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3 Rule-breaking Product Pages, Designed for Conversions

Most ecommerce platforms have a standard layout. Their product page designs are relatively conventional, with a left-to-right display and a dominant image. Calls-to-action almost always appear near the top, especially on mobile.

But the norm isn’t always the best. Brands that understand their audiences can defy convention and leverage prime real estate to boost conversions.

Let’s look at three online stores that are breaking the product-page rules.

3 Product-page Rule Breakers

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters knows what’s important to customers. So it provides crucial details above the CTA — for desktop and mobile — including the bean’s growth altitude (which correlates to acidity) and the roast level. This helps shoppers make instant buying decisions. Bird Rock realizes that picky coffee drinkers often value specifics over price.

Bird Rock Coffee Product Page - featuring a chart for altitude and roast levelBird Rock Coffee Product Page - featuring a chart for altitude and roast level

Placing details above the CTA makes sense when it drives the purchase. Source: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.

The image above is on a desktop. In a conventional mobile view, shoppers have to scroll two or more screens to reach the CTA. But not for Bird Rock. Even on mobile, Bird Rock places the most sought-after details above the CTA, lowering the likelihood of shoppers looking elsewhere for answers.

Nixon, a lifestyle accessory brand, delivers different experiences on mobile and desktop. On desktops, it places product imagery in the center of the page, between the description and CTA. But on mobile, the main image displays first, followed by product options, add to cart, and description.

The desktop view facilitates reading left to right, showcasing key reasons to buy. Both views provide thumbnail images of each variant to speed up choosing a color and material configuration.

Nixon watch product page, featuring a large image of a stylish watchNixon watch product page, featuring a large image of a stylish watch

A three-column product-page desktop layout lets Nixon.com spotlights the main product images.

Gymshark, which sells fitness apparel and accessories, focuses on product images. On a desktop, grids of photos (and sometimes videos) take up the entire left side. On mobile, thumbnails are large enough to see core details. With a fixed CTA on mobile, shoppers only need to look at the bottom of the screen to add the product to the cart.

Displaying additional images automatically with easy enlarging reduces clicks and swipes, lowering abandonment and increasing conversions.

Gymshark backpack product page, showing several product use images in a gridGymshark backpack product page, showing several product use images in a grid

Gymshark spotlights several product views on desktop and mobile.

What Drives Shoppers?

Millions of ecommerce sites look eerily similar. Merchants should consider their audience’s desires and behaviors to differentiate from competitors. Heat and tracking maps can provide valuable insight into where visitors leave. Detailed analytics tell us exact stopping points in the conversion process.

Reassembling product pages requires a balance of design, functionality, and consumer expectations. And product type plays a big role. A lifestyle company has different challenges than one selling power tools.

When wireframing new product page layouts, consider:

  • Essential vs. secondary product images. Emphasize the most compelling images, such as alternate views and context-of-use.
  • Data that drives the purchase decision. Anything presented above the CTA should guide the shopper to buy or not. For carry-on luggage, it’s wheel quality, unique features, and dimensions. For coffee, it’s the acidity and roast level. But not all products need information near the top, so evaluate case-by-case.
  • Time- and action-saving features. The best layouts present the necessary info in the least amount of space, with plenty of breathing room. Keep in mind that popups and popovers require clicks and taps.
  • How your audience decides. Some folks purchase wallets based on functionality; others value price. You can present the right information by understanding the reason shoppers purchase specific items.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with product page variations. Start by inviting loyal customers to critique proposed layouts. Then follow up with live A/B testing. Take copious notes and annotate your analytics tool.

The Full-funnel Product Detail Page

Once found only at the bottom of a sales funnel, the ecommerce product detail page is evolving to address the entire buyer journey, from awareness to sale.

Consider a free, basic theme on Shopify called “Simple,” Its product pages are sales-focused, with eight sections:

  • Product name,
  • Price,
  • Description
  • Product options,
  • Images,
  • Two call-to-action buttons,
  • Social media buttons,
  • Product recommendations.

These sections are fundamental to conversions except, perhaps, the social media buttons and product recommendations. The rest — product name, price, description, images, and add-to-cart buttons — are more or less essential to completing the action.

Screenshot of Simple's product detail pageScreenshot of Simple's product detail page

The product detail page on Simple, a Shopify theme, provides bottom-of-funnel content to prompt a purchase.

Interestingly, this list of product content sections is similar to a typical Amazon product detail page years ago. A screen capture from the Internet Archive shows that the product page in 2007 for the “George Forman Grill with Bun Warmer” had the basics — name, price, description, picture, and add to cart button — plus ratings, tags, and a customer discussion section.

