Write in Your Authentic Voice: How to Brand Your Copy Across Your Entire Ecommerce Marketing and Sales Funnel

Deep Dive
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Say your mom always texts you like this:

Screenshot of actual recent texts with my mom

But then imagine that one day, you got this text from her:

*Not* actual texts from my mom

If you were me, you might start to wonder if your mom had been kidnapped (or if her phone had been stolen).

Why? Because you KNOW how your mom communicates. She has a distinctive brand identity, and within that brand, her copy has a unique voice.

Her voice is how you recognize when she’s grabbed your dad’s phone to text you a reminder to eat enough protein.

And her voice is how you know it’s really her, not someone who’s hacked her phone number and wants a quick $$ transfer.

Totally normal Mom behavior

You’d recognize your mom’s voice — written or spoken — anywhere, because it’s part of your mom’s brand.

You have a brand identity, too. You want your customers to recognize your brand anywhere. Heck, you want to recognize your brand.

Because you’ve been told that branding is important — and “authentic” branding is even better.

But what IS branding? And how do you keep it not just authentic to you, but consistent across your entire ecommerce marketing and sales funnel? And what the heck does branding look like when it comes to copywriting?

Today we’ll talk about how to brand your copy and write in a unique voice throughout your entire ecommerce marketing and sales funnel — from cold traffic to rabid repeat customer.

Let’s talk about brands, baby 🎵

So… What is your brand?

It’s not just your logo. It’s not even a set of graphic design documents showing where on the page to position said logo. And, strangely enough, it’s not the snazzily designed “Brand Bible” your marketing agency might have put together for you.

Your brand identity is a combination of intangibles that work together to set you apart from competitors and “others”.

Your brand identity is your personality. It’s your customer’s relationship with you. It’s how you visually present yourself and what you sell across all the platforms you use (online and off).

Your brand identity is how you make your customer feel, and what they think of when they think of you. Sometimes, you ARE your brand.

If Kanye isn’t his own brand, I don’t know who is.

And a key part of your brand is your voice: how you speak and write.

Today, we’re going to focus on staying true to that last piece. How can you write authentic, branded copy across your entire ecommerce marketing and sales funnel… to the point where your customers love you so much, they get your emblem tattooed on their chests?

Image of this lost soul via Tattoo.com

Quick note: your ecommerce copy is about way more than product descriptions.

Because product copy can make or break a purchase, and because your product page is your best chance to make a sale, it can be very tempting to focus only on your site’s product descriptions, then dust off your hands and consider yourself done with copy.

But there’s so much more to branded copy than product descriptions. There’s more than even your website copy! There’s an entire funnel of copy to consider: from social media posts and PPC ads all the way down to the words you use to push someone to click that final “Complete Order” button… and beyond.

Authentic branding can turn your customers into rabid fans

Close your eyes and dream with me.

Every time your customers see your brand, in any manifestation, they immediately recognize you. And maybe their hearts swell a little bit.

Maybe you want your customers to gush about you like folks gush about Moo:

Or like Cards Against Humanity’s “horrible people” gush about them:

What do these brands have that you don’t? A voice their customers want to hear.

You can have that kind of voice, too.

(This doesn’t mean you have to model your brand voice on these particular voices. Not everybody can or wants to pull off “funny and irreverent” — trust me, I’ve tried to convince them. These two brands are just the first I thought of when I asked myself, “Which brands have memorable copy?”)

How to define your brand voice

Memorable ecommerce marketing and sales funnel copy starts by defining your voice.

Like “brand,” the concept of “voice” is hard to define. Put loosely, your voice is the impression your readers are left with after reading your copy.

(Copywriter Abbey Woodcock has a fantastic, free 39-page guide on finding your voice. I highly recommend downloading it.)

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to BE to your readers?
  • How do you want them to FEEL after reading your copy?

Maybe your brand identifies with a sensible, straightforward approach, like Everlane. Maybe it identifies with a more caustic or sarcastic bent, like Cards Against Humanity. Maybe your brand voice is eternally optimistic, like Zappos.

Voice is something you have to decide for yourself, and it needs to feel like a natural fit for your store. Otherwise, you’ll slip out of it too easily — and that’s bad when you’re trying to establish consistent branding!

Consistency in branding is important (it’s science)

Consistency in branding is just as important as branding itself. You have to brand yourself and your business in the same way no matter where your brand or marketing materials appear.

