We partnered with copywriter Brian Speronello of Accelerated Conversions on this project. This case study was written by Brian and edited by Devesh and Brian.
Writing powerful eCommerce copy that improves conversion rates is one of the most effective ways to generate more revenue for your online business. Just by changing the words your visitors read when they come to your site, you can generate significant increases in sales for your company.
For example, online direct-to-consumer mattress brand Amerisleep was able to achieve a multi-million dollar increase in annual revenues just by rewriting their product details page. A/B testing showed that checkouts increased by 13.9% with 98% confidence.
Note: Our agreement with Amerisleep prevents us from publishing their actual product page traffic and conversion rates but for the integrity of the test we’re showing the confidence level and hundreds of conversion events per variation. The test was also run for multiple buying cycles.
GrowthRock performed the conversion testing for this project, and Brian Speronello from Accelerated Conversions (that’s me) wrote the copy.
In this eCommerce case study, I’m going to share three advanced copywriting techniques that helped drive the 13.9% increase in orders on the new product page for Amerisleep.
eCommerce Conversion Copy Tactic 1: Go Beyond Bush-League Benefits
If you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume that you’re at least moderately interested in conversion and copywriting strategy. You should already know why it’s important to promote benefits ahead of features.
(If not, before you invest time going over this case study, you should read more about the basics of copywriting. That way you’ll be able to get the most out of the strategies presented here).
This section is NOT about benefits versus features.
It’s pretty easy to tell the difference between a benefit and a feature. The former describes a result for the reader. The latter describes a function of the product or service.
Detecting Bush-League Benefits is more difficult, because it’s a matter of tone and perspective.
Bush-League Benefits are actual benefits that the target audience will get from your product or service. But they’re benefits that the end user doesn’t care about.
Effective copy doesn’t just focus on benefits before features. Sometimes it has to go through several layers of benefits to reach the deepest desires of the audience.
As an example, let’s look at a classic marketing and copywriting analogy: the electric drill.
A New Version of a Classic Marketing Tale
As the old saying about marketing a drill goes, the benefit of a drill is a hole in the wall. That’s the immediate result (benefit) that the user gets from the features the drill has. If you wrote copy for a drill that promoted how it puts holes in your wall, you would technically be promoting its benefits, since you’re not talking about features like torque or battery life.
But is “a hole in the wall” really what the reader wants?
Does a drill customer wake up in the morning and say “man, I really need some holes in my wall?” (And if so, why not just buy a few kegs and invite over the local frat? Problem solved.)
So while “a hole in the wall” is certainly a benefit of owning a drill, it’s a Bush-League Benefit because it doesn’t tap into the real desires of the audience. It doesn’t connect with a problem or desire that the audience actively thinks about on a regular basis.
So what’s the real benefit of having the drill?
Is it having holes that are a precise size? Is it the drill’s ability to make holes in a wall with little physical effort? To find out, you have to ask yourself why the customer would want the holes in the wall.
You’d probably come up with an answer like “to hang family portraits.” This response is far more emotional than “holes in the wall.” And it makes for a more compelling benefit to the reader.
For example, you can imagine a family moving into a new home and dreaming about hanging their family portraits above the fireplace. That’s how you know you’ve gone deeper than a Bush-League Benefit. From there you could write your copy targeting “hanging family portraits” as the real benefit of your drill.
But you’d be wrong. (Sort of…)
Because while the benefit of “hanging your family portraits” is definitely more emotional and compelling to the reader than holes in their wall, you can still go deeper.
What would happen if you asked “why?” again, researching the reason a family would want to hang their family portraits? They might say something like “We just moved into a new house, and we want to make it feel like home.”
Now you’re getting somewhere.
Which drill would you rather buy?
- Drill A: Our high-powered electric drill will put precision-sized holes in your walls.
- Drill B: A new drill from our company will let you hang your family portraits so your new house finally feels like home.
No contest, you’d take Drill B. Even though Drill A mentions a benefit (holes in your walls) it’s a Bush-League Benefit because it doesn’t connect to the emotions and desires of the audience.
The Challenge with Bush-League Benefits
The challenge with going beyond Bush-League Benefits is deciding when you’ve discovered a benefit that connects with the reader’s emotions enough to make them want to purchase. It’s also why I said Bush-League Benefits are a matter of tone and perspective, so you’d only be “sort of” wrong to use “hanging family portraits” as the main benefit in copy for the drill.
Maybe your audience wants their house to feel like home because they’re part of an elite social circle and care about their status or impressing their neighbors. Or maybe it’s because they’re looking to be featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine or on HGTV.
