Well, and I think the… Everyone’s looking for that competitive advantage, that next big thing that’s gonna move the needle on revenue, or conversion, or whatever meaningful KPI, and it’s often it’s technical stuff, it’s less accessible stuff, and when we talk about product detail pages and product descriptions, well, that’s really like a thing that’s meat and potatoes but often overlooked.

So, in this episode, we want to discuss how we craft the page on new versus returning buyers, and specifically new buyers, first-time visitors to the site.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah.

Kurt Elster: How are we defining that and why does it matter?

Rishi Rawat: I mean, I think it matters because of gravity and the fact that your analytics data is telling us without any doubt, and it’s Shopify data, as well, that’s telling us without any doubt, that an overwhelming majority of people that are to your website, probably in the 85% range, are people that are coming for the very first time. What we also know is that nearly all of them will not come back after this visit if they don’t buy.

So, we have this massive gravitational force that is against us, and so by really focusing in on these new visitors, these first-time buyers, we can counteract that, and that’s why I want to really focus in on that as being the thesis of this entire conversation.

Kurt Elster: So, how do I… Where do we start? Where do we begin?

Rishi Rawat: Well, I think the first thing, I love to think in terms of analogies, and I think one of the analogies that I like to think about for product pages, and I think this is also a really important mental model, is that we tend to look at product page, we tend to look at our user journey as someone comes to the homepage, they read about us, they understand who we are, what kind of products we have, get the lay of the land. Then, from there, they go to the category page, and then from there, they navigate to the product page, and then from there they make the purchase.

Actually, this is not how shoppers typically are exposed to us. If you are active in advertising, whether it’s on Google, Google product listing ads, or it’s on Facebook or Instagram, what you’re doing is you’re showcasing a very specific product and a very specific teaser to the buyer, and when they click on that, invariably with Google product listing ads you have no choice but to take them to the product page. But I would say even for our clients that advertise on Facebook, they tend to have their ad strategy focused on very specific products.

And so, for this buyer, this first-time buyer, this all-important first-time buyer, not only is your product page one of the important pages that they encounter. It is the only page they see in that visit. And so, your entire website is this one page. Now, as though that isn’t complicated enough, let’s complicate it further by saying that this shopper is if they’re on Google, and if they’re searching for a problem, if I’m looking for a curling iron, for example, on Google, Google shows me a whole bunch of suitors, and what I’m doing is I’m in a very promiscuous state of mind, and so I right click and I open a bunch of tabs, and I’m going directly to their product pages, so when I come to your product page, not only am I… I already have one foot out of the door because when I came to your product page, I already knew I had three other tabs that could potentially be promising.

So, what we have to do as copywriters is not only do we need to connect with a buyer, we need to give them a compelling reason to stick around for another five seconds and then use that five second time to build a case for spending another 10 seconds. Because once you cross that threshold, this time barrier threshold, it actually becomes monumentally easier to convert buyers. You just cannot convert shoppers in the first five seconds.

So, the goal is never to convert them in the first five seconds. The goal is to give them a compelling reason to spend another 10 seconds with us, and then eventually they’ll be familiar with us, and the sunk cost fallacy will kick in, and they’ll want to really understand what’s unique about our value proposition, and that’s when you can start the selling.

Kurt Elster: So, here’s the issue, is the inaccurate but easily made mistake if I’m the one in charge of this website, whether I’m the marketer or the merchant, whoever, is that my visitor Googles my brand name because they’ve heard of me through word of mouth, refer a friend, a billboard, whatever. Heads to the homepage, scrolls top to bottom, clicks the about us, reads that top to bottom, then heads to a collection page that’s perfect for them, shops their product, compares a few, adds to cart, purchases. Good to go.

Except it doesn’t actually work that way. And the reality is, and I’m sure it’s category dependent, as well, but let’s say I need something mundane but requires research. Ooh, I love research. And even yesterday, I’m like… My wife’s like, “I gotta buy new garland. I want LED pre-lit garland.” I said, “I gotta buy some new Christmas lights.” I had 150 lights short out on me yesterday. We were putting it up while it was warm out still. And so, I Google it. I Google 5-millimeter warm white Christmas LEDs. Very specific. And so, I know, ah, whatever pops up in that Google ads is what I want, probably, and so I’m gonna open the first five. I got five tabs open.

I am only two keys away. Command W. And I’m scrolling through, I’m just looking for the reason to throw this one out and move to the next one. Aha. Oh, no. This one has the wrong spacing. It’s six inches instead of four inches between lights. What kind of monsters are these? Command W. Close. Next tab. Oh, this is brown wire. Command W. Next tab. And so, I’m really just rushing through it in seconds. It’s like that bounce rate problem that you know your homepage has, but aha, the very nature of some products, the way we shop for them, the way they are advertised creates this issue with our product pages, as well.

Okay, 100%, I’m following you. I’m with you.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah, and I should add here, as well, look. We already, if you’re a Shopify retailer and you have a conversion of 6%, 7%, that’s first of all-

Kurt Elster: 6%, 7%! Oh my gosh. What?

Rishi Rawat: If it’s that high, you need to… Even if it’s 4%, I guess my point is even if it’s 2%, my point is-

Kurt Elster: All right, now we’re getting better. 2%. Okay. More in the realm of reality.