Why? So people know you, recognize you immediately when they see your materials or read your copy, and * whaaaat * even look forward to receiving your emails.

On a more scientific level, it’s been shown that people prefer risk over ambiguity. Plus, the type of relationship you cultivate with your customers can dictate how much ambiguity they’re willing to tolerate from you until they jump ship.

Translated to your ecommerce store, this concept means your customers might just risk trying out your competitor if you don’t clearly brand yourself.

Where to brand, and where to back off

There are some particularly good spots in the ecommerce marketing and sales funnel to brand strongly. And then there are spots where you’re better off being straightforward, lest you inadvertently obscure your message.

So how do you decide where to play it straight, and where to brand your copy?

In general, opt for clarity anywhere a purchase decision is directly involved. You can have a little more fun with all the surrounding copy.

Pretend you run Shiver Me Timbers, an online store that sells pirate costumes. A shopper is looking at a “wench” costume for Halloween. She puts the product in her cart, gets all the way to checkout, and then sees that the checkout button copy says something like “Arrr Ye Ready To Complete Yon Purchase?” instead of “Complete Purchase.”

A single moment of confusion can send shoppers scrambling for the tab “X”, leaving the store with an unidentified (and thus unsalvageable) abandoned cart.

Cutest abandoned cart ever, right?

So if you’re ever in doubt, choose clear copy over branded copy.

Here’s what a consistently branded funnel looks like

Old Spice brings its trademark absurd humor into its AdWords ads in subtle ways, imagining that readers can smell its videos, and keeping its emphasis at all times on “smelling good”.

It maintains the same branding, and even the same wording in its copy (“Watch Some Nonsense,” highlighted below in green) once I click through.

And when I get to an individual product description, I’m rewarded with even more absurdity:

CONSISTENT AF, amirite?

Consistency in branding builds trust. Just like your mom’s texts, it immediately helps you understand that you’re communicating with who you think you’re communicating with.

On the flip side, here’s an inconsistently branded funnel

Inconsistent branding in your ecommerce marketing and sales funnel copy isn’t a Hindenburg-level tragedy, but it IS a huge missed opportunity to market and make more sales.

Let’s look at Dropps, a subscription-laundry-detergent company whose branded copy was hitting it out of the park… UNTIL.

I’ll show you four points in Dropps’ funnel, where half the time, the store fails to brand itself consistently.

Okay, I’m on dropps.com. The website copy is clear and friendly. The website video is TOTALLY AWESOME.

I bite the free trial offer, and go through all the checkout screens. For the most part, the copy is pretty standard and straightforward.

But the receipt email I receive next is a gigantic dropped ball in terms of copy:

From there, I receive:

  • another unbranded “ready to ship” notification
  • a branded delivery notification
  • an unbranded cancellation confirmation( when I decide to cancel)
  • and then a highly branded “We miss you” retention email featuring an adorable King Charles Cavalier spaniel 👇

This was a super-confusing process, and confusion is never good for conversions. If Dropps wants to boost its conversion and retention rates, it needs to address the weird disconnects at these spots in its funnel.

You’re not a prisoner to your brand

Now, being cohesive and consistent doesn’t mean you’ve got to lock yourself into one voice forever. After all, everything gets stale without variety.

Churr-oh-no-he-didn’t

There’s room for flexibility in your branding and copy, just like there should be room for flexibility in your growth strategy, product line, and upper back (try a foam roller).

Your brand can earn itself the opportunity to mix it up without explanation. Look at Arena Flowers, which has garnered 33,000 Twitter followers for gleefully absurd tweets like this:

But when you click through to the florist’s website, the copy is fairly standard. The company even waxes a little bit poetic in its emotional, bottom-homepage “About” blurb.

This is such a pronounced disconnect that it *has* to be intentional. In my charitable estimation, Arena Flowers knows what it’s doing: attracting a ton of media attention that in turn boosts its business. Know any other flower shops standing out the same way?

Start by mapping out your ecommerce funnel

The first thing you need to do when evaluating your ecommerce marketing and sales funnel copy is to map out every single spot in your funnel where you have copy — from your first call-to-action to your follow-up emails.

You know, because your follow-up emails can generate you extra revenue…

Sketch it out on the back of a napkin, use LucidChart, whatever you prefer.