Those desires are even more compelling than “making the house feel like home.” You could write your copy to focus on them, if you found they applied to the majority of your audience, and probably get even better conversions.
So it’s up to you to decide how deep you need to go based on your product or service and your audience. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive, complicated, or important your offer is for the reader, the more your copy needs to connect with their deepest hopes and fears.
But if you want your copy to convert well, it must connect the benefits of your product or service with needs and desires that are emotional and top-of-mind for the reader.
You can’t settle for Bush-League Benefits and expect to get a lot of buyers.
Going Beyond Bush-League Benefits with Amerisleep
If you asked novice copywriters to tell you the benefit of a new mattress, they’d probably say “getting more sleep.” And they’d be getting tricked by a Bush-League Benefit.
Don’t get me wrong, sleep is great. And because most people understand that, copy that uses sleep as the main benefit can get decent results all by itself.
However even though sleep can be an effective benefit on its own — in fact because it’s so easy to settle for using sleep as your main benefit — it’s actually a Bush-League Benefit that has tricked many copywriters. That’s because probing further into the reader’s desire for sleep reveals even more powerful motivators.
One of the biggest changes that we made on the Amerisleep product page was adding the following section. It’s short, but it plays a key role in connecting the Bush-League Benefit of “more sleep” with deeper aspirations of the audience. It relates “more sleep” with two highly emotional and nearly universal desires: An improvement in physical health and better mental performance at work.
This section positions sleep as the solution to better health, better job performance, and a higher quality of life. And it’s a mistake to trust the reader to make these connection on their own.
You have to remind readers about the important role sleep plays in how we feel each and every day before they start to care about getting more of it.
Only once the reader is actively craving sleep will “more sleep” move from a Bush-League Benefit to a real one. This section helps create that desire for sleep in the reader, and in turn it makes the other parts of the page where we talk about increasing sleep more persuasive.
So when it comes to your own copy, make sure that you connect the immediate benefit of your product or service to deeper and more compelling desires the audience has.
Otherwise you’ll just be peddling Bush-League Benefits.
eCommerce Copy Tactic 2: How to Shut Down the One Competitor Every Business Has in Common
There is one competitor that every single business in the entire world has in common. One competitor who is taking money out of the pockets of every company on the planet.
And my guess is that this competitor is not on your radar, even if you spend a massive amount of your time and effort analyzing your place in the market.
Can you name it?
It’s the status quo. Otherwise known as inaction or doing nothing.
If you analyzed the behavior of prospects who ultimately do not buy from you, which of the following situations do you think is more common?
- They spend their money with one of your competitors instead of you.
- They decide to save their money and not to buy from anyone.
Let’s say you run a website and you convert 10% of your visitors to customers. That’s an outstanding conversion rate, and yet 90% of your visitors still do not purchase.
Does that mean 90% of your visitors wind up buying from your competitors?
Obviously not! Otherwise their own conversion rates would be off the charts.
The market of people who explore their options but ultimately decide to do nothing is much larger than the market of people that choose your competition over you.
Rather than spending the majority of your time butting heads with your competitors, you should spend more of your time working to convert prospects who would otherwise do nothing at all. Not only is this a bigger market, but because your competition is likely focusing on trying to beat you, it’s also relatively uncontested.
Copy Techniques for Overcoming Inaction
No matter who you are or what you sell, your clients and customers are always going to prefer doing nothing to buying from you. Doing nothing is cheaper, easier, less uncertain, less mentally demanding, less socially and politically risky, and less stressful.
The only way to compete with the status quo is to vividly show the reader how doing nothing will lead to him or her being worse off. This is usually a great place to leverage loss aversion, where you show readers what they will lose or miss if they don’t take action. Another option is to ask the reader a question that follows the general outline “If you don’t do this, what will you do that is better?”
Here are some hypothetical examples from a cross-section of industries that show how you could use loss aversion and questions about alternative choices to make readers aware that doing nothing is actually worse for them:
- Appliances: If you don’t upgrade to a new, energy-efficient washing machine, it will cost you up to $1,000 more every year on your water and electricity bill. (Notice I didn’t say our energy-efficient washing machine. This is any of them. We’ll get to your company’s specific offer later.)
- Conferences: Last year people who attended our conference on average were able to add $300,000 to their bottom line by the end of the year using the techniques we teach. It’s your choice if you decide to join us or not — we’re not going to give you the hard sell. But if you don’t attend, do you have a better plan for adding $300,000 to your profits in the next 12 months?