Rishi Rawat: I respect the fact that you’ve got to that 2%. We are not… This conversation is nothing to do about those 2%. Those 2% of people are the ones that are going from your product page to your homepage, are going to your about us page. They are really understanding who you are and what you stand for. And that’s the whole point, is that when the user actively slows down and listens to what you have to say, you’re an incredible brand. You’re doing amazing things.

All we’re trying to say is that the 98% of people that miss out on that story, how can we get some more of them to actually understand how awesome you are? So, we’re talking about let’s lock in the conversion rate we have, but let’s now start thinking about that 20% of our addressable market that’s on our website.

Look, if your conversion rate is 2%, 98% of them don’t buy, and out of those 98%, I guarantee you 70%, no matter what we do, we’ll never convert. I don’t think we need to worry about that. I’m really thinking about the final 20%. That’s the group that can be persuaded because they are kind of interested, they see the need, they are looking for the right brand, and how do we communicate with them? That’s what this discussion is about.

Kurt Elster: Like all things in business, Pareto’s principle shows up yet again. We want our top 20% of customers, one out of five, we know those are the people who are gonna browse, and look around, and we need to serve them as far as our new visitors are concerned. Okay.

Rishi Rawat: Right. So, do you want to continue? Oh, sorry.

Kurt Elster: I understand the point and I’m in that new visitor mindset, and I see how this happened. Now what?

Rishi Rawat: So, this is where we get to the real, the most important part of this discussion, is that there is no doubt that the layout of your product page, and I would say that it’s the mobile version of it, because most people first discover you on the mobile version of the page. I would say that I’ve seen a lot of product pages, and I would say layout wise, they’re all pretty good. I think marketers have done a pretty good job in understanding how to optimize the layout, and so we’ve done a really good job there. We have good product images. We have multiple alternate views. We’ve got good price promos. We’ve got clear visible mention of the price. We’ve got a clear call to action and reviews. We’ve got typically most retailers… You know, 15 years ago, the number of reviews I would find on an online retailer outside of Amazon was miniscule. Nowadays, it’s very common to go to a website and see 250 reviews, 300 reviews, so there’s a fair amount of social proof going on.

So, what’s left? Now, if you think about it from the perspective of the buyer, the reason why the product description matters so much, that little box where typically sometimes we limit the content to two paragraphs because we don’t want to overwhelm the reader, or we don’t want to break the design of the page, that little section is all they have to go by in order to decide to go from awareness, to interest, to desire, to action. Those two paragraphs are all that we have available to them.

That’s where they go. And so, while the product images are very reinforcing, and they really help them understand the physical attributes of the product and how it might look from different angles, and the social proof is a confirmation that other people also like it, ultimately it’s the product description where they decide that is this the product that I’m looking for and does this satisfy all of my checklist items and also address all of the concerns that I have? Because I have a ton of concerns, as well, when I come to a product page.

Kurt Elster: You know, we recently had a client, a tremendous business in a lifestyle category, and they relaunched their site into this really carefully designed, well thought out, well executed, lovely site, and we assisted with the development. We didn’t do all of it. And we suspect… We said, “Hey, should we push back on this?” Because they got all of their product description was in an accordion menu and it was all defaulted to closed. And so, when you scrolled through that page, you did not see a description unless you actively clicked on the right accordion menu and got the description.

And they launched the site, and it really… It’s like the same content but an improved layout other than that, and suddenly their conversion rate dropped 20%. And we knew. They said, “Hey, you got any ideas on this?” I was like, “Yeah, it’s the description. You gotta bump this accordion menu open.” And we made that change. It is too soon to tell, but it’s trending up, so I’m fingers crossed that that was the genuine issue.

But no, absolutely. It’s that text. It’s that story.

Rishi Rawat: You know, the listeners are anxious to understand, okay, well, enough. We understand. You’ve beaten this point home that the product description really matters. Now, what is the exact recipe?

Kurt Elster: Just tell me what to do, Rishi! Otherwise, the audience is gonna come. They’re gonna break in your house. They’re gonna grab you by the ankles, shake you upside down, and get the secrets out. Give me the secrets!

Rishi Rawat: Buyer psychology is a really complicated topic. I’m not gonna pretend like we’ve cracked it and we never will. But what we have identified, it turns out that when a shopper is shopping, we have a mental subconscious checklist in our minds. Now, we don’t know what it is, but we have a feeling when all the items in the checklist have been satisfied. We get this overwhelming feeling of joy and this urge to pull the trigger. And until they haven’t been satisfied, even if the sales pitch is confident, and it’s reminding me to click on the add to cart button, the buyer might not even realize what is holding them back, but they know that there’s this weird feeling that’s holding them back.

So, this is what we are trying to solve for. We’re trying to essentially reverse engineer to understand what that checklist is. Now, the checklist probably has hundreds of items that are situationally utilized, so for example, if you’re buying a sports car, I’m sure the checklist is different than when you’re buying an apple in the grocery store. But what we have been able to identify, and this is where this gets powerful, is we’re looking for common elements of that checklist, so that it applies broadly to a variety of online retailers. And what we’ve identified is there are nine specific elements of that checklist that the buyer is using at a very subconscious level and next I’d like to discuss each of those so that you can write copy on your product page that massively improves your conversion rates.

Kurt Elster: Well, we’re getting to the secrets. Break it down for me.