Then look at the copy and design you’ve created for each of these spots. This will give you an overview of which parts of the funnel are strongly branded, which are still using a given platform’s “Default Copy” and hence offer a huge opportunity for branding.

Now let’s go through how to write copy throughout your ecommerce marketing and sales funnel. We’ll start with cold traffic at the top, and slide all the way through successful purchase at the bottom.

How to Write Copy for the Top of Funnel (TOFU)

The top of the funnel is all about getting attention. Whether you’re posting on social, running a PPC ad, or offering something free, you have barely a few seconds to catch your reader’s eye as he scrolls by.

So it makes sense that you need to spend effort on strongly branded copy at this point in the funnel.

Social media, content, and PPC ads all play a part in getting people from No-Man’s Land (AKA anywhere that’s not your store) to The Promised Land (AKA your store). Since ecommerce content offers are a different animal altogether, let’s focus on social media and PPC for now. And if you’re interested in learning more about ecommerce content offers, let me know in the comments below.

Social Media

People love interacting with other people on social media. They don’t love interacting with brands, except to complain roughly 30% of the time.

When users DO enjoy interacting with brands, the lucky brands tend to be those with a distinct voice, like Arby’s: brands that break the mold of dry corporate-speak and insincere public apologies, and talk like real humans.

“Pretty much” and “like” are way more casual phrases than you’ll find in the copy of most other international brands. (Arby’s calls its marketing approach “Putting Meats and Authenticity Front & Center,” by the way.)

Just for kicks, look at the tone of Cards Against Humanity’s interactions with its fans on Facebook:

If your customers expect this type of voice from your brand, you can actually insult them, like CAH does, and STILL create crazed fans.

Takeaway Tip:

Your social media copy can be a huge source of attention (and revenue-generating traffic). But only if you base everything you write, from the words you use to the length of your sentences, on your knowledge of your customers.

Most of the time, your customers are already telling you what kind of voice they want from you.
Along with swiping words from your customer surveys, polls, etc, look at the tone of your interactions with existing customers.

Paid Traffic

Writing PPC ads is a specialty of many copywriters who are not me (as you can see, I specialize in writing roundabout sentences), but many of the same rules of good copy apply — like meeting your prospect where they are.

Different prospects will have different levels of knowledge of your existence and your product. To be most effective, your copy should meet users at their current state of awareness (this is where you’ll return to your user research, which will *tell* you your prospect’s state of awareness).

Johnathan Dane, PPC Overlord, notes that if your target searches for “How to get rid of acne,” your ad shouldn’t ask if they’re “Dealing with acne” — because you already know they are.

Acne? Who, me?

Build on what your searchers’ keywords are telling you. That’s Step One.

Now for Step Two. Once you’ve dialed in your target’s state of awareness, it’s time to make sure your copy stays in tune with your voice and stands out from the crowd.

Let’s look at some examples. Here are a few quick screenshots of AdWords ads from copywriters for hire (omitting ads by content mills and freelancing job boards).

They all look the same:

By contrast, here’s copywriter Hugh Gurin standing out by directly addressing people who search for “copy”-related keywords:

Hugh’s tone stays direct and to-the-point (after all, he’s only got a few characters), but it’s still conversational. It also does away with the title-case convention that may improve PPC click-through rates in some cases, but can dismayingly telegraph, “Hello, I Am An Ad!”

It’s important to remember that PPC ads are more customizable than ever, so make sure you’re taking full advantage of the device or platform your prospect is using. Specificity can really help you stand out here.

Using specifics in your copy — whether it’s the percentage of doctors who recommend X Solution, or a scientific fact, or the number of happy customers currently using your product, or a description of the exact type of customer who will benefit from your product — makes you more believable.

Specificity also positions you as a trustworthy authority who seems like she knows what she’s talking about.

Consider the difference between these calls to action: “Shop Now” and “Shop Right From Your Android.” Which would you be more likely to click? Which seems like it would probably be an easier experience if you were using an Android?

Takeaway Tips:

Make sure your copy matches your target’s state of awareness. Then make your ad copy stand out by being more conversational and specific. Speak right to the prospect.

How to Write Copy for the Middle of the Funnel (Uhh, MOFU?)

In many business models, the middle of the funnel is the “education” stage. It’s where you focus on giving value, showing your prospect you understand their problem, and showing why you’re the best option to solve their problem.

For the purposes of this article, though, I’m going to consider the middle of the funnel as it pertains to ecommerce: it’s when your prospect has clicked through some TOFU copy or content, and is now cautiously browsing your site.

