Should your ecommerce store draw most attention to product features, benefits, or both?
There’s a certain bit of advice that often circulates when it comes to the subject of how an online store can best present its products to the world. That advice is the mantra: “describe benefits, not features”.
It is advice that you might have come across a fair few times on digital marketing blogs like this one. And on initial consideration, it appears to make a lot of sense.
After all, if you simply provide a list of features of a given product – for example, what colour it is, its dimensions, its speed of operation, and so on – you might feel as though you’re simply copying and pasting from the specification sheet the manufacturer has given you (indeed, you might be literally copying and pasting that information).
And lists of product features can be, let’s be honest, a bit grey. A product being of a certain size, for example, might seem almost irrelevant information, unless the product page also mentions that this would allow the user of the product to keep it in compact areas where space might be at a premium.
Similarly, a printer being able to produce 30 printed pages per minute may appear to the customer to be close to meaningless… until you draw attention to how this could help bolster efficiency for the customer’s business, and improve their ability to meet tight deadlines.
So, it might seem so far that “describe benefits, not features” is quite strong advice. Setting out a product’s features – and only features – could make for an uninspiring and unrelatable product description. Describing the product’s benefits, meanwhile, could add some colour and vibrancy, making it clear how the item would enhance the customer’s life in the “real world”.
However, it’s not quite as simple a situation as that…
…yes, we know you were bracing for a “but”. The reality is, a hard-and-fast rule on mentioning features or benefits is likely to be an oversimplification of the situation for most online stores.
After all, if you merely mention the benefit of a product rather than its specific feature that makes the given benefit possible, the customer might perceive the claimed benefit as merely that – a claim.
Specifically mentioning the feature alongside the benefit, then – for example, the exact speed of the printer, as well as the enhanced ability this speed would give the user to beat those tough deadlines – can make clear to the reader that you can back up the claim you make for the product.
And in some cases, the benefit of a given feature might seem so obvious, that mentioning it even runs the risk of coming across as patronising to the reader.
So, are there any situations in which you should mention benefits, and not mention features? Well, one example might be when you are attempting to sell a movie, documentary, or workout video.
In the above cases, you might not want to spoil things too much for the would-be customer by trying to set out too much information on exactly what is in the video or movie. And regardless, customers for these products might be more interested in the fact that the movie got a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, or that a certain celebrity claims to have got great results out of the fitness routines in the workout video.
As you can see, there is more complexity to this question than you might think
Instead of being quite so taken in by simplistic mantras like “describe benefits, not features”, it might be best for you to consider the specific function of every technique you are thinking of using.
Or, to put it simply when it comes to the features versus benefits debate, if – after setting out a feature on your product page – the reader is likely to say, “so what?”, make sure you describe the benefit. If, on the other hand, you state a benefit to which a reader is likely to say, “yeah, right”, it can be a good idea to describe the feature, or some other form of proof of that benefit.
The above formula should help ensure you use the right combinations of features and benefits on your product pages, in order to create a compelling proposition for the reader.
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