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What Makes Copywriting An Underestimated Conversion Influencer

15+ Min Read

This article is a transcription of a webinar hosted by VWO, featuring Rishi Rawat, Founder, Frictionless Commerce, and Vipul Bansal from the VWO Marketing team. 

In this exclusive webinar, Rishi shares his nuggets of wisdom on copywriting and how to harness its limitless potential in boosting conversions. 

Rishi talks about how he discovered his passion and knack for copywriting and what his professional journey of over a decade has looked like. He emphasizes upon leveraging copywriting as a conversion catalyst and shares some actionable insights and tips for writing copy that converts.

Following are the key takeaways from the session:

Rishi’s introduction to copywriting

Rishi was initially never a copywriter. In fact, he stumbled upon copywriting while working in CRO. Over the years, he discovered that while running A/B tests, copy was seldom the focus. However, his own tests based on ideas and hypotheses around copy always had the best statistical outcomes. And that’s how he came to realize the importance of copy from a conversion perspective and began to focus on it.

The underestimated power of copy

To illustrate the power of copy, Rishi shared an example from one of his clients, Walkin Wheels[1], where his team used a rather unconventional approach to redo their category page. 

Originally, the category page featured their star products, highlighted their features, and had bold CTAs to direct visitors to the product pages. Rishi’s team decided to run an experiment to see how the visitors would respond if the page highlighted the story of the brand instead of marketing any products at all. 

They removed the products from the page, added a ‘See Products & Details’ CTA at the bottom, included videos, a picture of the founder, and a team picture. The new page focused on what the company is all about and why they exist. By making the brand’s story the hero of the page, they noticed an uplift of 28% in their conversion rate.

This success story is evidence that copy can make a remarkable difference in conversion rates. However, in order for copy to do so effectively, it needs to be optimized and well thought-through. And the first step towards writing copy that converts is understanding buyers’ psyche. 

Rishi shares the 12-point checklist that he has been using for years to write impactful and conversion-oriented copy. 

Buyers are skeptical of ‘too good to be true’

Buyers are extremely wary of any unrealistically great offer or even surprisingly premium features of a product that might seem too good to be true. Even the fact that you are way better than your competitor might potentially be a disadvantage if you don’t address it, as buyers might doubt that an offering as good as yours could be a hoax.

Therefore, whether it is in terms of product quality, features, or even your terms and policies, anything that could come across as unrealistically good should be appropriately addressed in your website copy.

Buyers find expertise sexy

Buyers are drawn to experts’ opinions, and as a brand, if you can demonstrate your expertise, it would add to your credibility and get buyers to trust your word. However, merely stating that you are an expert isn’t enough. Your copy must reflect your competence and convince the visitors that you are an industry leader. 

Take this example from Casper[2]. The headline reads, ‘We slept on more than 60 different pillows to find a fill that thrills’.

Headline On Caspers Product Page
Example of a headline from Casper that demonstrates their expertise

They are clearly demonstrating their expertise. And when you are on this page as a potential buyer, you know that this pillow is the best because they’ve tested all the other alternatives out there.

Shoppers are influenced by implied messages

While you want your copy to be crystal clear, you also need to bear in mind that explicitly stating everything in detail might end up doing more harm than good. It’s always advisable to treat your prospects as smart individuals capable of filling in the blanks, and if you let them draw their own conclusions, you have a better shot at getting them to convert. 

Here’s an example of a headline that reads ‘There are over 120 energy drinks on the market. We’ve tried them all’. Compare it to an alternative headline that says, “There are over 120 energy drinks on the market, ours is the best’. 

While the first headline is subtle, the second one is the stated option where the marketer is spoonfeeding to readers the idea that their brand is the best. According to Rishi, this is very ineffective. As much as possible, you want to go for the implied version of your copy and let customers fill in the blanks.

We root for people who beat the odds

As humans, we are fundamentally wired to root for those who beat the odds, and as a brand, you want to make sure your story reflects how you overcame certain challenges to get where you have. Every business has some or the other instance where they have beaten the odds, and this sometimes gets overshadowed by their achievements. 

Rishi suggests that you recollect such instances in your journey and incorporate them into your copy. Once done, your copy will speak volumes to your visitors about who you are as a brand and what you stand for. This works wonders in helping you form a deeper connect with them.

Readers and buyers love surprising details

Rishi believes that there are always tons of surprising and exciting details about any product that can get visitors interested in it and willing to engage with the brand. Discovering what those are is the first step of the exercise. Introspecting, talking to your team, and interviewing your customers can enlighten you with interesting details about your products that even you might find surprising. 

Editor’s tip: You can also run On-Page Surveys to collect first-hand information from your visitors on their preferences. 

Once you have created a list of those, make sure your copy reflects them so you can utilize every opportunity to surprise and delight your audience and get them interested in your offerings.

We are visual animals

Since visuals are far more successful in capturing human attention[3] and invoking an emotion, Rishi strongly encourages supplementing text with visuals wherever possible or using copy to evoke powerful visuals that elicit the desired reaction from your audience. 

Editor’s tip: See how visitors are engaging with the images and copy on your page with Heatmaps.

Buyers need motivation to break habit

This point is a reminder that no matter what product or service you are offering, there will always be people ready to turn it down. It could be because they are in denial of the problem, or have already figured out a workaround for the same. In both these cases, you need to motivate them enough to go out of their way and consider your offering. 

Editor’s tip: Use Funnels to see where people are dropping off and find out why. 

Rishi, therefore, highlights that in most cases, your competitors are not just companies who sell the same product or service. You are also competing against the lack of motivation among your prospects to consider a new way of performing a certain task or recognizing a new problem that might require a solution. And addressing this adequately in your copy will work to your advantage by highlighting the real need for your product and motivating your audience. 