You’ve got lots of opportunities to brand your onsite copy. Let’s go through them one by one.

Onsite copy and offers

When they’re on your store website, your prospect is a hair’s width away from converting. So be very careful to strike that balance between strongly branded copy and clear, conversion-focused copy.

Luckily, it’s entirely possible to align your branded copy with your conversion goals. Yes, even in smaller on-site copy like banners and footer copy.

Take a look at how Everlane (one of my many ecommerce crushes) accomplishes the perfect balance in this sitewide banner offering free shipping:

Like Everlane’s copy across its whole funnel, this is subtle. It’s no-nonsense. Branding: check.

And yet… it’s addressing me directly with the word “you,” tempting me with an offer, and making me feel a sense of urgency through use of the word “currently”. Conversion-oriented: check.

Here’s Madewell taking advantage of its website footer copy (an oft-neglected spot):

This copy is warm, friendly, and specific. Branding: check.

It also tells me exactly how to get help and includes links. Conversion-oriented: check.

Takeaway Tip:

Don’t overlook any copy on your site, even if you think no one will read it (ahem, footer copy). Test straightforward language against more brand-heavy phrasing, and see if a pattern emerges among the winning variations.

Category page copy

Your category page copy should be short and sweet. Reinforce why people are here and let them get where they want to go. Quickly.

Here’s a category page example I love from DiBruno Brothers:

Full flavor is in bloom at Di Bruno Bros. with our extensive selection of soft and creamy artisanal cheeses. Bloomy rind cheeses are best known because of their exteriors, which are velvety and sometimes fuzzy, but what lies inside are creamy centers that literally ooze delightful tastes that will stick with you. The most recognized of this type of gourmet cheese are Camembert and French Brie, both cheese plate fixtures at parties all over the world, but they merely scratch the surface. Goat cheese lovers would be wise to try Bucheron, a French Chevre, or Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor—a truffle-studded treasure from the makers of Humboldt Fog.

This category page copy is doing three great things:

  1. Reinforcing that I’m in the right place (I clicked the “Brie & Creamy” category)
  2. Making me salivate with specifics: “soft, creamy centers, ooze,” etc
  3. Suggesting related products I’ll enjoy (aka goat cheese — THEY WERE RIGHT)

Actually, the copy is doing four great things. It’s using this opportunity to educate me on “bloomy rind cheeses,” which reinforces that DiBruno knows WTF it’s talking about when it comes to cheese, and makes me consider the brand an authority.

Another well-known cheese authority.

Takeaway Tip:

Add a little bit of copy to your category pages, and use it as an opportunity to reinforce your authority.

Product Description Copy

We’ve officially reached product description copy: the creme-de-la-creme of copy-related Google searches by ecommerce businesses.

After all, you’re here to sell products. And what you have to say about those products is crucial to your discerning, price-shopping visitors.

So let me lay down the three product description copywriting rules I personally follow.

Rule #1 of product copywriting: Never, EVER use the manufacturer’s description.

Writing your own copy, even if you’re just rewording the description that came with the product, automatically levels you up above Amazon and many other retailers who wholesale products. Plus, it’s better for your SEO.

Rule #2 of product copywriting: Put the product in context. Show how your reader will use it. Make them touch it, smell it, taste it, feel it in their hands. Tell them about the materials it’s made with. Tell them how it compares to similar options, and how it’s (hopefully) superior.

Here’s an example from athletic apparel-maker Girlfriend Collective, which uses its product copy space to tell you exactly how to use or wear this sports bra:

“Not quite a throwback, not quite like anything else. A high-neck bra with a criss-cross back for low-impact activity. With adjustable straps, and made from soft, luxurious recycled polyester, the Topanga isn’t just for working out. Pair it with a button-up shirt, your favorite high-waisted skirt, and more.”

For more about how to make your product tangible and put it in context, check out my guide on how to write conversion-oriented product descriptions.

Rule #3: Your products are part of your brand. So brand the sh** out of your product copy.

What do I mean by “brand your product copy”?

Think back to the voice you’ve created for your brand identity. The voice you used to write irresistible top-of-funnel copy. The voice that informs how you (a person) actually communicate with your customers (other people).

Now ask yourself: How can I filter the product information my customers need through my brand voice? How can I present the very same information in a silly, or sarcastic, or sensible, or warm way?