The page was aimed at the bottom of the funnel — the end of the buyer’s journey.

Screenshot from 2007 of George Forman Grill on Amazon.Screenshot from 2007 of George Forman Grill on Amazon.

Amazon’s product detail pages in 2007 contained content for end-of-journey actions.

Funnels and Journeys

Sales funnels and buyer’s journeys are meant to describe how prospects become customers. These models help us think about the required emotional, psychological, and physical steps.

Historically, such models have focused on the action steps. As an example, consider the popular AIDAR model, a hierarchical funnel with five stages:

  • Attention,
  • Interest,
  • Desire,
  • Action,
  • Retention.

A product detail page with just the basic info described above fits best near the bottom of the model in the “Action” or “Retention” step.

A diagram showing the five steps of the AIDAR model. A diagram showing the five steps of the AIDAR model.

The AIDAR model is an example of a marketing or sales funnel.

Full-funnel

Product detail pages in 2021 have evolved from closing the sale to serving the entire journey — a full-funnel page.

Take the product detail page on Amazon for Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo from July 22, 2021. On marketplaces such as Amazon, product pages have to attract attention in search, generate interest, and develop desire so that a shopper will make a purchase.

Screenshot of the Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo page on AmazonScreenshot of the Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo page on Amazon

The Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo page on Amazon has to attract attention in search, generate interest, and develop desire so that a shopper will make a purchase.

The product name is long.

“WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo – Reduce Dandruff, Frizz, Split Ends, For Hair Loss – Clean Scalp & Boost Gloss, Shine – Paraben, Sulfate Free – All Hair Types, Adults & Children – 500 mL”

This title is not likely aimed at the bottom of the funnel but rather near the top. WOW seems to be optimizing it for search on Amazon.

Moreover, the “About this item” section adds 200 more words explaining what the shampoo does. The description here may be aimed at the middle of the funnel to create a desire for the product.

Screenshot from Amazon of the extended description for Wow Apple Cider Vinegar ShampooScreenshot from Amazon of the extended description for Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

On Amazon, the Wow Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo page contains content aimed at consumers earlier in their shopping journey.

And the list goes on. The page includes three product videos and six product-related photos. There’s a 1,097-word product description (longer than most articles on Practical Ecommerce), two charts, two bulleted lists, and 20 more photos. And there are sections for specifications, ingredients, usage, reviews, and user videos.

The WOW shampoo product page had three videos, numerous photos, and more words than most articles on Practical Ecommerce.

Evolution

Several factors are likely responsible for the differences on the Amazon product detail pages for the George Forman grill in 2007 versus the WOW shampoo in 2021.

Competition. Worldwide retail ecommerce is booming, with sales nearly tripling in the six years from 2014 to 2020 when it hit $4.28 trillion, according to Statista. And B2B ecommerce is even bigger. Global B2B ecommerce revenue reached more than $6.6 trillion in 2020, according to Grand View Research.

Thus ecommerce is competitive. Product information can provide an edge.

In a discussion about search engine optimization and link building, James Wirth, senior director of strategy and growth marketing at Citation Labs, an agency, pointed out that his firm builds links to ecommerce product pages. That process requires link-worthy content.

Nowhere is ecommerce competition as intense as on Amazon, where a product page is not the culmination of a buyer’s journey but likely the first stop. That page is the only opportunity a brand or retailer has to grab attention, peak interest, and develop desire.

Covid-19. The pandemic intensified ecommerce competition, forced more businesses to compete online, and impacted buyer behavior.

In December 2020, Salsify, a maker of product information management software, surveyed 1,800 U.S. shoppers. About 40% of respondents had relied on ecommerce in some form since the outset of the pandemic. Roughly 24% only shopped online. And another 37% limited brick-and-mortar shopping to trusted stores.

Thus shoppers who might otherwise have gone to a local store were pursuing digital aisles. Those shoppers wanted product information, including top-of-funnel content.

Culture. Finally, shopping culture is changing.

Buyers are not just interested in price. They want to know if a product is good not just in quality, but also good for the world. Consumers increasing are interested in sustainability, social responsibility, and the well-being of workers.

This could be why shoppers might prefer a minority-owned company or why WOW’s shampoo description states that its products are vegan and cruelty-free. All of this needs to be communicated. Product pages might be the place to do it.