The example Rishi shares is that of a company selling hybrid exercise bikes. Their competition is not other companies that are also selling adult hybrid exercise bikes, but people who use workarounds because they have figured out other ways of being healthy. They might run on a treadmill, go for a jog outside, or do other forms of exercise. 

However, if they use a treadmill or go out for runs, one of the downsides is that they might be hurting their joints as research shows that running on the road or a treadmill puts a lot of pressure on joints, whereas bikes ease that pressure. 

So, Rishi’s hypothesis is that instead of talking about competitor bikes or how amazing your own bike is on the product page, why not talk about the fact that it puts a lot less pressure on your joints if you ride a bike? That’s a much more persuasive message because you are trying to compete against you running on a treadmill and not other brands. 

Shoppers love personalized experiences

Rishi believes that personalized experiences can go a long way in uplifting conversions. Not everyone in your target audience might have the same preferences; therefore, try to personalize your product page or sales pitch copy to accommodate for different segments in your audience group and engage better. 

Rishi shared an example of how his team redid the product page for an air purifier brand. They acknowledged that the page receives two kinds of visitors. There are people who are very methodical and who appreciate technical details about the product, and then there are those who merely want a quick summary. And so they decided to create two versions of their sales pitch copy for the same page. 

They redid the product page and asked the visitors, ‘How much time do you have?’ If they clicked on ‘I have two minutes’, they showed them the shortened version of the sales pitch. And if they selected, ‘I have time’, they presented the more detailed version of their sales pitch. This test improved sales of this product by 30%, and it happened solely by personalizing experiences for the consumer.

Example Of Copywriting To Deliver Personalized Experiences For Visitors
Example of leveraging copy effectively to deliver personalized experiences

Buyers love the idea of discovery

People enjoy discovering something rare and exclusive that most others don’t have access to. It makes them feel good about themselves and instills a sense of achievement in them. Therefore, if your copy can position your product/service as something scarce and rare and make your audience feel as if they’ve stumbled upon something worthy, they are most likely to stick around and explore it.

We buy from people we like

Rishi emphasizes on the fact that since the buyer and seller are socially distant when it comes to eCommerce, it can be tough to create a relationship deeper than a transactional one. Therefore, he believes that website copy must be leveraged impactfully to communicate your brand’s authentic personality and inject a sense of likeability towards the brand so that the customer enjoys interacting with you.  

Editor’s tip: A/B test your site copy to figure out what makes your audience click.

Buyers are curious

While leveraged extensively in advertising, buyer curiosity is something copywriters can benefit from even for creating delightful digital experiences. Rishi highlights that humans are naturally wired to be curious, and as a copywriter, one must ensure that the copy they write invokes their visitors’ natural sense of curiosity that entices them to explore your offerings.

Rishi’s advice on:

Telling a story with constraints on the number of characters 

Rishi believes that limitations around the length of the copy isn’t something that should hold copywriters back. In fact, he encourages letting the buyers decide the type and length of stories they want to read and urges copywriters to figure out a clever way of asking them if they want to skip to the important stuff or have time for a detailed pitch. And irrespective of the choice of the buyer, you must customize your copy for both scenarios. He adds that you mustn’t have one sales pitch and force-feed it to every buyer because every buyer is different.

How to keep quirky content from being misinterpreted by the audience

The cornerstone of giving your brand a personality is letting your authentic and human self shine and reflecting it in your copy. Rishi emphasizes that if your brand is a quirky one, go ahead and ensure your copy reflects that. However, if that is not the case, do not force quirkiness in your copy (even if it improves conversion rates), it’s fake. 

The bottom line is that buyers’ purchase decisions are more often than not driven by emotion and are based on likeability. They are drawn to brands that are not afraid of showcasing their authentic personality to their customers, and as a brand, the closer you are to being your authentic self, the higher are your chances of striking a chord with your audience. 

Copywriting for a B2B business: Does the same checklist hold true? 

Rishi believes that as long as you are selling to humans, whether it’s a committee of humans or it’s an individual, the same principles of copywriting apply. While there are certain aspects that would inadvertently require modification for a B2B environment, the fundamentals of the checklist remain the same. You are still addressing a human in a different context, and therefore, it majorly boils down to fitting the checklist pointers in context for your brand and figuring out what works best for you.

Crafting conversion-centric copy within SEO constraints

Rishi is of the opinion that while writing copy, SEO deserves paramount importance. He also believes that creativity blossoms within limitations, and these constraints are what bring out the best in a copywriter. He goes on to admit that some of his best work has been produced within one constraint or the other. 

Here’s the transcript of the entire webinar. Read along to deep-dive into the world of conversion-oriented copywriting with the expert.


The Transcript

[00:04 – 01:41] – Introduction 

Rishi:

Great. Thanks a lot. I want to say this is a great privilege. I’ve used VWO for many years, and I’m very grateful that all of you could make it to the webinar. This topic is very near and dear to me, and I’m looking forward to sharing my insights. 

What we’ll be talking about today is the unique relationship between the human brain and the ‘Add to cart’ button. I’m going to show you everything that I’ve learned in the last 11 years. 

Let me start with a backstory. I’ve talked to a lot of A/B testers and CRO professionals, and copywriting as an A/B testing tool is not used as much. We usually focus a lot on UI changes and other things. So, I want to give a little background.

Rishi’s introduction to copywriting [02:21 – 03:34]

My journey did not start with copywriting. In fact, I think I’m not a copywriter. I just stumbled on copywriting. When we were running A/B tests, we obviously tested everything, and what we discovered was that ideas that were based on a very specific point of view of copy or were very strong in the copy perspective, had the best statistical outcomes. That’s how we, over the last 11 years, really zeroed in on this. That’s my backstory. 

I want to talk to you about my most valuable asset. It is the reprint of the 1897 Sears Catalog. I just love it.