Here’s soapmaker Somewhat Organic showing off its wacky personality on its About page (albeit a bit more zanily than even I would)…

The soapmakers follow through with the same voice in their product descriptions — while still providing all the info on ingredients that their prospects are looking for.

Takeaway Tip:

Boost your branding in your product descriptions by filtering need-to-know info through the same voice you use in your top-of-funnel copy.

How to Write Copy for the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

We’ve made it all the way to the bottom of your funnel! Now let’s check out the copy surrounding that most holy of occasions: the ecommerce checkout.

(Your checkout process may differ from the below slightly, especially if you only sell one product or you include additional checkout screens, but I’ll bet it includes all of the same funnel points.)

Add to Cart Copy

Once your prospect is on the product page, she has the chance to add the product to her cart. This is a crucial moment. Don’t even sneeze, or she might decide to leave…

This is another of those points where it’s more important to be clear than clever. Remember that imaginary pirate costume shopper earlier, who flaked when she saw that the “Complete Purchase” button said “Arrrr Ye Ready?” Don’t try to brand this button copy. *

* Unless you REALLY know what you’re doing, and you’re 100% sure that you won’t be adding doubt or confusion into the checkout process.

Cart Review/Checkout Copy

Now your user has added a product to her cart, and she’s ready to check out. What should you show her? What kind of microcopy will serve you best here — and should it be strongly branded?

Let’s return to the Dropps funnel I mentioned above.

Here’s Dropps seeking normal inputs like discount codes and account info on its checkout screen. But notice that it’s phrasing everything as a question, like so:

It’s subtle, but this shows forethought and care on the part of the marketing team. It feels sweeter and more personal than “Log in with existing account” or “Enter discount code”.

That forethought evaporates on the next screen. Why not brand this checkbox copy?

Personally, I don’t want to “subscribe” to a “newsletter”. Yawn…

But I’d probably check this box if it said “Yes! Dropp me the Weekly Wash, with tips on how to save 20% on my water bill, get my clothes 40% cleaner, and pet 100% more puppies.”

Sure, it’s longer, but it’s way more interesting.

Takeaway Tip:

Your microcopy is full of opportunities. Grab ‘em.

PS. Don’t forget to run an exit-intent poll to try to find out why users are ditching you. Soften the ask by phrasing it this way: “Before you go, could you tell us what went wrong?” or “Sorry to see you go! Would you let us know what was missing on this page?” Basically, ask like a human and other humans will give you valuable insight.

Thanks/Confirmation Page Copy

WHOOO YEAHHH! Your user bought a thing! It’s time to celebrate!

So why on earth would you hit her with a Purchase Confirmation page that looks like an invoice from a funeral home?

It’s okay to share your users’ feelings of excitement and accomplishment with them as they complete their purchase. It’s not okay to make them feel like as soon as they click “Complete Purchase,” they become nothing more than an order number to you.

Here’s Etsy doing it right by congratulating me on buying a pile of random art supplies so I could take screenshots of the checkout funnel:

Email Receipt/Order Confirmation Copy

YOUR EMAIL RECEIPTS ARE A HUGE OPPORTUNITY.

To the point that they’re the reason you’re reading this blog. On this website. Which belongs to a SaaS company that specializes in ecommerce follow-up emails. Have I made my case?

Sadly, not all ecommerce stores are taking full advantage of this WILDLY LOW-HANGING FRUIT.

It’s right there! You can do it!

Check out the world’s blandest purchase confirmation email from clothing retailer Grana. This email was sent with the snoozeworthy subject line “Grana: New Order # 1000097300”.

Booo, Grana. Booooo!

(Another note: I have no idea why they’re mentioning cheetahs now. Are cheetahs part of their brand? If so, this is the first time I’m hearing of it. #consistencyfail)

By contrast, look at this well-done purchase confirmation email from beauty brand Glossier:

The parentheticals in this copy make it feel casual, while the reminder to wear sunscreen is very on-brand for a beauty company. I don’t even mind that shipping will take longer. Speaking of which…

Shipping Notification Email Copy

It’s a good idea to let buyers know when their items have shipped. And yep, the shipping confirmation is yet another opportunity to brand the sherbert out of what’s otherwise a boring, ignorable email.

Turn that humdrum template copy into a truly delightful experience, like razor company Harry’s:

This shipping copy is funny, it’s to the point, and more functionally, it reminds the user that they bought something and that it will arrive soon.