Rishi Rawat: The first one is people are skeptical of too good to be true. Now, on the surface, this seems like a very obvious thing, and I want to kind of really talk about the nuance around it, because too could be true isn’t just simply making a claim that is fantastical, that just obviously is not true. We’re not talking about that. Anything that even remotely gives the feeling of being… even if it smells a little bit like too good to be true is a real problem.

So, what we do is, and what you should do, is go through that entire product description and be really carefully looking at every sentence and every idea that you’re trying to communicate, and ask yourself does the way I’m communicating this come across as being too good to be true? So, Kurt talked about lights, buying new lights. Now, if that retailer wrote copy that said, “Installing it takes 14 seconds,” now, from their perspective, this may be just a normal, confident statement. It may even be true. But for a skeptical buyer, it kind of feels a little too good to be true, so even though they’re not blatantly lying about something, it’s put the seed of doubt in my mind.

And so, what you need to do is you need to first of all be hypersensitive to these little micro claims that are being made that even if they are true, and this is the key point here, is that sometimes retailers say, “Well, it’s true. I can be installed in 14 seconds.” My point is that it can be installed in 14 seconds, then add some qualifying copy right next to that timeline and say that we know it sounds ridiculously true, but we’ve tested it with hundreds of customers, and actually that is how long it takes to install it. Address that concern.

Kurt Elster: There’s factually true and then there’s feels truthy. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, if it doesn’t feel truthy to me, you need to back up that claim.

Rishi Rawat: Correct.

Kurt Elster: Or reconsider the presentation. You know, if you’re like, “Oh yeah, you can just throw these lights on and you’re good to go.” Okay, that may be true, but it also took my wife and I and an eight-foot ladder to install the set of lights that I then shorted out and need to replace. So, I’m like, “What? You can’t do this.”

Rishi Rawat: Exactly right. Exactly right. And you know, and the thing is that we’re talking about really subtle things, so it’s not even like the consumer remembers. At the end of that session, Kurt might not even remember why he didn’t buy from them, but actually because this weird thing was floating in his mind of this like, “I don’t know. This seems like they’re kind of like making this up.” That is gonna prevent him from buying.

And so, you want to be really hypersensitive to anything on your product page that sounds too good to be true, whether it’s around your price point, the installation, what the product can actually achieve, how it can actually improve your life. All of those things have to be kind of taken into consideration, because that is going to derail the sale. So, that’s the first strategy for your copywriting.

Kurt Elster: Okay, so step one is go through it and make sure that… and I think some of this is just like being too close to your own product. How do you tell if you’re making this mistake?

Rishi Rawat: Well, I think first of all, I think this is… So, we have this very interesting process. We call this deconstruction where what we do is we literally go through every single word in the product description and we actually put each of it in separate buckets, and then we ask ourselves, like what is the purpose of this word? Is this absolutely needed? What are we trying to communicate with this word? And I don’t think any retailer that we’ve ever worked with has ever done the insane task of actually breaking their description into individual words and really analyzing them.

So, I think the reason why this kind of slides through is because we actually look at our descriptions very holistically without examining them in very minute details. So, just the discipline of examining it in a very minute detail is gonna expose to you things that you normally would not pick up on.

Kurt Elster: Okay, so it really is just about being hypercritical and going through it with a fine-toothed comb.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah. That’s right. Now, moving onto the second one is consumers crave expertise. We’re living in a hyperspecialized world. We are no longer looking to buy from a retailer that is simply fulfilling someone else’s product. We’re looking for hyper-expertise. So, even if you are reselling stuff, that’s okay. Crutchfield resells audio equipment. They don’t manufacture their own stuff but they’re still hyper experts at those audio devices. And so, this is the challenge for us, is that when you’re reading your product description, how do we use that description as an opportunity to express our uber expertise to the buyer? Not just once, but in every single instance, because consumers want to buy the best product from the most capable people that make the best product in the world.

Even if it’s $17, it doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars for the consumer to expect expertise. They expect expertise at every price point.

Kurt Elster: Well, it’s relative. In the last month, I bought a grill brush, and I bought a new stereo receiver for a home theater setup. And I put the same amount of research into each, and I saw the same amount of like listicles, and articles, and buyers guide for the same, and one is $10 and the other one, depending on what you’re buying, is $200 to $1,000. And it was like it felt like the same playbook for both categories. And really, reality is probably a lot of it is because you’re drop shipping, and like in the Crutchfield example, like they’re drop shipping it, so okay, how do you compare? How do you compete with Best Buy and Walmart, who will often be selling the same things? And that’s demonstrating that authority, and that expertise, and making yourself a trusted resource is how you do it.

Rishi Rawat: That’s exactly right.

Kurt Elster: All right. I gotcha.

Rishi Rawat: The third one is we root for people who beat the odds. Now, this is a very interesting one, and I don’t know if there’s any copywriting book that ever even talks about this, but it really goes to the spirit of how we behave as a species. There is something about us, and I don’t know if it’s connected to our prehistory, and where it really emanates from, but it’s a very strong desire within us where we, the way we navigate the world, the way we decide on who we want to align with, and you know, buying from an online retailer is a form of alignment. You’re using your dollars to cast a vote for the kind of world that you want to create.

So, we are really fascinated by people who have overcome odds. Now, there are two types of odds that we’re talking about. One is the Davis versus Goliath odd, where you are a retailer and you’re taking on this big brand, and you’re saying, “You know, we want to do things different. We want to shake things up.” That’s one story arc that is very… resonates a lot with readers.