Reprint Of The 1897 Sears Catalog 1
Cover of the reprint of the 1897 Sears Catalog

If you look at the picture from the inside, you’ll see they had drawings of products, and they had font size two or three for the description.

Snapshot Of The Sears Catalog
Snapshot from the Sears Catalog

Keep in mind that these catalogs were mailed to small towns and little villages in America, and we were asking people to send us upfront payment. These people were the best copywriters in the world. Can you imagine how hard it must be to write copy to convince someone to buy a product that they can’t even see? There’s no return policy. It’s from a company that they’ve never heard of. So, to me, these are the best copywriters in the world. 

The underestimated power of copy [03:35 – 05:37]

The first question you might have is – Does making copy changes work? Of course, it sounds good, but does it really actually make a difference? I’m going to talk to you about a test that we did for a client. I think this very clearly and persuasively illustrates the power of copy. 

This is the client’s category page. This is their moneymaker. This is their star product. It’s their star product category. And you can see the four or three tiles on top that talk about three types of wheelchairs.

Walkin Wheels’ Initial Category Page
Walkin Wheels’ initial category page 

It’s an incredible company. They have an incredible product. It’s very popular. So, the thesis that the client had was, ‘Let’s quickly show them what our product is. Let them click on one of those tiles, get to the product page, and make a purchase. Seems very logical. Let’s remove all the friction’. 

This is a great idea, but our view was that let’s see what happens if we tell people our story first. Let’s see what happens if we explain to them who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand for. We did something that was very controversial, but the client was very adventurous and open to new ideas, and so they allowed us to try this experiment. 

What we did was that we removed the products from that page. This is a page that gets tons of traffic. It is their moneymaker. And you’ll notice in our layout, you actually have to click the ‘See Products & Details’ button on the bottom of the screen to even see the products because we’ve hidden the products by default. And what that does is that it focuses the reader to actually understand what Handicap is all about and why they exist.

Optimized Category Page Of Walkin Wheels
Optimized category page of Walkin Wheels

We added videos, a picture of the founder, a team picture. We did all of those things, and we noticed that the conversion rate went up by 28%. 

This is evidence that copy really makes a difference. You can notice in this example, we’ve removed the product. This is the backdrop of what I’m going to be presenting. 

Now the question is, of course, what style of copy makes a difference? We have a 12 point checklist around that. I’m going to walk you through each of these items and share examples. The first one is,

Buyers are skeptical of ‘too good to be true’ [05:38 – 07:33]

We need to be very mindful of this. What happens is as marketers, we assume that the amazing things our products can do would just make sense to people. I’ll give you an example from eCommerce, and you’ll have to correlate that to your own business. 

Imagine a scenario where I came to you and said, ‘I can improve your conversion rates by 8%’ versus one where I said, ’I can improve your conversion rates by 80%’. Mathematically speaking, 80% improvement is 10 times more impressive than 8%. However, realistically, I would have way fewer people hire me as a consultant to improve conversion rates if I claimed I can improve by 80%. 

Why? Because 80% seems too good to be true. It’s completely unrealistic for me to go to a customer and say, ‘I can improve the conversion rates by 80%’ because they’ve been testing themselves and they know that a 10% improvement is hard and it’s maybe reasonable, but 80% is out of the question. Even if I could improve conversion rates by 80%, it’s too good to be true, so I would have to give context. 

Think about your own product or service. Just the fact that you are way better than your competitor is actually potentially a disadvantage. You want to add more context in copywriting to address that ‘Too good to be true’ kind of thought that the buyer would have. Trust me, buyers think about this all the time. So, make sure your copy addresses it

And this could be in multiple dimensions. It doesn’t have to be just in terms of price. It could be terms of product quality, engineering, return policy, any feature that you have, anything to do with marketing to users. Ask yourself, Could people say that this is unrealistically true?And if you feel the answer is yes, then make sure your copy addresses that. That’s the first one. Next up is – 

Buyers find expertise sexy [07:34 – 08:50]

We are drawn to experts. We’re living in a world of super experts. This is an example from Casper. When you look at the headline, it says, ‘We slept on more than 60 different pillows to find a fill that thrills’

Headline On Caspers Product Page 2
A headline from Casper illustrating expertise in the field

They are clearly demonstrating their expertise. When I’m on this page as a potential buyer, I know that this pillow is the best because they’ve tested all the other alternatives out there. 

How can you make sure that your copy conveys to your buyers that you are an absolute expert? Just stating that you are an expert is not good enough. You want to make sure that your copy demonstrates and illustrates that

Shoppers are influenced by implied messages [08:51 – 10:25]

This is a really powerful strategy, and I want to share an example. The point here is that if you can have your readers fill in the blanks, then you will win. So, don’t state stuff, let them draw their own conclusions. 

I’m going to show you a headline example. This headline says, ‘There are over 120 energy drinks on the market. We’ve tried them all’. That’s the headline, but contrast this to an alternative headline where it says, “There are over 120 energy drinks on the market, ours is the best’

The second option is the stated option where you, as a marketer, are actually spoonfeeding to the reader that you are the best, which is very, very ineffective. Much more effective is to simply end it by saying, ‘We’ve tried them all.’ Now the user has to actually fill in the gaps, and the way they would fit it in is by saying, ‘Well, they’ve tried them all. They still are in business. They probably are better than the alternatives. Otherwise, why would they still be in business?’

Anytime you can help the user fill in the gap, there’s a likelihood of you winning. Go through your copy and find places where you are spoonfeeding the reader, and ask yourself, ‘If I shorten the copy a little bit and I don’t spoonfeed, could I actually get it right?’ If you can create an implied version of a line of copy, always do it. It’s always going to benefit you

We root for people who beat the odds [10:26 – 12:53

As humans, we are wired to support people that have overcome the odds. David versus Goliath kind of story. Play on this. Because the thing to keep in mind is that every single business has to go through incredible odds to survive. Just the fact that you have a business, just the fact that you are working for a client that is selling a lot of products online, is a very hard thing to do. 