Now… What about when your customer is in limbo?

Whether it’s the limbo between a customer’s first touch and the day they buy, or the limbo between their purchase and the day they receive their item, it’s still limbo.

So make like Virgil and take advantage of that sitch.

HOW CAN THE HUMAN BODY DO THIS, THO

You can take advantage of the magical powers of well-written copy at every turn of your customer’s buyer journey: whether you pixelate or cookie-fy a user before he leaves your site, or he successfully purchases from you and then sits around with his thumb up his butt.

Choose your own adventure below depending on whether your customer purchased… or not.

Choose Your Own Adventure A: They Bought

Success! Your customer purchased from you! Now what?

Now you keep that customer engaged in the time that elapses between the moment of purchase and when their shipment actually arrives.

Express shipping, my furry blue foot!

You can maintain your customer’s interest and build your relationship with them in the interim. All you have to do is avoid totally abdicating your duties to your retention copy.

Here are some ways to take advantage of copy opportunities in your post-purchase customer interactions!

1. Send customers value, or educate them

Cat litter startup PrettyLitter sends follow-up emails with the same friendly yet nonprescriptive voice as its website copy. This is the perfect voice for for PrettyLitter users, with whom the company shares a love of cats and a desire to keep them healthy, but NOT a veterinary degree.

Here’s PrettyLitter sending advice on how best to use its product while the product is being shipped:

2. Follow up about the purchase experience

You want to know every little detail about your customer’s experience, so you can improve that experience in the future. One little way to get those details? Send a post-purchase email survey.

There’s a lot out there about the best way to write survey emails for ecommerce (I’m even quoted in this article talking about it) but let’s look at one quick example from eyeglass seller Warby Parker:

Like the rest of Warby Parker’s branding (yes, I study them), this email is written in a chipper, plainspoken, and gratitude-filled style.

And would you look at that! Once I finished the survey, I was treated to this delightful lil’ gem:

3. Celebrate a birthday or purchase anniversary

Sending a “Happy Birthday” email with a coupon code is a nice treat, and you just might catch a customer on the perfect day when they feel like treating themselves.

You can send this message on the customer’s birthday, or even on your own birthday or store-opening anniversary, like Etsy textile-jewelry maker birdienumnum:

You can also send on the customer’s first purchase anniversary, like ModCloth:

Notice how both of these emails take a celebratory and grateful tone. They make an ask, but not before offering something first. They’re playful and lighthearted, and use words like “love,” “celebrate,” “commemorate,” and “friend”.

How much less effective would these emails be if they were written flatly? Like, “It’s been 1 year since your first purchase. Please enjoy $5 off your next purchase.”

Even with the same upbeat design, that would be terrible, right? The copy is what makes these emails work.

4. Invite them to a membership program

People like being part of exclusive clubs. If you play your copy cards right, you can make your membership or loyalty program seem like an exclusive club, while building the relationship with your customer.

Here’s Zappos doing it right with cheerful copy + a tempting incentive:

This is really just a ploy for Zappos to get me to buy more stuff more often, but hey, 30 bones is 30 bones.

Choose Your Own Adventure B: They Didn’t Buy

In the sadder version of this story, your customer bounced without buying. *trombone slide*

But don’t worry! There’s still hope to win them over! In fact, if you’ve got pixel-targeting power and/or the prospect’s email address, marketing is on your side.

Abandoned Cart Emails

Suppose Prospect Polly is shopping at your ecommerce store. She adds an item she loves to her cart. Then she gets distracted by a delicious sandwich (who could blame her??) and ends up closing the tab.

Sandwiches, goats… very distracting stuff.

If Polly were logged into her account at your store when she left — or even if she only got a little bit of the way through registering for an account — you could send her an abandoned cart email. And you should.

Sending a simple reminder that a prospect has left behind an item they wanted can convince them to come back, to the tune of potentially hundreds of thousands more sales per year.

Everlane’s abandoned cart email, like all of its branding (AS YOU KNOW BY NOW) is subtle. Subdued. Subject line: “Eyeing Something?”

I especially love the low-pressure “Take Another Look” call-to-action copy.

Chubbies takes a vastly different, but equally well-branded tack in its abandoned cart email copy, slinging slang like snowballs left and right:

Image via Shopify. Thanks for the loaner, y’all.

