June 3rd, 2008 | 6 MIN READ

Improving Product Descriptions Using Competitor Customer Reviews

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Customer reviews certainly help shoppers, but they are not substitutes for weak or generic product descriptions. Unique product descriptions help your search engine optimization, help overcome your customer FUDDs and ultimately sell more product!

I want to share a few tips for creating unique, compelling product page copy using customer review content - even when your site has few or no reviews.

Death to Stock Manufacturer Product Descriptions

SEO and Duplicate Content

Our example is the "LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set." This product is carried by most toy retailers, and many are just using the stock product description from the manufacturer:

Your fridge door is the perfect place to develop a taste for reading. Nobody goes hungry for learning with this set of 26 colorful easy-grip magnetic letters and magnetic letter reader that attaches securely to your fridge. Each letter talks, sings and teaches letter names, letter sounds and learning songs. Put a letter into the reader to hear its name, its sound or a fun phonics song. Your kids might not eat their vegetables, but with the Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set they can learn to spell them. What it Teaches: * Letter names * Letter sounds * Learning songs

Nothing wrong with the description itself, it's actually very clever. But typing "Your fridge door is the perfect place to develop a taste for reading" into Google delivers 1,520 results, which tells us Google has indexed that many pages using this phrase. The danger to sites using stock descriptions is they may not appear in search results due to the duplicate content filter.

Writing a unique description, or at least modifying it so it's not word-for-word is a better approach, especially to capture long-tail search traffic.

Address Fears, Uncertainties, Doubts and Deal-breakers

Manufacturer's descriptions are typically written before the product is sold to the general public. Copywriters don't necessarily have enough customer research to answer these questions:

  • Who buys this item and why?
  • Did the product live up to expectations?
  • How long did the product last?
  • What unexpected uses do customers discover for the product?
  • What's the worse thing about this product?
  • Would the customer recommend it to people like themselves?

But you have access to free market research that addresses these concerns - customer reviews. Plus, you can identify common FUDDs - fears, uncertainties, doubts and dealbreakers that can help you write more persuasive copy, establish trust with customers and convert comparison shoppers - even if yours is not the lowest price.

How to Use Customer Reviews to Improve Product Copy

Start with your featured products, best sellers, highest margin or seasonal products.

Custom copywriting does take time, especially when you're performing thorough customer research by reading a number of reviews. Choose items you expect will get most mileage for your time investment.

Tip: Check out Amazon's Bestseller lists by navigating to any category and clicking the Bestsellers link!

Tap into the largest customer review bases for each product.

This could be Amazon, Epinions, Rate-it-All or any other review community. You might want to Google the product itself "{product} + reviews" and start with the first result.

I like using Amazon because I've found it not only has a large number of reviews, but the review quality is usually very good. There are great sort tools to help you hone in by star-rating, rank by most-helpful or even search within reviews for keywords. I do find the search feature's precision to be lacking. If you want to find reviews with the phrase "would not recommend this for" it will match single words, and plurals / alternate endings for the word "recommend."

Example: Using our LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set as our case, here's how you can leverage Amazon...

From the product page, scroll, scroll and scroll some more until you find the "See All Product Description" link.

Hello! This product has won some awards.

  • Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Gold Seal and Snap Award, 2003
  • Parenting 2003 Toys of the Year Award
  • Toy Wishes All Star, Preschool Category, 2003
  • Toy of the Year, Nick Jr.com, 2003

These are strong value propositions. Use this to your advantage in home page merchandising zones, PPC copy, email marketing as well as product page copy.

You won't necessarily find awards for every product, but who knows what gems you'll find.

Read reviews.

You don't have to read ALL the reviews, just a handful of reviews voted most helpful buy the community and a few of the lowest rated. As you scan, clip quotes that stand out to you. Look for:

  • Product strengths: "What I love most about this is that because it is magnetic, we do not seem to lose them unlike the wooden puzzle ones my 8 year old used when he was younger."
  • Benefits to the owner, gift giver or secondary users: "It's great that it's in the kitchen too so I can cook or clean while she plays."
  • Unexpected uses: "...you can use your washer and/or dryer. We do a lot of learning while I do laundry."
  • Natural cross-sell or upsell opportunities: "Since any magnet can damage your TV, VCR, and other electronic devices, we purchased a large magnetic board for her room, and that helps us encourage her to keep her magnetic items in there."
  • Cautions: "WARNING about the magnet. Keep at least 6" away from pacemakers, and avoid contact with magnetic computer media, including floppy disks, Zip disks, removable Hard Disk Drives, Televisions, and Computer Video Monitors, other magnetic media including credit cards, ID badges..."

Pay closest attention to negative reviews.

Should you discover (as in this example) that the product is often defective, you need to address this both in your copy and in your selling policies.

Are you willing and able to offer the assurance of free return shipping on defective products? It could be the deciding factor on whether a comparison shopper chooses you or your competition. You could add copy like:

"Though most customers are extremely satisfied with this item, a small percentage of customers report the product does not play the correct letter sounds for some letters. In the event that your product does not work as expected, we will gladly offer free return shipping and send you a new set."

Use Buzzillions.com

Buzzillions is a popular customer reviews aggregator from the folks at Power Reviews. One feature it has that I haven't found elsewhere is a "Review Snapshot" that gives you a list of Pros, Cons and Best Uses as mentioned by customers.

Under the pros tab you'll find fantastic adjectives to use in your copy.
The cons tab lists fears you must address in your copy, or gives you ideas for cross-sells. Hard to clean? Suggest a cleaner. No storage container? Suggest a suitable container.
Best uses helps you develop "Recommended For" copy. You can also add these products to the appropriate gift finder tools, or add product tags if your site uses them.

You may discover different ways of gleaning from customer reviews than the ones mentioned here. The takeaway here is that you tap into the consumer conversation that's freely available to you, and consider how you can leverage it to improve your product copy. If you want to take this to the next level and use customer reviews to market to the sexes, check out Holly Buchanan's post Using Customer Reviews to Pick Up Men, Women.

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