But I think what happens is that because we are so immersed in our own world and we have such a siloed view of the world, we just assume that what we do is kind of commonplace. It’s not that special because we deal with it every day. 

But remember, you’re trying to convert a first-time buyer, someone who has never bought from you before, they’ve come to your website, and they don’t know who you are or what your product does. For them, it really makes a difference. 

Extract from your story the things that make you incredibly unique. Because I can guarantee that if you really do some soul searching and you actually start writing some of those things down, you’ll find there are at least 15 to 20 things about you, if not more, that are truly unique. And once you can extract that, you want to make sure your copy reflects that

I’m going to show you a pretty good example. So, this is the homepage of the website called Skiplagged[4].

Homepage Of Skiplagged
Homepage of Skiplagged

What these guys do is that you put your destination in, and they’ll find hotels and flights that are much cheaper than what you would find on other websites. But to drive home this point, they’ve added something on their homepage. 

If you look at the subheadline, it says, ‘Our flights are so cheap, United sued us, but we won.’ They are very persuasively leveraging this whole idea of people who have overcome the odds. 

United is a huge airline, and these people are saying, look, we’re small, but we were so good that we actually got sued by them, but we won. So, how can you apply this to your business? You don’t use the exact same strategy for your website, but what are the aspects of things you overcome? If it’s a product that you’ve designed, what were the manufacturing challenges that you overcame? 

When I interview my own customers, and I talk to them about the products that they have, it’s amazing all the things that they’ve done, but that is not reflected in their story. So, extract those elements because your readers are craving for that content, and it’s a conversion catalyst. 

Readers and buyers love surprising details [12:54 – 15:21]

Anything about your business that is unique, quirky, and surprising, pull that information. There’s tons of that stuff. 

I’ll give you a great example of hearing aids. I found a research article that said that on average, it takes people seven years to recognize that they have a hearing problem. And why is that? Well, because nobody likes the idea of wearing a hearing aid. I don’t want to feel like I’m old, so it makes sense. But, it’s very surprising that it takes seven years to figure it out. 

I’m going to show you an example of a mock-up that I’ve made for a website called hear.com. Not a client of ours, but I’m sharing this to demonstrate exactly the kind of work that we do for our clients. 

Mockup Of The Homepage Of Hear Com
Mockup of the homepage of hear.com

What we did was, right on their homepage at the top, we’re saying, ‘Guess how long it takes for the average person to accept that they need hearing help?

It’s kind of like an interactive element. And we know from studies and tests that we’ve done that shoppers love to participate in interactive things, even though it might seem counter-intuitive that we’re kind of adding friction. 

You’ll be amazed at how it affects conversion rates. The way you participate is by picking an option from a dropdown. If you say ‘one year’, we say ‘No, it’s more than that.’ If you say ‘seven years’, we say, ‘Yes, you’re right.’ You’ve nailed it. It takes the average person seven years.

Visitors Interacting With Quiz On Hear Com
Visitors Participating With A Quiz On Hear Com
Visitors participating in a quiz on hear.com

Now, the reason why this works so well is that it’s a very surprising detail that most visitors to the website had not even thought about. But what it’s doing at a subconscious level is that if I’m the kind of person who is on this website, obviously I have myself been avoiding getting a hearing aid.

It’s actually a reminder that you really want to wait seven years to acknowledge that you have a hearing problem and miss out on seven years of your life? It’s very persuasive from that perspective. Think about your business. 

Think about what surprising details about your business you didn’t know about. Have conversations with your customers, interview them to understand what they loved about your product. I guarantee you, they’re going to say things you simply had not considered

Very surprising things that will make you go, ‘Wait a minute, this is what people love about our product? So interview your customers, talk to yourself, talk within your team, and you will find some very interesting details. Then inject those details in your product page, in your communication. Anything that’s quirky and interesting, you’ll be amazed at the kind of results you can get.

We are visual animals [15:22 – 16:28]

Our visual processing in the brain has so much more real estate than anything else. We are very, very visual. So, don’t give a boring copy or simply a wall of text. Can you convert some of those into visual elements? 

I’m going to show you an example. Since I wanted to really limit myself to copywriting, I want to show you an example of a card that I found in a hotel. All these hotels are trying to get us to recycle and not wash our towels as much. But what is clever about this example is that they’re letting me know that by not washing my towels, they have actually been able to save 1200 Olympic sized pools of water.

Example Of Webcopy That Evokes Visuals 2
Example of copy that evokes powerful visuals

And what’s amazing about it is that the moment I read this, I had a visual of 1200 Olympic pools, and it’s a very powerful visual.

You can use copy to activate a visual. We know from research that visuals are way more effective. Think about ways in which you can visualize your sales pitch, and you will find that it has an amazing effect on conversion rates

Buyers need motivation to break habit [16:29 – 20:45]

This is a really interesting idea. We spend so much time obsessing about our competitors, which is so stupid. There’s always going to be new competitors. There’s always going to be more competitors than you can actually even handle. But what you need to focus on are two things that are much bigger and are hurting your business way more than that. 

The first one is buyers who pretend this isn’t a problem. No matter what you are selling, there’s a whole bunch of people that are on your website who have convinced themselves that they don’t need your product.

For example, with the hearing aids, tons of visitors on the websites say, ‘I don’t need a hearing aid. This is not a problem’. If that’s what they’re thinking, your competitor is not this other company also selling hearing aids, your competitor is this person on your website who has convinced himself or herself that having a hearing issue is not a problem

The second one is workarounds. People are very creative. They will always find alternate ways of getting the same thing done. So, if you have a product that solves a problem, someone’s going to figure out another workaround way of doing it. It’s not perfect, but it’s available to them. So, how do we overcome those barriers? 