- Dating Coach: I know the idea of working with a dating coach can make some people feel embarrassed — after all, shouldn’t we just naturally know what to do? The hard truth is that it’s not natural, and the social systems that used to guide us have gone away. So ask yourself what’s more embarrassing, working with someone to help you improve an important (maybe the most important) part of your life? Or doing nothing and continuing to get rejected by the people you’re attracted to and waking up next to an empty pillow every morning?
Overcoming Inaction with Amerisleep’s Copy
We applied this principle on the Amerisleep product page in the same segment of copy from the last example. We talked about the benefits of sleep, waking up without pain, not feeling groggy at work, and an overall better lifestyle. Then we said:
The number of daily problems that go away with a good night’s sleep is astounding — but that only happens if you actually do something to improve your sleep.
If you just keep things the same, you’ll keep getting the same disappointing results. And don’t you deserve better?
By clearly addressing how doing nothing makes readers worse off, it takes away a lot of the mental excuses they can use to justify maintaining the status quo.
It’s only after you’ve convinced readers that they need to take action to address a problem or desire they have — period — that positioning yourself as the best choice among your competitors pays off.
How to do that effectively is what we’ll be discussing next.
eCommerce Copy Tactic 3: Position Yourself as the Market Leader Using Comparisons
Once your prospects decide to take action on a problem or desire they have, their mindset changes. Before that, their number one question is “Should I even worry about this right now?”
After your prospects make up their mind to move forward though, they begin to ask “Who should I hire/How should I solve this problem?” instead.
When your prospects reach this stage in the decision-making process, it finally becomes effective for you to spend time proving how your offer is superior to your competition.
Here are a few techniques for making prospects see your company as their best choice, even if you operate in a crowded market.
Absolute Comparative Statements
Absolute comparative statements say that one thing is absolutely better than the other. Claims like better, bigger, and the best are absolute comparatives.
(If you’re wondering “doesn’t that make all comparative statements absolute?” I’ll show you how that’s not true in the next section on Faux Comparatives.)
The biggest mistake copywriters make when using comparatives is not being specific. If you’re going to use a comparative statement, you need to explain compared to what.
Too many companies will say “Our product is the best!” But that doesn’t answer the question “the best compared to what?” And without the “compared to what” piece, the comparison is ineffective.
Here are two examples of absolute comparatives from the Amerisleep product display page. I’ve bolded the comparative term and underlined the “compared to what” part of the sentence.
- On top of that, our foam is also the most environmentally friendly. Our patented foam-making process uses plants to replace some petroleum, and is the only manufacturing method that exceeds the standards of the Clean Air Act.
- Our foam is also better than traditional memory foam because it recovers its shape faster.
Absolute comparative statements are the most powerful way to make your offer appear superior than the competition. But what if you can’t say your product or service is absolutely better than the competition in any measurable way?
In that case, some copy trickery can help you give the impression you’re better than your competition, when really you’re only claiming to be equal.
I call these copy tricks “Faux Comparatives.”
How “Faux Comparatives” Let You Turn Equality into Superiority
Tell me what this sentence means:
- No other mattress is more supportive than Amerisleep’s Revere bed.
Most people would believe it says the Amerisleep Revere bed is more supportive than any other mattress…
But in reality it only says that no one is better — which means there could be many others that are equal.
Take another look at the sentence, this time with the implied meaning in parenthesis:
- No other mattress is more supportive than Amerisleep’s Revere bed (but there are several others that are equally supportive).
If you’re in a market where the offers are all relatively equal, you can claim that no one is better and be factually accurate. No one can say you’re making false advertising claims.
If the audience interprets “no one is better” to mean that “we are the best,” that’s their misunderstanding. Your job is to make the case for your product or service in the most compelling — and truthful — manner possible. If that misunderstanding works out in your favor, lucky you.
In some respects all marketing and copywriting is presenting the truth in the most flattering light. As long as the statements you make are true, choosing the words that make your copy the most convincing to the audience is just doing your job as a writer.
Here’s an example of how we used this Faux Comparative strategy on the Amerisleep product display page in the headline before describing the materials inside each mattress:
This headline suggests that Amerisleep’s mattresses are more carefully engineered than any other brand. It’s a great message to introduce before explaining what goes inside each mattress. However in reality all it says is that, while there aren’t any mattresses more carefully engineered, there may be others that are of equal quality.
Another Faux Comparative method that gives the impression of superiority, when you are actually only claiming equality, is adding “one of” to an otherwise absolute comparison.
Instead of saying that you are the best, the most, or the biggest, you can say you are one of the best, the most, or the biggest in your category.