But the other way of doing that same thing is to think about your internal struggles. You know, what are the challenges you’ve overcome in order to actually get to where you are today? And this, I want to stop here for a second, because I sometimes think when I have a conversation with clients about this specific one, that people are drawn to people who beat the odds, clients say, “Well, this doesn’t feel true for our story. This isn’t how it came about for us.” And I think, Kurt, to your point, you said something earlier. You said that the creator is so close to the problem. I think what happens is that the entrepreneur doesn’t realize how close they are, and because they’re so close to the problem, they actually… Their fantastical story actually becomes common to them, and they’ve told it so many times they kind of feel like, “Who cares?” Remember, the people we’re trying to affect, and convert are on our website for the very first time. These people have no idea what your story is. And so, by just pretending that your story isn’t compelling, you’re actually kind of doing them a disservice.

Now, what I would say is that I have never met an online business, I don’t care if your revenue is $200,000 a year, if it’s less than $200,000 a year, or $5 million, or $20 million a year. Running a business is incredibly hard and every day you are overcoming monumental challenges. And so, when I talk about this idea of people who are… You know, we are fascinated by people who beat the odds. I’m talking about those everyday challenges that you’re dealing with. It could be you may have made a choice to say that, “Listen, our shipping supplier has increased their prices by 20% but we’re gonna absorb that increase and we’re gonna eat that because we think it’s the right thing to do.”

Now, this is a great example of something that this is a challenge that you’ve overcome, and so my point is that… Talk about these things. It humanizes you. It makes the buyer who is seeing you for the very first time connect with you as a human being. And if you can connect with them, then you slow them down. If you slow them down, they spend more time on your website. And what we know from statistics is that the time on site is directly correlated to purchase intent. So, we want to slow our users down, get them away from this, “Hey, I’ve got these 10 tabs open,” mindset to, “I want to learn more about these guys.”

Kurt Elster: I think the snappy way of summing that is up people buy from people, not brands, which is a thing I’ve said on this show probably more than any other. And to use your Crutchfield example, which is like this massive drop shipper that’s been around forever, if you scroll their site, you will see photo after photo of what’s implied to be Crutchfield employees, team members, et cetera. And it’s for this reason.

Rishi Rawat: Interesting one. When I interview clients and I ask them about tell me about this product, I know it’s your best seller. Can you tell me about the development process of it? What was difficult to engineer that you hadn’t anticipated? And they always go to these incredible stories of like, “We thought this piece of the development would be pretty straightforward. It turned out to be super complicated. We actually almost gave up on it, but then we said no, we’re gonna keep on pushing through it, and we finally had a breakthrough.” But I don’t see any of that in their description.

That’s one of the things that is a signal to me that they’ve overcome something difficult. It humanizes them, so I think it’s a really important approach.

Kurt Elster: No, absolutely.

Rishi Rawat: Moving onto the next one, shoppers are fascinated by surprising details. And this is also quite interesting. Here’s what I would say about this, is that when… As a copywriter, my job is to actually get the buyer to read my entire description. This is exactly what I want to do. I want them to start from the top, get to the middle, and get to the bottom.

Now, one of the challenges is this, is that even these first four ideas that we’ve talked about, I think people listening are gonna start freaking out, saying that, “Listen, I only had two paragraphs worth of content allocated. These guys are talking about stuff that I don’t know how I’m gonna fit.” The reality is, yes, you’re probably gonna have to increase your length. The problem here is that all said and done, no matter how fascinating we make the copy, reading 10 paragraphs worth of content is a challenge, and I don’t think there’s any consumer out there that’s saying, “Oh, I’m looking forward to 10 paragraphs worth of content.” So, how do we solve this?

The way we solve this is by injecting interesting details across your sales pitch. So, after paragraph number one, I want to introduce some really interesting detail. I want to do something similar paragraph number two, after paragraph number three. Now, what are these interesting details? Sometimes clients will say, “There’s nothing really interesting about what our product does.” Well, that’s not true. Every product is solving a very specific problem. And so, what you can do is you can go to Google, so for example, if you are selling a shoe insert that is designed to alleviate foot pain, you can do a Google search for some interesting stats around foot pain, and you’ll find lots of fascinating facts. How many Americans suffer from foot pain, how much weight our feet carry, all of these really interesting details, and what you’re doing is then you’re selecting really small snippets of these and you’re inserting them in your product description in a way that stays on brand.

Now, why do that? The reason you want to do that is because it’s almost like a KitKat break. When the reader is reading the first paragraph, their eyes start glossing over, and now they come across this really interesting statistic. I’m actually working with a client right now where they sell canvas prints, and one of the stats that I’ve included after the first paragraphs is some fascinating number I found, which is that 97% of photographs we take on our phone, we see just once. And I was surprised by this, and it seems shocking, but I injected this after the first paragraph because I knew that most people would look at this and say, “That is really interesting.” It’s on brand for what they sell and it's interesting, and that interesting feeling gives you an energy which I’m using now to get you to read paragraph number two.

So, injecting these interesting details increases the likelihood that the user will continue reading, and what we know is that in order to maximize the probability of a sale happening, you want to get them to the bottom of your sales pitch.