I’m going to show you an example of each. Let’s look at the “pretend this isn’t a problem’ strategy, which I said everyone uses. I’m going to look at an example of a company that sells long term food storage. You may not be aware of this category, but it’s a very interesting one. Apparently, there are hundreds of thousands of people that want to have a food supply, which they typically will store in their basement or somewhere in the house, which is for uncertain events in the future. We are all uncertain about the future. So, there are these long term food storage companies that sell frozen, dried food that you can buy, which has a 25-year shelf-life.

But the thing is that it’s 25 years into the future or maybe 10 years into the future, how do I know I’ll actually need this food? That’s what they’re competing against. An example of copy you can craft to overcome that is by saying, ‘It’s tempting to hope no one ever has to be in an emergency situation. And 9 times out of 10, that’s the case for most of us’

Notice what we’ve done here. First of all, we are singularly attacking the thought process that this is not a problem. And by saying that 9 times out of 10, most of us are fine. But 10% of the time, we’re in a situation where we need food. We’re attacking that problem. But remember, another thing we talked about earlier in the presentation about using implied messaging. Notice, we said 9 times out of 10, that’s the case for most of us. We are saying nine times out of 10, you’re totally fine.

What’s the implied message here? That 1 out of 10 times, you’re not fine. And so it would have been way less effective if we had said 10% of the time, you’re not fine. So, we used the roundabout version, which is the implied version of the same message, to communicate this point. 

The other aspect is ‘workarounds’. People always have workarounds. Let’s look at a scenario where you are trying to sell an adult hybrid exercise bike. Your competition is not other companies that are also selling adult hybrid exercise bikes. Your competition is people that are using workarounds because people have figured out other ways of being healthy. They might run on a treadmill. They might run outside. They might do other forms of exercises, but if they’re using a treadmill or if they’re running outside, one of the downsides is they might be hurting their joints.

We know from research that running on the road or a treadmill puts a lot of pressure on joints, whereas bikes ease that pressure. But every bike product page that I’ve been to (and I’ve seen at least 20 of them because I’ve been looking for a bike myself) never talks about that. They talk about how great their product is, but they don’t actually talk about addressing the workaround that I’m using, which is running the treadmill. So, my idea is that instead of talking about other bikes or how amazing a bike is, why not talk about the fact that it puts a lot less pressure on your joints if you ride a bike. That’s a much more persuasive message because I’m trying to compete against you running on a treadmill.

Shoppers love personalized experiences [20:46 – 22:50]

Any opportunity you get to personalize an experience in any way, shape, or form, is going to have a conversion effect. Even if that personalization doesn’t really make a difference, just the fact that the user can personalize it has a magical effect on conversion rates. 

I’m going to give you an example of an actual A/B test we did for a client. The client sells air purifiers. It’s a very complicated product, and it’s fairly expensive. So, it’s a fairly long buying cycle. What we noticed was that on the product page, we had to communicate lots of jargon, lots of details about purification, allergens in the air, how it works, and all of that. You can’t do that in one paragraph. 

So, we debated, and we said, ‘Let’s see what the average amount of length of content people are willing to read.’ But we thought that’s a stupid idea. Why are we going on averages? Keep in mind one thing which is averages lie. What is the average of a man and a woman? It doesn’t make any sense. So, forget about averages. 

We basically said, there are two kinds of people that are on this page. There are people that are very methodical and want to read lots and lots of technical jargon. But then there are people that are not methodical, they are more humanistic, and they want to quickly read what this purifier can do for me, and I just want to buy it. They just want the summary or the elevator pitch of it. And so what we did was we said, ‘Hey, let’s just give them those two options’. 

Example Of Copywriting To Deliver Personalized Experiences For Visitors 2
Example of leveraging copy effectively to deliver personalized experiences

When you go to the product page now, it has just two buttons. How much time do you have? ‘I have two minutes’, which means I need to show them the shortened version of our sales pitch. And ‘I have time’, which is the much more detailed version of our sales pitch. This test improved sales of this product by 30%. That’s a monumental improvement, and it happened because we made the experience personalized for the buyer. So, it really, really makes a difference. 

Look at your product pages and homepage and say, ‘How can I personalize this? I have different audiences. How can I personalize it for them?’ And you’ll have lots of interesting ideas

Buyers love the idea of discovery [22:51 – 24:32]

We love to know that we’ve stumbled upon something that’s rare. And I think as marketers, we don’t do enough talking about this. I want to show you a couple of examples. 

One of these is a copy example. Imagine you are a company that sells emergency medical kits. These are little kits that you can buy for around a hundred bucks, and it has all of the emergency stuff one would need in a situation where you are maybe injured, or you’re out of communication with people, and you’ve got some kind of emergency. So the copy reads, ‘Most people hunting for the perfect emergency medical kit give up in frustration. They never make it to this page’. 

This is the copy that we are going to use on the product page, and what it does is that it subliminally communicates to the buyer that they’ve just stumbled on something that most people never got to. It’s a little accent; and these little accents can make a difference. 

I’ll show you another example. Imagine you are a company that sells raw pet food. It’s a very big category, and it’s a very popular one these days. The copy could read, ‘Over 63 million households own a dog in the US. Only 1% of those households buy raw pet food for their best friend’. Again, 99% of people don’t do it. This is the implied version of that statement. And the fact that it’s so scarce, makes me feel like I’ve stumbled on a solution that most people didn’t have access to, which makes me feel good about myself. We buy online because we want to feel good about ourselves. 

We buy from people we like [24:33 – 26:47

How can we inject personality in our copy? This is an example of a product called ‘One fast cat’[5]. It’s a cat wheel, amazing category. Basically, your guide cat goes inside it, and it starts running, and the wheel goes round and round. It’s an exercise wheel for your cat. So, in order to inject personality, because as I said that the thing about eCommerce is that the buyer and seller are socially distant. 