Like with the last Faux Comparative, the reader will focus on the comparison that you are the best, most, or biggest in your category. They will think you are one of a select few who are at the front of the market, but in reality you could be one of many who are all equal.
We used this approach in the sub-headline for the copy from the previous Faux Comparative:
- Our innovative and proprietary materials let us build the one of most comfortable mattresses ever
We also used it in the eco-friendly section:
In both cases, it makes Amerisleep seem like they’re at the top of their market. But in reality, it could actually mean they are just one of many companies with similar characteristics.
Increasing Conversions from Your eCommerce Copy
You’ve just learned three eCommerce copy techniques that can increase your sales by double-digit percentages. But your conversions only go up if you invest the time to rewrite your copy. If you simply move on with your day now, nothing changes and your sales will stay the same.
So before you close this page, set aside time in your calendar or add an item to your to-do list to incorporate the three copy strategies from this article. Because if you’re not going to do anything with these ideas, why did you spend 15 minutes reading this case study? Without applying the tactics it covered, the all you just did was 15 minutes of mental masturbation.
(And if this section feels familiar…remember what I said about your biggest competitor being inaction?)
You can use the following checklist to apply the lessons from this case study:
- Highlight the primary benefits in your copy. Ask if they are emotionally engaging. If not, come up with benefits that your audience relates to more deeply — and if you can ask actual customers for feedback, even better.
- Add a section to your copy that discusses the costs, risks, and problems that your prospects will experience if they don’t buy from you.
- Find comparison terms, like more, better, and the best. Make sure that each one includes a “compared to what?” part of the statement.
- Where possible, add “no one is more…” and “one of the…” Faux Comparative statements so readers think aspects of your business that are only equal to the competition are actually superior.
But what if you’re legitimately focused on other priorities and can’t make the time to rewrite your copy — even though you want to? Or what if you want to go beyond these three tactics and get the maximum increase in your site’s sales and conversion rate?
In that case, you can contact me about working together on your site’s copy. And for conversion optimization, you can contact GrowthRock if you manage a 7 or 8-figure annual revenue site.
Terrance CollinsJanuary 31, 2017
Great article, Brian – it shows how the little things result in big change. I especially liked how you rolled in the loss aversion component in pitching your services at the end. Brilliant.
Brian SperonelloJanuary 31, 2017
Thanks Terrance, glad you found it useful! And I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t practice what I preach 🙂
Gigi RodgersFebruary 19, 2017
I always thought my copy was pretty good, but now I think I can turn up the notch a bit on it. I’m pumped to give this a try on a project I’m trying out. Cheers!
Brian SperonelloFebruary 19, 2017
Hey Gigi, great to hear the article gave you some ideas to try! Curious to know which of the three ideas you found most useful/interesting to try?
Gigi RodgersFebruary 20, 2017
Going beyond the Bush-League and Overcoming Inaction. For the project that I want to pursue, I would use these techniques in written form, but also in video form with the captions on the bottom.
Showing how the product works and connecting it with a face (that’s real and kind of funny) holds some value, in my eyes.
Brian SperonelloFebruary 20, 2017
Hey Gigi, to your last point, I’ve seen lots of evidence to support that showing pictures and videos of people on your site can boost your sales (https://vwo.com/blog/human-landing-page-increase-conversion-rate/) so your instincts are good in that regard.
Do you have any questions about how specifically to apply going beyond Bush-League Benefits and overcoming inaction to your offer? Happy to give some suggestions if you’d like!
Gigi RodgersFebruary 21, 2017
Instincts: 2 Second-Guessing: 176
I’m making up ground.
I think I got this, Brian, but thanks.
I’ll definitely be referring back to this article as soft reminders, but if I get stuck – you may hear from me.
Thanks for the extra helping hand, offer!
Brian SperonelloFebruary 21, 2017
Okay sounds like a plan, good luck!
wooncherkMarch 7, 2017
Very good points. Learnt a lot, thanks! 🙂
DeveshKhanalMarch 7, 2017
Glad you liked it Woon!
Brian SperonelloMarch 7, 2017
Thanks Woon! What stood out to you the most? Would love to hear.
TheincircleMarch 23, 2018
Really a great checklist for newbie bloggers like me. Can you tell me how can I find my niche related blogs – https://www.theincircle.com/
Thanks a Lot for sharing valuable Things Brian sir
TheincircleApril 18, 2018
Very Nice Post – Loved It
jolyOctober 17, 2019
A great article, Brian, explains how small things lead to big changes. I especially liked how you became an aversion to loss in your eventual offer of services. Sparkly.