Kurt Elster: A product could be boring. A product description could be boring. And it’s easy to jazz it up with interesting details, which I think also add that little bit of level of authority to it, as well. So, we did my Christmas light example, so in there you could say psychologists report… In a 2017 study, psychologists report that people who decorate earlier are simply tapping into the excitement of the holidays before the rest of us, which makes them happier. So, wow, I can actually cite a source if I’m selling Christmas décor. I can cite a study and say buying my product is proven to make you happier. That’s the implication. And immediately my Christmas light description just got significantly more interesting, more compelling, and then it’s gonna convert better. And it’s such an easy tip.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah. And you can actually expand on this. You know, for these lights, you can actually… I’m pretty confident. I’m gonna make a prediction. These lights were probably energy efficient. So, what that means is that people who are buying them care about energy efficiency, so maybe you can add a little stat about energy efficiency. Not just a fact about your product, but actually about 85% of consumers care about energy efficiency. It’s just an interesting fact. It reaffirms for the buyer what they believe in and gets them to buy.

Kurt Elster: Okay, so just riffing back and forth, we’ve already come up with two ways to make something as mundane as Christmas lights significantly more interesting, which makes me believe you have to be able to do this for other products, as well. Okay, I like it. I like where we’re going here.

Rishi Rawat: All right, so moving onto the fifth strategy, which is that we are visual animals. 50% of the surface of our brain is devoted to image processing, and so it’s a very critical part of how we navigate the world. We just… Even our listeners right now, even though they’re listening to us on a podcast, they’re imagining you and I sitting and having a conversation. They can’t avoid imagining Kurt sitting with some other person, but they don’t know who that person is, but they see two people.

And so, the same is happening on our product page. And the strategy here is that we’re using… What we know is that visuals embed deeper. Again, this goes back to buyer psychology. Visuals embed much deeper in the brain. And as a copywriter, anything I can do to go to deeper layers of the brain is what I want to do, and so visuals are extremely useful for that. Now, here is where I think people look at visuals in a very literal way. They say, “Visuals are images and photographs that I’m inserting in my page,” and actually we don’t look at visuals necessarily limited to that definition.

For us, a visual is anything. It can be written. In fact, in our case, most of it is written. But that evokes an image in the mind of the reader. Now, there are two very specific types of visuals that I’m talking about over here. One is a contrast device. So, how do I talk about my product in… For example, I’ll give you an example. For one of our clients that sells an air purifier, which is a very complicated product, the way we kind of inject a visual in writing is we actually talk about how air purifiers used to be, how bulky they used to be 15 years ago, and so what you have done is I’ve created a contrast device. I’m kind of creating a contrast between what their product does, which is really tiny, and sleek, and really energy efficient, versus what used to be available in the marketplace 15 years ago. And it creates a visual in the mind of the buyer and this visual embeds deeper in their psyche, which increases their likelihood.

The other aspect of using visuals is for analogies. This is a really important point here, as well, is that we live and navigate the world through analogies. If you’re selling an air purifier and someone is buying an air purifier, they’ve probably never bought an air purifier, especially if they’re a first-time buyer. They don’t really have any mechanism to connect with this air purifier. So, what you’re doing is you’re using an analogy. An analogy essentially is using something that we are familiar with to explain something that we’re not familiar with. So, in the case of that air purifier, one of the analogies that we used was this device can see what your eyes can’t. So, we use an analogy that people understand, that our eyes can see certain things and we can’t see certain things, and I used that to explain the fact that this air purifier can see pollen, and allergens, and small, little things in the room that are invisible to the eyes.

So, how do we use these devices to create a visualization in the mind of the reader?

Kurt Elster: Essentially, we want to use metaphors and storytelling, but do it… Attempt to do it in visual ways. Not necessarily like literally, “Here’s an illustration of the product.” Okay.

Rishi Rawat: Exactly.

Kurt Elster: Makes sense. Yeah, so less stilted, less technical writing. It helps us work around the criticism that like, “Oh, that’s too much text. I can’t read it. It’s boring.” So, we’re trying to hook them. We’re trying to keep them interested. And then we’re trying to make it entertaining and easy for them, easier for them to understand if we work as much as possible in visual metaphors.

Okay. I’m with you.

Rishi Rawat: Awesome. So, moving onto the next one, which is strategy number six, this is a really important one, and this is that shoppers need motivation to break habits. Now, I would say this is like at the central, central heart of this entire strategy. Newton’s law of motion had this wonderful thing that said bodies in motion stay in motion, bodies at rest stay at rest. For a shopper who we’re trying to convince, like for example in your case, you’re trying to look for these lights, you have a couple of options available to you. You can choose to do nothing. And that’s a really strong option, by the way. Most consumers choose to do nothing.

The other thing you can do is you can find a workaround. You can say, “You know what? I’m gonna buy a secondhand set of lights, or I’m gonna use the lights that we have in our basement that we haven’t used in a long time.” So, you could use a workaround, and so what I need to do as a copywriter, and this gets to the heart of it, is that not only do I need to make a compelling sales pitch and tell you what the product does and demystify what the product does. That’s kind of part of it. In fact, I would say it’s kind of useless if you don’t do this next part, which is giving you the energy, literally lifting up the reader and elevating them, and giving them the boost that they need to pull out their credit card. You need to give them that motivation.

And so, this is why it’s one of the most central pieces of our whole copywriting process.

Kurt Elster: And is that where we’re introducing urgency? Or scarcity? Or urgency and scarcity?