The thing about a retail store is you actually have a relationship with the person who’s trying to sell you the product in the retail store. With e-commerce, there is so much gap that’s created, it becomes very transactional.

In fact, one of the reasons why retailers are so focused on bombarding us with emails and giving us discounts is because they’ve converted that relationship into purely transactional. But, if you can inject likability into that process, then there’s a higher likelihood that there’s going to be a recall. There’s a much higher likelihood that people are actually going to buy from you. 

So, how do they inject likability? How do they get people to like them? They wanted to talk about building muscle tone, and they kind of put a little graphic that shows a cat with muscle tone. 

A Graphic Of Cat Lifting Weights

Now, this is a comical way of riding likability. You can do it in many, many different ways. You can skin the cat in many different ways. 

Ask yourself, ‘How can I show my authentic personality? Remember, these people don’t have the opportunity to sit in your office and see how much your customer service people get about taking care of customers or your shipping team, how much they care about making sure packaging happens appropriately. ‘How do I communicate that?’ Copy is the way to communicate that. 

Make sure that you’re injecting this in all aspects of your copy. All of these strategies that I’ve talked about, don’t look at them as being like a checklist that you have to follow step by step. Whether it’s at the ad copy level, whether it’s on the landing page level, the site experience level, or even email conversations, make sure that these aspects are reflected and you’ll see on an aggregate that it’s having a very good effect on conversion rates. And of course, if you have enough traffic, you could even run it as an A/B test. 

Buyers are curious [26:48 – 29:30

We are naturally wired to be curious. So, how can you leverage that curiosity? There are many ways to do it. Curiosity typically is used on the advertising level because you can apply that technique to get people to notice your ad and want to interact with the ad, which brings them to the landing page. But, it can also be used in other instances. 

I’ll show you an example. It’s a pretty clever one. Look at this popup. It’s like a normal popup. It says get 10% off your next great idea. Give us your email address. Shoppers know about this standard procedure. 

A Photo Of Popup Asking Visitors To Share Email Ids
Example of a popup asking visitors to share email ids to receive a discount 

But, look at how they’ve actually done it. They said, ‘Give us your email address’, but below they’ve added, ‘When is your birthday?’ It’s a very interesting strategy because now I’m looking at this and saying to myself, ‘They’re asking for my birthday. So maybe I’m going to get something on my birthday as well as the 10% discount they are offering me right now’

Optimized Copy On The Pop Up To Collect Email Ids
Optimized copy that invokes curiosity in visitors 

That’s really compelling. We’re so curious, we don’t even know what that means. They didn’t explain what that means. But now, I am 50 times more likely to give up my email address. Because I just want to figure out what the heck is going to happen on my birthday. This is an example of curiosity. 

So, go through your entire marketing pitch and ask yourself, ‘What aspects of curiosity can we use in our sales? This is one example, and as I said, it’s used quite effectively at the advertising side of the equation as well, primarily.

That is the end. I think I’ve gone really fast. Hopefully, that’ll open us up for some questions, but this is essentially the range of the tactics that we use. If you think this is interesting, I have lots more examples for each of them. If you want to explore them, I would suggest that you sign up for my weekly newsletter every Monday morning. I will share one simple idea with a screenshot, with a mock-up with an explanation, something you can digest very quickly, and that applies to your business. So, if you’re interested in that, you can sign up here.  

It’s been really interesting to share what I’ve learned in the last 11 years with you. And I will now hand it over to Vipul so we can maybe answer some of your questions and I can go back to some slides if anyone has any questions. Thank you very much.

Attendees’ questions answered [29:31 – 52:00]

Vipul from VWO:

Sure. Thanks a lot. Rishi. That was a really insightful presentation. I was very closely listening to all those points. And even though you had shared the slides with me yesterday itself, I got the real value out of the slides today by listening to you. It was really a pleasure listening to you and the examples that you shared. 

So, before I move on and start taking questions from the audience, can I ask you a question? You are a very passionate copywriter and have been in this space for more than 11 years. Do you see yourself observing and analyzing just any copy you see anywhere because as a marketer, I just tend to do that. Whenever I see an advertisement, I just look at it and tear it apart into pieces and be like, ‘Hey, this is not right. That’s right. That’s great. That’s brilliant’. Do you also do that often? 

Rishi: 

I do a lot of very strange things, which most marketers would not do. I spend a lot of time watching infomercials. Those late-night TV commercials that last for 30 minutes. People think that that’s not very sexy advertising, but I think infomercials writers are very good copywriters. So, I want to learn from that. 

I actually also go to retail stores. I spend a lot of time in physical retail stores looking at product packages, and I always find so many gaps in how they’re telling their story. So, there’s opportunity everywhere. I also watch QVC, which is a TV shopping channel in the US and I find lots of interesting ideas there as well. So, you’re exactly right. Once you open Pandora’s box, it’s impossible not to see these tactics being used everywhere around us.

Vipul from VWO:

Right. So do you end up buying any items when you go into a shop, or do you just take note of copies and come back?

Rishi:

This is a very interesting insight, and unfortunately what has happened is that because I have learned so much about how the sausage is made, most marketing messages are completely ineffective in terms of actually selling to me. I don’t think I buy as much as I should. In fact, you’d be surprised to know that I’ve actually made a policy for myself starting this year to buy one or two products every month from online retailers, just so I can learn something new.

Because I’m looking at just their websites, but there’s so much communication that happens through emails once you buy a product as well. So, I want to force myself to do more of that stuff because it’s a really important thing. But you’re right. I mean, it’s like the same reason that a heart surgeon doesn’t smoke a cigarette is that he knows how cigarettes are made.