Now, let’s take a second to address (what I consider) the million-dollar marketing question: Should you add customers or prospects to your mailing list without getting their explicit permission?

If you do, you better be dang sure you do two things:

  1. Add them to a specific, carefully written, value-driven “welcome series” instead of just tossing them into your garden-variety newsletter list, AND…
  2. Make sure your unsubscribe email functions as a last line of defense instead of being a lame, default-copy-riddled chunk of nothing.

I’m begging you: at least update your “unsubscribe” copy from your email provider’s default copy. Default unsubscribe copy is the equivalent of using the manufacturer’s description as your product page copy. You’re better than that.

Unfortunately, Black Milk Clothing is not (yet):

Is that stamp in the footer telling me you don’t even pay for MailChimp, Black Milk? Are you serious?

Now, as usual, let’s look at a different and better unsubscribe experience, this one from 1-800-CONTACTS:

Hat tip to Kaitlyn Petro for turning me on to 1-800-CONTACTS’ surprisingly delightful marketing.

In-stock notifications

Considering that out-of-stock items can cost sellers dearly, you should be paying close attention to the effectiveness of your re-stock notifications and emails.

If your customer has indicated interest in an out-of-stock product by adding it to a wishlist or requesting to be notified when it’s back in stock, make it your business to make the copy in those restock notifications utterly irresistible.

You know, like my forever friends at Zappos:

The copy in this email is so upbeat, I feel like I just shotgunned an Americano. Lots of exclamations! Lots of short sentences! Casual phrases like “Guess what?!” and “while the getting’s good” and “cool” make this copy super-friendly and relatable.

It also reminds me that hey, I asked for this reminder. And finally, it’s signed personally by the Zappos team — which makes me feel like they actually sent it to me, instead of a robot sending it to me by default.

Retargeting Ads

The same copy principles you’ll use in your PPC ads apply here. Except now, you have the added benefit of KNOWING EXACTLY what your user wants.

Show that item to them in your retargeted ads. Then stand out by making sure your ad speaks in your voice. Many ecommerce businesses never take the second step.

It’s easy to retarget your prospects by simply showing them the products they looked at (a technology called dynamic remarketing). That’s what Catbird, a New York boutique, has been doing to me ever since this afternoon, when I considered referencing one of their perfumes in this article.

But it’s trickier — and potentially more rewarding — to think carefully about the copy you use in your retargeting ads.

Here’s skincare brand Deciem retargeting me on Instagram:

“Follow us. We are very needy.” You don’t hear that from a lot of brands!

Deciem has branded itself as a dry-witted, no-nonsense beauty company (because its low-priced products are comparable to those sold by much more expensive beauty retailers). So it makes sense that they crack a non-sequitur at the very start of their retargeting ad copy, and then move on to explain the benefits of a new product they’re selling.

It’s a bit long, and a bit weird… but I bet it worked.

At the End of the Day, Your Users Should Know You Anywhere

Your users should be able to recognize your brand and copy anywhere — even when they’re lightyears away from your store.

Yes, this is a function of design and message-matching as much as it’s a function of copy, but copy has a surprising amount to do with it.

Pay close attention to branding your copy throughout your funnel, making sure it’s based on customer research, full of specifics, and clear. NEVER use default copy without customizing it to your brand’s voice. And don’t be afraid to try something different in your copy! You might just strike gold.

Share your thoughts

  1. Great content as I kickstart my writing Career {still a web developer}.
    But sincerely, I don’t think it’s professional mentioning or stereotyping Nigerians as criminal hackers.we have complete and I repeat completely legitimate businesses and individuals running into millions.

    So next time when writing, Don’t sterotype….it could actually spoil your hard work and besides it’s not professional.Aside from these…killer tutorial.

    1. Hi Emeka,
      I sincerely appreciate your input on this matter. We were obviously going for humor but missed the mark. We will definitely be taking your feedback to heart moving forward and I will edit out that sentence now. We are a global company that respects and values all of our readers and customers.
      Glad you appreciate the tutorial outside of this instance. Our aim overall is to provide value to our readers.
      All the best in your transition from dev to copywriter!
      Cheers,
      Kim

    2. Hi Emeka, thank you so much for pointing this out. I’m the author, and that was a careless and insensitive oversight on my part. I really appreciate your bringing it to my attention–and can assure you it won’t happen again! Glad you enjoyed the rest of the article. 🙂

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