Rishi Rawat: No, no. Actually, so I have a controversial take on those things. I actually like to not use those techniques. So, here’s how we do it, Kurt. We recognize that there’s a narrative in the mind of the buyer that says, “Well…” For example, if I’m selling hearing aids, we know that most people who are looking for a hearing aid will ultimately conclude that they don’t want it because it’s kind of an emotional purchase. Nobody wants to admit they need a hearing aid. So, what you do there is you use an interesting detail to… We like to do this. We like to on the product page, we will show a drop down, and the drop down will say, “Can you guess how long it takes the average buyer to recognize that they have a hearing problem?” And then this drop down says one year, three years, four years, and seven years. Every single person selects seven years because they know the truth. They know it’s seven years.

And when they select seven years, we say, “You’re exactly right. It actually takes the average American seven years to recognize that they have a hearing problem.” Now, what I’ve done over here is very interesting. I’ve used a bunch of tactics, right? I’ve used a fascinating detail which we talked about earlier, but I’m also using a way to kind of give them the motivation to say, “You know what? Do I really want to be that statistic? If I’ve been waiting five years, do I really want to wait two more years and have bad hearing?” So, that gives me the motivation to say, “You know what? I’m actually gonna go buy my hearing aids.”

And to kind of give you another related example of workaround, imagine if I’m Peloton, and I’m selling a stationary bike, which is what they do. One of the workarounds that a consumer might have is that, “You know, well, I just run outside. I’ve been running outside for years. Why do I need a stationary bike at home?” And so, the competition for Peloton is not the fact… It’s not another brand that is selling a stationary bike. It's the fact that the consumer has a workaround, which is running outside, so what I would do is I would build a case talking about the joint damage and how much wear and tear happens in our knees when we run the concrete. So, I’m building a case against running outside. I want them to fire that other alternative, which is the workaround, and I want them to hire me, which is Peloton.

So, those are two ways in which we can use that strategy.

Kurt Elster: I think the alternative is riding a bike on the street, in which case I would just like… My Peloton ad, my product description, every other paragraph would just be someone getting hit by a car, like an animated .gif.

That’s a terrible joke. Oh my gosh. Don’t laugh at that. Wear a helmet.

Rishi Rawat: Wear a helmet.

Kurt Elster: Okay. Which brings us to which point?

Rishi Rawat: It brings us to point number seven now, which is that-

Kurt Elster: How many points are there? How long is this description?

Rishi Rawat: There are two more. Two more. Two more.

Kurt Elster: Okay.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah. I’m gonna wrap up real quick. So, shoppers love personalized experiences. Kurt, this is the thing that we actually discussed in our previous conversation. I’ll kind of recap it real quick. So, the analogy is that imagine if you are selling a juicer and you have this incredible juicer that extracts juice from oranges, and apples, and makes really healthy juices. Well, if you had a retail store and a customer walked in and had a conversation with you, the way we would have that conversation with them is we would ask them, “How long have you been looking for a juicer? What kind of a juicer are you looking for? Are you looking to make juice for one person or four people?” And we’d ask them. This is a very natural, human conversation, and what’s happening at a subconscious level is that as I’m having the conversation, I am kind of putting together finding… It’s almost like a filtering system. I’m finding the perfect juicer for this buyer.

Kurt Elster: We did it when I worked in a bike shop many years ago. We’d say, “What brings you in today,” was always the opening question. And then they’d tell you, then you would kind of… You could narrow down like, “Okay, this is… Oh, you’re looking for this kind of bike.” Or we’re like, “Oh, you just need some accessories.” It made it easy, and it wasn’t like a sales thing, it was just it was customer service, like how do you be the most relevant and just help this person?

Rishi Rawat: And I bet that you guys had a different sales pitch, even though you might not have had a written-out sales pitch, for people that walked in that said, “I’ve never bought a bike before or ridden a bike before,” versus someone who’s like a pro at it, who’s got really fancy gear, right?

Kurt Elster: Oh, for sure. Yeah. And especially like this shop in particular specialized in recumbent bikes. Super niche, and weird, and nerdy, and so you had to overcome that. And so, actually it really was quite the education in these sales processes.

Rishi Rawat: And so, the idea is that why is our… It’s when I look at product descriptions, it makes me laugh so much, because it’s almost like the marketer has taken a microphone, has one script, and is screaming that script to everybody who would listen. And the odd part is that why not personalize? Now, the personalization part, as we talked about on the previous episode, is a little complicated in the sense that you have to add a button or some way for them to interact and say who they are, and then personalize the copy.

Some of our listeners might feel like, “Oh, that’s really complicated to do,” so don’t do that as step one. But this strategy is not really about adding button functionality. This strategy is about writing copy in a way where the buyer feels that it’s been written for them. And so, for example, I’ll give you a great example, so imagine if you are selling a sports bra, and I want to use a very specific example because a lot of women who are looking for a sports bra find their regular bras very uncomfortable. Running outside wearing a bra, there are certain anatomical issues that ladies have to deal with. So, what you’re doing is you are kind of working backwards and saying, “What are some of the challenges that my buyers are dealing with?” And what you’re then doing is you’re writing copy based on your understanding about those challenges.

So, when I read it as a female, I feel like these guys understand me. That’s what I mean by personalization. Personalization doesn’t always have to be a mechanism where we have a wizard. Personalization could just be the feeling I get when I read your description. So, make the reader feel like you understand and empathize with their pain.