I kind of feel to some extent, I have a little bit of that, but of course, I love marketing so much, and I’m an average consumer. And that allows me to experience it from the perspective of the buyer. I try not to jade myself. I’ve never had an opinion. I try not to have an opinion because I know that there are always new ways of marketing being invented. So, I’m very curious about it, but hopefully, that answers your question.

Vipul from VWO:

Totally relatable there. I see there are a lot of questions in the questions panel and I’m going to have a hard time picking up all of them. So, I’ll pick them up one by one. 

The first question is from Jesse Bruce. They’re referring to one of your slides where you presented the example of the air purifier company. They’re asking, ‘Do you have any details on which button was clicked more?’

Rishi:

That’s a great question. In our first steps, we only focused on unit sales of this product. We didn’t have tracking for individual button clicks, but we’ve actually subsequently designed another test where we are tracking for interaction with the buttons as well. I’ll be happy to share it once we have data on that, but I don’t have it for this test.

Vipul from VWO:

Okay. Perfect. The next question is from Nancy. She’s asking, ‘Do you find one of these as your go-to, most-effective approach, out of the 12 triggers that you have listed?’

Rishi:

The point about visual elements is very much underused, and so I like to use it a lot. I also think that this implied message idea is very powerful as well. As marketers, we tend to spoonfeed a lot. We’d want to tell people, ‘Hey, we’re number one, we’re the best, we have the best shipping prices, we have the best product.’

Our brains are so incredible, we are constantly filling gaps. So, whenever we get silence, our brain is filling the gap. If you can just leave a gap for the brain to fill in that space, it will fill it in, in a way that you’ve designed that previous statement. That is so powerful. So, implied messaging, I think, is also significantly underused by marketers.

Vipul from VWO:

Great. I hope you got the answer, Nancy. So, here’s an interesting one. Kuda is asking, ‘Do you have any advice on telling a story when we have constraints on the number of characters on the page or the banner?’

Rishi:

Going back to the air purifier example where instead of breaking your head because of the character limit, why not let the buyer tell you what kind of stories they like and what length of the story they like? Figure out some clever way as we did over there by asking, ‘Do you have two minutes?’ or ‘Do you have time?’ 

Someone who says, ‘I have time’, they are telling us, ‘This is an important problem for my family, and I want to invest in the right air purifier. I’m going to stay on this page and learn everything I have to learn’

So, don’t worry too much about the length of the copy and the limitations around the length of the copy. Maybe you can inject a mechanism to ask the user, ‘Do you want all the details or just the most important stuff?’ 

Then if someone is telling you as a buyer that they have 20-minutes for you to make your sales pitch, that’s a dream come true for a salesperson. So, why not make them a 20-minute sales pitch? But, if someone says that they only have five minutes, then tell them the 5-min sales pitch. Don’t have one sales pitch and force-feed it to every buyer because every buyer is different.

Vipul from VWO:

Perfect. Thanks, Rishi. I found this question to be really intriguing. It’s from 10x Writer. They’re asking, Do you think copy should be created before design or design before creating a copy?’

Rishi:

In reality, for me, because of the way we work with customers, we already have a container, already an existing structure, but I’m absolutely crystal clear about this that copy should come first, second, and third. Design comes once the copy has been crafted.

Vipul from VWO:

Let’s say you’ve seen the layout, and you’ve written a copy that’ll fit in that particular layout, but the final design requires you to modify the number of words that you’ve used in the copy. So, how would you do that? Will it not impact the meaning that you were trying to create in the initial case?

Rishi:

In my mind, it doesn’t feel like there’s going to be that situation. I think design should play a secondary role to copy because, in my view, the copy is super important. But yes, maybe on a more practical basis, there may be instances where you have to adjust the copy to match the layout, and as a good copywriter, you can make those adjustments.

But I’m very biased. I just can’t not see copy everywhere I look. So, from my view, I think everything else is secondary, but yes, on a more practical basis, I understand that there’s going to be compromises so the copy would have to make some adjustments. 

Vipul from VWO:

Yeah. Okay, perfect. The next question is from Harshita Tiwari. She’s asking, ‘How do you decide the fine line between content to be perceived as quirky or misinterpreted by addressing a larger audience?’ 

Rishi:

A/B testing!

Vipul from VWO:

Right. So, do you want to elaborate on that answer?

Rishi:

When I talk about letting your personality shine, you have to just be your authentic self. So, if your authentic self is extremely quirky or if you like to write in a certain style, or if the brand has a certain voice, reflect that voice. 

All I’m trying to say is that when I work with clients that are so conservative, even though in private, when we talk to them about ideas, it’s amazing how creative and quirky and fun-loving they are. But, for whatever reason, once we’re trying to communicate that personality to our buyers, they want to have a toned-down version of it. I don’t know where that comes from. But at least the data that I have access to based on the testing that we do, what we find is that showing a personality drives up conversion rates.

“You have to be authentic. If your personality is not quirky, then don’t inject quirkiness into your copy, it’s fake. It doesn’t matter if it improves conversion rates, don’t do it. But if your personality is interesting and quirky, then certainly make sure your human side comes across to the buyers”

You have to remember that humans buy from you. We buy from people we like. We are very irrational actors. If you assume that if you have the best price, people would buy from you, and no matter what, I would argue, that’s not true. 

We are completely irrational actors. We are completely driven by emotion, and our emotions are based on likability. So, if we connect with someone, then we are much more likely to buy from them, irrespective of their price point. The price point is the story that we’re telling ourselves.

When you buy something that’s cheaper, that’s a story you’re telling yourself that, ‘I bought it because it’s cheaper’. Or when you say, ‘I’m buying a premium product’, you’re telling yourself a story. 

The truth is that you’re buying something because you actually like the product, you like the way it’s being sold to you, and you’re using rationality to justify something that you did that was irrational.