Essential Elements of an Ecommerce Product Page

The elements of an ecommerce product detail page should work together to help shoppers make sound buying decisions. Each element — prose description, a list of features, product photos, videos — should tell part of an item’s story.

Coyote 105

To witness this concept in practice, consider the product detail page for the Kelty Coyote 105 backpack as it appeared on Kelty’s website on August 28, 2020.

Photography. The Coyote 105 detail page contains a large product image positioned in the top left on desktop and top center on mobile. Beyond that, 10 more supporting images show the backpack from several angles. And, like many good ecommerce sites, Kelty allows users to zoom in on product pictures.

Product detail pages need pictures, and the Coyote 105 page has many of them.

Product detail pages need pictures, and the Coyote 105 page has many of them.

Images help shoppers know how a product looks and imagine how it feels. This is critical since online shoppers cannot handle a product as they would in a physical store.

According to a 2019 eMarketer article (which was based on earlier research from Salsify), on average American online shoppers expect to see six product images on a product detail page. Two age groups — 18-to-24-year-olds and 35-to-44-year-olds — desired eight images.

Price and call-to-action. A simple call-to-action button (“Add to Cart”) and the price (“$199.95”) appears just below the images on mobile and to the right on desktop computers.

These elements are essential, so Kelty places them near the top. A returning shopper, for example, can use the product images and price to verify she has come to the right item.

A price and call-to-action are essential. But they can also tell something about the product. Shoppers expect relatively expensive items to be feature-packed and well made.

A price and call-to-action are essential. But they can also say something about the product. Shoppers expect relatively expensive items to be feature-packed and well made.

Written description and specifications. A product’s written description and specifications can be among the most critical elements. These textual sections provide specific, easy-to-understand information about the item. And they also play a significant role in search engine optimization as well as voice search.

Written descriptions and specifications are important in communicating a product's purpose, features, and benefits. Such descriptions also help with SEO.

Written descriptions and specifications are important in communicating a product’s purpose, features, and benefits. Such descriptions also help with SEO.

Kelty provides product copy in two forms, prose and lists. First comes the prose.

A giant walks among us. The Coyote 105 is [at the] intersection of comfort and bigger cargo. This pack is loaded with features, including the new FIT-Pro adjustment system for customized torso fit, an advanced perimeter frame plus a center stay for stability, and the AMP-Flow ventilated back panel to help you get your fill of chill. Smart storage keeps things tidy, from the central organizer pockets to the security sleeve on the top lid…not to mention a dedicated sleeping bag pocket and internal divider to keep smaller items safely separated from the big stuff.

One could argue about how well the description is written or even how to write a high-converting product description. Regardless, Kelty calls out some of the backpack’s main features.

Next, this product detail page offers a few lists that make it easy to identify key buying criteria.

For example, the empty pack weighs five pounds eight ounces. This is vital info for someone who has to carry the Coyote 105. Next, we learn in a bullet point that its storage capacity is a massive 6,407 cubic inches.

Videos. Next, Kelty includes a product description video. It covers both the Coyote 105 and the smaller Coyote 85. The features of both packs are essentially the same, and it doesn’t detract from one to have it described with the other.

The product description video adds much to the page and is likely to be a favorite for shoppers.

The product description video adds much to the page and is likely to be a favorite for shoppers.

Videos can take a product detail page to a new level. Shoppers find them helpful.

Reviews. Kelty rounds out the Coyote 105 product detail page with some social proof in the form of customer reviews. The Coyote 105 is a relatively new product. It has just three reviews at the time of writing. Nonetheless, they help to tell part of the product’s story.

Social proof, such as customer reviews, can tell a powerful story about an ecommerce product.

Social proof, such as customer reviews, can tell a powerful story about an ecommerce product.

Adios Written Descriptions?

On the Kelty Coyote 105 product detail page, the product video is augmented by written descriptions. However, some observers have suggested the written product descriptions could become obsolete.

While researching ecommerce product video practices, I found an article by Nick Rojas on the Pixel Productions blog that predicted: “written product descriptions will become obsolete.”

Rojas’s article turned up as the fourth organic result for the query “emerging ecommerce trends 2020 video” on a DuckDuckGo search results page. I conducted the query from the address bar in the Brave Browser on August 27, 2020. Although the article did not rank nearly as high in Google, the post has some search engine traction.

The article in question ranked well in DuckDuckGo.

The article in question ranked well in DuckDuckGo.

