Tara of Waterwaif has been selling on Etsy for nearly five years; she’s become well known for her beachy gemstone jewelry, and for the excellent tips and advice she offers new sellers on the Etsy forums. She knows firsthand that writing product descriptions can feel tedious and mundane. Tara’s description checklist will help you nail down the important details to attract buyers.
The best advice I can give to a seller is to describe your item as if you had no pictures at all. Then take pictures as if you had no description at all. Put those two things together and you’ve got magic. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think.
Describing what’s for sale is the first step. It sounds obvious, but a surprising number of sellers get this wrong. It’s not just a shirt, it’s a silk tie-dyed tunic. It’s not just a pair of earrings, they’re turquoise wire-wrapped earrings.
Be specific about what’s for sale, and clarify what’s not included if other items are shown in the picture. If you have a stack of shirts showing different colors, make it clear that this listing is only for one shirt. Better yet, include a swatch image that shows just the colors rather than confusing the situation.
It’s hard to accurately represent color over the internet, as you know if you’ve ordered supplies online. The lighting can affect the picture – and even if you get the color perfect on the camera, all monitors have slightly different colors. I find it’s easiest to be as specific as possible when describing color. Not very color savvy? Grab a big box of crayons and match it up!
Describe colors using common terms and more elaborate terms. Not all reds are the same – adding descriptors like candy apple red, raspberry, or terra cotta will bring in buyers who are searching for more specific colors. It can also help someone with a theme in mind discover a new idea they hadn’t considered; a cranberry-themed wedding doesn’t have to literally involve cranberries on every table.
Size matters; how big or small is the item? Get a cheap tape measure at the dollar store and get measuring. Remember that Etsy is a global site – you may measure in inches, but a prospective buyer might prefer centimeters. It’s always best to include both types of measurements in your listing. Including something in the photo for scale can be a big help too – so long as it’s clear that it’s not included!
Measure and describe how a piece of jewelry or clothing will hang or lay on an average person, especially if you don’t use a model. If you’re selling clothing, make sure you include bust, waist, shoulder and hip measurements along with the length. Remember, buyers can’t hold your item or try it on! Let them know if it will fit them by being as specific as possible.
What’s the item made from? If it’s wire wrapped, mention the metal and gauge of the wire. Listing the kind of cloth, stone or paper will give a buyer a better idea of what to expect from your item.
Describing materials is also a great way to set your product apart. Did you shape the metal yourself, or grow the soothing aloe in your own garden? Etsy buyers are looking for a personal touch, and plenty of detail. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn if you use special materials.
Let buyers know how to use and store the item, and how it can be safely cleaned. Buyers may not want a dish that isn’t dishwasher safe, or a pillow that’s not suitable for outdoors. If your silver piece should be stored a certain way to avoid tarnishing, let them know right there in the description.
Giving buyers as much information as you can up front might just save you a negative review down the road.
Listing the weight of an item can be helpful, and sometimes necessary. Buyers should know if those gorgeous vintage earrings weigh a ton, and can only be worn by people with strong ears. For things like sculpture and art, it can be difficult to gauge an item’s weight by looks alone.
As with the item size, it’s best to list weights in both metric and imperial. Most of the postal scales that you might already have for shipping can measure in either pounds or kilograms. The international shoppers will thank you for the little bit of extra effort!
Sellers often overlook how an item is used in product descriptions. If it’s a bracelet, how does it stay closed and what’s the best way to put it on? Scarves can often be wrapped in many different ways – offer suggestions in the description, or put together a quick photo guide that you can email when someone places an order.
If it’s art, how does it hang? For greeting cards, which way does it open? It’s easy to forget that others don’t know how your item works. If you know of any alternative uses for your item, mentioning those in the description will give buyers even more ideas.
Information about how an item feels is a bit subjective, but I like to include it when I can. Is it faceted or smooth? A piece of clothing can feel light and airy, or thick and comfortable. Flannel can be rough or soft as a feather.
The more senses you can involve in your description, the more engaged a buyer will be when reading it. Touch is a sense that can really get your imagination going. It doesn’t hurt for buyers to imagine your item in their hands – maybe it soon will be!
Lots of potential buyers are allergic or sensitive to strong smells. If someone in your house smokes, or if you have pets, this needs to be disclosed. It can be included in your profile, your policies, or in the listing description itself. You never know when a stray hair can end up in a package.
Including a dryer sheet, or other scented item in the package can make it smell lovely when opened – but it can be toxic for some customers. Think twice before including that scented soap sample, or at least mention it in the listing so the sensitive noses can opt out.
Packaging and shipping
Buyers love to know details about how an item will be packaged and shipped. Do you use USPS, FedEx or UPS? Is the item gift-wrapped in a box, tied up with coordinating ribbon, or tossed in a baggie?
Recycling packaging materials is great for the environment, but it could come off as a little more home-spun than buyers new to Etsy are expecting. Mention the eco-friendly packaging and consider explaining your philosophy behind it on your profile or about page.
If you really want to test your descriptive prowess, find a friend that’s never seen your item and have them draw a picture of it after having only heard the description. It’s a little silly, but you might discover in the process something important that you’ve left out!
Keep in mind that buyers shopping on a mobile device will only see the top 5-9 lines of your description without scrolling. That’s not to say you shouldn’t include plenty more information – just make sure that the critical information is presented at the top.
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Late to the party but… “describe your item as if you had no pictures at all. Then take pictures as if you had no description at all. ” sums it all up! wow.
Just to add to these tips a few quick hacks: you can add links to other similar items in your shop. the creative upsell! And you can also include reviews within the description – which adds more credibility quicker than a visitor clicking on the reviews tab and reading them. I covered a few more such product desc hacks on Around.io that you can check out here.
I knew I needed to describe my packaging!
and all the rest!
thanks for the kick in the pants Tara and Brittany!
This is a great article, packed with advice I REALLY NEED! Thanks once again Brittany, you’re a star!
Thanks, Helen for the kind words! Glad to hear that this will be helpful.