Kurt Elster: So, when we say personalization, you really… You want to have a customer persona in mind, and you know like, “Okay, this is the most likely person that we have to convince, and so we’re gonna write to them. We’re gonna picture that one person and write one-on-one to them.” And that’s what we mean by personalization. And then down the road, you want to fancy it up and use Google optimize to try and segment and swap out copy, or like a configurator type scenario with buttons, or maybe just break up headings and try and have people self-select, you can do that. And that’s also personalization, but there is like a non-technical entry point for personalization.

Rishi Rawat: Exactly right. And rushing onto the next strategy, number eight, is that shoppers like knowing that they’ve stumbled onto something rare. Now, this is really, really important. Nobody wants to buy commodity. We want commodity prices, but nobody wants to buy a commodity. And so, how do we communicate to the buyer that they’ve discovered something that most people normally don’t discover?

One of the techniques that we like to use is we talk about the fact that of all the people that come to our website, very few people discovered this best seller. So, I’ll have copy like, “Only 5% of people that come to our website ever discover this best seller.” That’s one way of doing it. There are many ways of doing this. But you want-

Kurt Elster: That’s smart. That’s very clever.

Rishi Rawat: You want to make that person feel-

Kurt Elster: What do you do on it? You say you’ve got only 5% of people ever buy this?

Rishi Rawat: 5% of people that come to our website ever discover this best seller.

Kurt Elster: Interesting. Okay. So, you make them feel like they stumbled on an easter egg.

Rishi Rawat: Exactly. And if, you know, like another example would be like if I’m selling premium dog food, I could actually have copy that says only 1% of Americans, or I guess this is an American example, only 1% of Americans invest in premium dog food. And so, that kind of makes the person feel special, too, so you can… There’s a bunch of devices for how you can make that person feel like they’ve stumbled on something rare. But the bottom line is you want to make them feel that way. You want to evoke that emotion.

Kurt Elster: 99% of Americans pretty much feed their dog poison. You’re the one person who won’t. Congratulations. Your award is in the mail. Really, that’s what’s going on. That’s what we’re doing. You gotta read between the lines and think of the inverse or the implication of a lot of this copy. I have fun with it, just like spelling it out in that scenario. I don’t know. I enjoy it. My wife always… At least I do schtick, and my wife laughs about it anyway.

Rishi Rawat: No, I think you’re exactly right. I mean, the idea is kind of like figuring out, and again, remember, these copywriting techniques that we’re talking about, we’re not talking about each of them being one paragraph long, so that means you’ve got nine paragraphs worth of content. We’re talking about the feelings that they’re evoking. You can do that with just one word choice, so it doesn’t have to be very wordy. Keep that in mind.

And now we will move onto the finale, the most final element, point number nine, which is we must resolve their negative thoughts. I think this is… Let me put it this way. As the user is going through our sales pitch, our brain is working feverishly. Our brains have been designed to not make purchases. Making a purchase is a very risky proposition, so our brain has been equipped, and this kind of goes back to prehistory when we were being attacked by sabretooths. Our brain is doing everything in its power to make sure that we are protecting ourselves and spending money is the exact opposite of protecting ourselves, so the brain is working really hard to kind of throw up all these questions.

And so, as you’re reading the sales pitch, your brain is working at throwing up all these negative questions. Now, here’s the thing. Here’s where the copywriter’s job is super complicated. I need to anticipate what those negative questions are, and then I need to address those negative questions, because here’s what I know: We talked about one of the points above, we talked about the idea is interesting details. We talked about the fact that we need to get the reader to go right to the bottom of our sales page. This is a really important point. If they do not get to the bottom of our sales page, statistically speaking, they’re… People get through half of our sales page are half as likely to convert as people who get to the bottom of the sales page. It’s just a fact. It’s like I’ve never bought something where I’ve read half the description and said, “Eh, sold.” I typically go through the whole description.

So, when I get to the bottom of that journey, it’s like a hero’s journey. If I still have some fundamental negative thoughts in my mind, guess what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna defer judgment. I’m gonna say, “You know what? I don’t have all the information I need to buy these lights today.” I don’t know, Kurt, if you bought those lights, but most people would say, “You know, I’m gonna talk to my wife about this and I’m gonna come back to this website after a couple days and then I’ll make the purchase.” The reality is-

Kurt Elster: You know what happened? Scarcity got to me. I went to… I noticed the lights I wanted sold out. This is why I couldn’t just replace the lights. I discovered warm white LEDs seem to be very scarce. And so, I went to a couple stores in which they’d have like all the cool white LEDs. Warm white, just empty shelves. And so, I was like, “Oh, crap.” So, the first thing I found Home Depot online had them in stock, boom, pulled the trigger immediately. Oh, the supply chain scarcity got me.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s right, so that’s a specific scarcity kind of scenario, but you know, if you had read… If it wasn’t scarcity and you got to the bottom of the description and there were certain questions maybe about the energy efficiency, maybe about the installation. Maybe it was about some other technical details that you cared about that they hadn’t covered. You know, you could have emailed their customer service and asked that question. 0.001% of buyers would ever go to that extent. What they typically would do, they’d say, “Well, they don’t have this question. They haven’t answered this question.” And they just assume that they don’t have that feature, and so that would basically be a barrier from them buying and they would say they would never come back.

