Product copywriting and online sales: is Debenhams headed for trouble?

We were saddened to read this morning that one of the UK’s leading department-store giants has reported such a slump in profits.

As stated in the Guardian, Debenhams is partly attributing the 85% decrease in profits to the much-cited Beast from the East. As a result of the, quite frankly, maniacal weather we experienced in March, they had to close almost 100 stores across the UK. Nightmare.

Conversely, Debenhams’ digital sales rose by 9.7%. Interesting.

Risky business

We can’t help thinking that this should serve as a stark warning to ALL high street retailers that they need to be shifting their focus even more towards their online sales and investing in their product copywriting. Most specifically, they need to consider how hard their online presence is working for them during periods where their physical presence is under threat or strain.

And it’s not just weather that can disrupt the smooth running of physical stores: accidents, public transport strikes, staffing issues. Disaster can strike at any time.

But usually, whatever’s occurring outside a customer’s own four walls won’t stop a fashion addict from curling up on the sofa, cuppa in one hand and digital device in the other, scrolling through page after page of easy-to-access apparel.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite: being stuck inside with very little else to do is a great excuse to go on a rampant ecom-spree. And with delivery being so very efficient and reliable these days, nobody really minds waiting a day or two for their goodies to land.

 

79% of shoppers we surveyed would only buy a product if it had a supporting description. And 91% said a single spelling mistake would negatively affect their buying decision.

Celia Anderson

Product copywriting

Flawless product copywriting

As part of our ongoing market research (read: unstoppable product copy geekiness), we recently surveyed most of the UK’s leading department stores and performed an audit on how well their product copywriting was being executed. And we hate to say it, but Debenhams scored below average on most points, including creativity, consistency and accuracy.

Across the board, they tripped up with grammatical/spelling errors, usage of manufacturers’ descriptions (doubtless causing SEO complications) and leaning on fairly run-of-the-mill product copywriting which didn’t inspire, excite or really inform all that much.

We draw your eye once more to that increase in digital sales above ^^. It begs the question: if more attention had been paid to the quality of product copywriting, could Debenhams’ online sales have reduced the impact of the slump? Or even negated it altogether?

We think so. After all, 79% of shoppers we surveyed would only buy a product if it had a supporting description. And 91% said a single spelling mistake would negatively affect their buying decision. With all this in mind, were Debenhams’ online product descriptions letting the side down even further? It’s a question shareholders should be considering.

If your brand could benefit from a product copywriting audit, get in touch and we’ll take a look.