The article’s third emerging ecommerce trend stated:

Another prediction about the future of ecommerce is that written product descriptions will become obsolete. According to studies conducted by Social Media Today, 60-percent of shoppers would rather watch a product video than read a product description when they’re shopping. This number is projected to increase over time. With this in mind, retail companies should focus on providing video product descriptions, as opposed to written ones.

However, suggesting the written product descriptions will become obsolete seems unlikely. I decided to find the source on Social Media Today.

The Social Media Today study cited may be an article by Mark Walker-Ford in May 2018. That article states, “60-percent of consumers would rather watch a product video than read a description,” but it stops short of suggesting that written descriptions are going away.

The Walker-Ford post cites an Invesp infographic as the source of the 60-percent figure. In turn, the infographic references a 2016 E-commerce Nation post, which says that the 60-percent figure comes from Single Grain, a digital marketing agency.

The Single Grain post in question was updated last year and no longer mentions this statistic. However, the Internet Archive had a copy of the article from September 2015.

The Internet Archives Wayback Machine lets you view web pages as they looked in the past.

The Internet Archives Wayback Machine lets you view web pages as they looked in the past.

It seems Single Grain got the information from Diode Digital. That page appears to require Flash. So for me, the trail ended here.

Sixty percent of consumers prefer video. That seems low. I would have expected that number to be much higher. But it doesn’t imply that written product descriptions will soon be obsolete.

Tailor Product Descriptions to the Channel and Audience

Product descriptions are vital to attracting website traffic and closing sales. But the type of description to use depends on your target audience and the channel, beyond your own ecommerce site. Potential customers are everywhere.

Telling each product’s story in different forms can lead to bigger payoffs. It’s also tricky.

Generate these eight types of descriptions for your most promising products.

8 Description Types

Comprehensive catalog descriptions. The highly-detailed product page description covers what the item does and the pain point(s) it solves. Formatting content with bullet points, images, and video can tell shoppers everything they need to know.

Overviews ready to share. Shareable descriptions are brief overviews that entice readers to click a call-to-action. Format the overviews for posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other platforms. Consider creating separate versions for each channel. Tweets, for example, contain no more than 280 characters. And leave room for sharers to enter a few words of their own.

Shopping-feed details. Shopping feeds require specific information based on product types. Some sites want expanded descriptions, aside from the data feeds. Depending on your target market, existing content might not work.

Meta descriptions for organic search. Meta descriptions can appear beneath page titles in Google’s search results. Allow for about 160 characters apiece. Meta descriptions can influence searchers to click to your page. Contributor Jill Kocher Brown explained how meta descriptions should incorporate keywords and a meaningful call-to-action.

Quick details for category pages. Since a quick-look feature requires movement — hovering with a mouse or tapping with a finger — displaying details that shoppers use to filter search results can help close sales. From touting limited editions to trending special features, presenting key info on category pages saves shoppers time.

Category page of t-shirts. Under some are words telling shoppers available sizes, limited inventory and exclusives.

Quick descriptions can depict available sizes, as well as brands and unique details. Source: VanHalenStore.com.

Affiliate and referrer descriptions. Provide affiliates, bloggers, and influencers with content to copy and paste. Where they display information also matters. Social media posts need to be short with engaging details. Blog posts tell more extensive stories.

Landing page info. Products worthy of a special landing page need well-massaged, short descriptions. Coupled with compelling design and typography, these descriptions (which can make or break a sale) should drive shoppers to click a call-to-action.

Videos that show products in use. Creating videos that show products in real life can trigger purchases. Use these for landing and product pages, as well as shareable content. Hosting videos on popular platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo puts your brand in front of more eyes. And both these services allow for product linking within the video.

Don’t Truncate

Some ecommerce platforms simply truncate product descriptions for use elsewhere. What’s left is a few short lines that don’t touch on the best-selling features.

A product page at the HP Store for a printer includes this truncated product description:

Get productive performance and photos that shine with powerful all-in-one capabilities. Produce authentic colors, and set up, connect, and print right from your mobile device.

That description, to be sure, is infused with appropriate keywords. But the bullet points listed to the right of the printer photo are more helpful to the average shopper. A catalog description that highlights mobile printing, scanning, and copying would yield a better response.

HP printer product page. Includes image, bullet points and paragraph text.

Lengthy text on product pages — such as this catalog product description for an HP printer — typically doesn’t list the most compelling details first. Source: HP.

Step Up

The pandemic has boosted ecommerce. Thousands of new online stores have opened. Existing merchants need to step up a notch. Generating product descriptions based on the channel and the audience can encourage people to visit your site. It can help retain loyal customers and attract new ones.