We’ve done a test, for example. It’s a very interesting test where we actually give the product a personality. So, instead of having a product page with a description about what the product does, we gave the product a name, and we wrote it in a first-person voice where the product is actually speaking directly to the buyer.

Very interesting way of testing and a very interesting way of writing copy. But the thing is that for the buyer, if I interview them and later on, I say, ‘Why did you buy this air purifier?’, they’re not going to tell me that they bought it because they noticed that your product page had copy written from the perspective of the air purifier, speaking to me directly and I loved it. They won’t say that. 

They will say that they bought your product because it’s the best air purifier. You have the best price point and it fits in with their home needs. They’ll give lots of rational reasons for the truth being that they’ve actually bought it for completely emotional reasons. So keep that in mind as a copywriter, what people say in a survey is different than how our brains actually process information. 

Vipul from VWO:

Oh, that’s an interesting point because before pressing, we’re not very logical about making any purchases per se. We are very emotional creatures. So, it’s a very legit question about being very adventurous about your copy, but also not taking risks so that it gets misconstrued and creates a bad impression of the brand. 

I think one element that you should always look out for while writing copy is do not play with people’s identities because identities are very fragile positions of humans. And if you try to present them or try to include them in your copy in a very adventurous manner, it is sure to backfire, and it’s going to impact the brand on a very negative front. So, do not play with people’s identities. That would be the mantra here. You can go as adventurous as you want to or as quirky as you’d want to, but make sure that you’re not getting too personal or evoking any sort of negative thoughts or emotions out there.

Rishi:

I completely agree.

Vipul from VWO:

I see a couple of people have actually asked this including, Elizabeth, Suman, and Paul. They’ve asked, How do you apply these techniques of copywriting for a SaaS or B2B business? How does the dynamics change, or does it change at all?’

Rishi:

It’s a great question. I’ve worked with a few B2B clients in the financial services and the healthcare space. I believe that ultimately humans are buying from other humans. So, as long as you are selling to humans, whether it’s a committee of humans or it’s an individual, I think the same principles apply

Yes, if you are selling in a B2B environment, there are certain aspects of the strategies that you will have to modify. Again, it’s all about being authentic. But, for example, the fact that people are curious individuals remains constant. Whether they’re buying a cellphone or something in a B2B environment where it’s them, and the CFO and the sales had all these people at the mind when buying a new software package, they’re still curious, they’re still the same human being in a different context.

So, I don’t think it’s worth thinking too much about having a different playbook for B2B. I would say start off with these 12 checklist items and then put it in the context of your business and test it out to see what’s working and what’s not working. 

In a B2B environment, your sample size is going to be pretty small. So, it’s hard to run an A/B test, but you can certainly measure it by using some other proxies to figure it out. And if you notice something that doesn’t work in a B2B environment, share it with me as well, I would love to update my model based on what you guys are seeing. 

Vipul from VWO:

Okay. I’ll take just one more question, Rishi. I’m going to send you a really big list of questions after this webinar, so be prepared for that. The next question is from Diksha Shukla. She asks, When you are working for a client that has many constraints. They want you to focus on SEO, and they have a list of keywords that they would want you to include in the copy. So, what do you do in those cases? Because force-fitting certain keywords might impact the meaning and the associated emotion with it. So what’s your take on it?’

Rishi:

I think SEO really matters. In fact, when I work with clients, in our contract, we state that we are not SEO experts. But, what I would say more broadly about that topic is that I personally feel that creativity happens within constraints. So, when a client tells us that these are the SEO rules that you have to play with, I actually find I can create even better copy than when a client says, ‘Here’s an open canvas, do whatever you want

I can’t talk specifically about what those keywords might be and what those constraints might be. But I think there’s an opportunity for us to actually be very creative even within that environment. It might seem like a non-answer, and I can’t comment on the SEO part. What I can say is that try it out, try these techniques and see if it’s causing constraints and if it is, let me know, and I’d be very curious to learn about that as well.

Rishi:

Guys, if you have any more questions or any help that you would require from Rishi, feel free to reach out to him and subscribe to his newsletter, he has provided the QR code on the slides as well. 

Rishi:

I’m also very active on LinkedIn. So, if someone spends time on LinkedIn, you can just search for my name, Rishi Rawat on LinkedIn, and you can connect with me. I’d love to connect with you. And of course, my newsletter is a great resource if you are looking to get inspiration once a week on things that you can apply for your practice. 

Vipul from VWO:

There are a couple of people in the questions panel who have appreciated your posts on LinkedIn. The most recent comment that I have from Tommy Beal. He appreciates your efforts, and he’s saying, ‘This was great stuff. Rishi, your knowledge is rich, and you make copywriting fun’. 

This totally resonates with me as well. I had a great time listening to you and taking notes from your presentation. I hope this was really insightful for the audience as well. Yeah, thanks again for preparing this presentation for everyone. And we would love to have you again in the future on a different occasion, of course. 

Rishi:

Yes, absolutely. This is my life’s work, and this is the thing that I was born to do. I’m very grateful that everyone’s taken the time to be here today to listen to what we have to say. I’m very grateful. I’m so happy. Thank you very much.

Vipul from VWO:

Perfect. It’s now time to close the webinar. Please fill in the survey that’ll turn up once the webinar is closed. It will help us deliver the best knowledge to you. Also, do look out for other VWO webinars, upcoming and the past ones. Visit vwo.com/webinars and Masters of Conversion webinars series by going to vwo.com/webcast. You can see all the information regarding all our past and upcoming webinars. Thanks, Rishi, and thanks everyone for joining us today. Have a great day. 


Rishi’s learnings, experiences, and anecdotes are a testament to how impactful copywriting can sway conversions in your favor and drive business growth. The rich examples and actionable tips from his talk are a great starting point to experiment with and figure out what clicks with your audience and how you can leverage this underestimated conversion influencer. Hope you found this webinar insightful.

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Shanaz Khan from VWO

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