And so, we need to anticipate those questions and then we need to address those questions, and I want to just add one point over here. This is where genius copy I think comes into play. If you’re a really good copywriter, you can actually raise objections and address those objections. So, even before the buyer is aware of the fact that there is a problem, you can actually, for example, if you’re selling a product that is super bulky, I know one of the objections is gonna be that this is super bulky, so I would just start out by saying you probably guess this is super bulky. Let me tell you why it’s super bulky. And I would make a really compelling reason for why it’s super bulky, because it improves… Give them a tradeoff that it’s super-efficient and that’s why we have to make it bulky, because we decided being bulky was worth it if we could make it twice as efficient as everything else that’s out there.

Kurt Elster: No, that absolutely works. Actually, I want to update my app, my Shopify app descriptions, to state, “Hey, we coded them with Liquid only because we know it’s the most performant thing.” But this is an objection because there’s a handful of features for some of these apps I can’t, or I’m limited in how I can implement, because of this. But it is in the service of performance that I do this. And so, I’m gonna raise it and then bust it. I like that idea. I’m glad you talked me through it.

Rishi Rawat: Yes. If you don’t address it, then what’s happening is you’re actually forcing the buyer to make their own narrative, and almost every single time they will make the narrative that is to your disadvantage. So, you want to kind of get in front of that.

Kurt Elster: Yeah. They’re making assumptions. So, if you don’t address it, and then they make assumptions, you can’t be mad about it. I want to make a point here. If you listened to Rishi’s nine points and you went, “This is a lot of work and I have 50, 100 products. How am I gonna do this?” Well, I’d say go find your number one, bestselling product, and implement it there, and the chances are if you implement it on the one that’s the best seller, that’s going to have the biggest impact. And then you could even use… Let’s say it works there. Okay, use Shopify’s ABC Analysis report, in which it’s gonna letter grade your products. The A grade ones are the Pareto’s principle products. Those are the ones responsible for 80% of your revenue. Those are the ones that get the fancy descriptions, right?

And really, like once you’ve done the one, I would seriously doubt in most stores that like all the products are so incredibly different that you can’t apply at least parts of it or a framework to it. So, I think once you get the one main product, you can do several others. And really get the impact out of it. But my question for you, Rishi, is how do I test this? If I go through this exercise, how do I know if it was effective?

Rishi Rawat: I mean, look. The only way that we’ve tested, the only way we’ve known if it works is by actually running statistical A-B tests, and so we specifically work with retailers that have very high transaction velocity, that are selling hundreds and thousands in revenue for those products, and then we A-B test to prove that the rewrite of the copy description has improved their conversion rate.

Now, if you’re a smaller retailer, you can do a couple of things. You can actually… There are two things you can do. One is you can actually, instead of focusing on the conversion rate number, which is fewer people actually complete the transaction, you can maybe have the conversion goal as people clicking the add to cart, which is a good enough proxy for you to know if more people are moving from your product page to further on the page. Another thing you can do is you can actually rewrite your description and you can look at what we call the look-to-book ratio, which is number of people that came to this product page, number of units of this product that was sold divided by number of people that came to this product page. Very different than your conversion rate number. It’s actually very specific to that SKU.

And if you notice a meaningful improvement in that, you know that your description was… If that’s the only thing you changed, then that’s the reason why it improved the efficiency.

Kurt Elster: Rishi, what have we missed? What else would you like to leave people with? We have gone long here. I gotta wrap it up.

Rishi Rawat: Yeah. I mean, I recognize how this going through these nine items, this checklist of nine items is overwhelming. I would say that pull up that list and ask yourself like which of these do I really want to focus on. I would say to Kurt’s point, for your best seller, focus on all of them. But then really ask yourself, like maybe there’s a subset of these that actually in particular is relevant to me.

For example, if you’re selling a technical product, I would say the demonstration of expertise is more important than everything else, and so I would double down on that expertise angle. If you’re selling a product that has a very high-ticket value, I would focus on one of the other attributes. Maybe giving people motivation to break habits. So, you can kind of pick and choose from this list, because you understand who your audience is, what are the elements that matter the most, but I can tell you what I want to communicate to the audience is that these nine elements are things we have rigorously been A-B testing for the last 13 years. This is where the bulk of your conversion lift on the product page is gonna come from.

Kurt Elster: Rishi, I love it. I want to know more. Where can I learn more about you?

Rishi Rawat: I share conversion ideas on my newsletter. Every week, this is where I’d say, is that the amount of marketing experimentation that’s happening in the marketplace right now is monumental. I mean, there are hundreds of retailers that are doing really incredible experiments. Many of them are super small. I mean, we talked about Crutchfield today. That’s a huge retailer. They probably don’t experiment as much as a really small Shopify shop would, so what I do, because I have a lot of time on my hands, I spend a lot of time… I also spend a lot of time watching infomercials. But when I’m free of infomercials, I actually go to these niche websites and I see what kind of interesting things that they’re doing on their product pages, and I collect the best ideas, and once a week I share them with my mailing list. And if anyone wants to join, the way to join that mailing list is go to my website, That’s Join. And you will get a simple signup form. Sign up. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. And once a week I’ll share with you the most interesting things that I’ve learned about how to convert shoppers.

Kurt Elster: I will include that and more in the show notes. Rishi, thank you so much.

Rishi Rawat: Thank you, Kurt.