In the marketing realm, micro-copy is sacred.
We’re talking about any short bits of copy found on a brand's website that help online shoppers:
- find their way around, e.g. “scroll left to see the full look”
- follow instructions/offer help, e.g. “write your address here”, “do you have caps lock on?”
- get more of a feel for your brand, e.g. “say hi!” (vs a more formal “contact us”)
Some of the most obvious places your brand will need effective micro-copy include: headlines, sub headings, CTAs, pop-ups, product information, newsletter signup boxes, navigation bars, captions… the list goes on. But how do you go about creating it?
This question is not a new one; for centuries marketers have agonised over the best way to use as little copy as possible to convey the most information.
Ironically, however, it’s not necessarily old, experienced brands we must turn to for answers, but also younger brands - founded by digital natives and born into the world of ecommerce.
Brought up with MSN, MySpace and text messaging, millennial marketers are adept at summarising exactly what they want to say in just a couple of dozen characters.
This doesn’t mean your brand’s message or tone of voice needs to be ‘millennial’ (especially if your demographic is an older audience), but the approach - of paring back as many words as possible until you’re left with something that a) communicates your point and b) captures your ‘voice’ - remains the same.
Here are four contemporary ecommerce brands mastering the art of micro-copy.
“Created in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, we design and manufacture the majority of our limited-edition collections in our factory headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.”
Great micro-copy in...
Meta description tag
Anyone who Googles “Reformation brand” will be met with the following results:
Through just four words - "dress healthy, sustainable clothing" - the title tag Immediately gives an online shopper a taste of what Reformation stands for, and what to expect upon entering the site.
The meta description tag opens with the attenion-grabbing statement "being naked is...", and even the site links are pretty funny (yes, we probably always convince ourselves we need something new, and no we shouldn't let our friends wear ugly dresses).
A brand’s homepage is a prime opportunity to make a strong first impression and communicate to a visitor what it is they’re all about. As shown in the example below, Reformation pulls this off by splitting its core elements into three boxes. To keep a reader engaged, the brand uses attention-grabbing, fun captions for each.
The obvious favourite here is “sexy math” - an oxymoron if ever we saw one. But it works. It grabs a visitor’s attention before they can zone out.
The newsletter signup box is one of the most important aspects of an ecommerce site, as it’s where potential customers will decide whether or not to give you their details for future marketing messages. Consequently, this signup box needs to not only be well designed and user-friendly, but have the right copy.
Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean embellishing the copy you already have, adding in redundant adjectives and flowery CTAs. It means really thinking about alternative ways you can inspire a visitor to subscribe.
Reformation achieves this by positioning the newsletter signup box as an opportunity for website visitors to become part of something new.
The word “join” creates a sense of union and togetherness - subsequently bringing together everyone who signs up to the brand to form a “reformation”.
- Email footer
At the bottom of its newsletters, Reformation includes different interesting facts relating to the environment - thus strengthening its "dress healthy" mantra.
All of these messages are brought together using a hashtag repeating the above micro-copy: "join the Reformation".
This consistency reflects a solid brand identity and helps to build the Reformation movement.
Aside from creating a progressive, fashion-forward and environmentally friendly movement, Reformation also utilises micro-copy to create a friendly and laid-back tone throughout the customer journey.
For example, once an online shopper has checked out a certain product, they are recommended similar items under the simple headline “Oh, also”.
These two words are pretty generic - nothing special - but they work so well because they emulate what an actual shop assistant might say whilst helping you find something in a physical store.
"In 2012, we created an online fashion brand specialized in curating artists, brands and celebrities from around the world to collaborate on streetwear collections."
Great micro-copy in...
Rad gives new subscribers a warm welcome by greeting them not once but three times - "Hey, Hi, Hello". Clearly pretty comical, this automatically says "here is a brand that likes to have fun". This is reinforced by the image, depicting two girls laughing and wearing matching outfits.
As mentioned in the introduction, micro-copy isn't just about creating personality and a good brand voice - it's also about genuinely helping visitors navigate your site.
In the example below, Rad ensures a visitor is aware they can view more popular items by dragging the grey bar to the right.
“Founded in 2014 by a gang of babes who believe good design belongs to everyone, for everyday life, AYR stands for All Year Round.”
Great micro-copy in...
AYR is a brand that proves micro-copy doesn’t have to be really clever or quirky to work; sometimes the most simple phrase, joke or word is all you need to create the impact you want.
This pop-up, asking website visitors to sign-up to AYR’s newsletter, would be distinctly average if it wasn’t for five tiny - albeit visible - words: “We write good emails, too.”
AYR mico-copy works because it reads people’s minds and delivers accordingly; what would prevent a visitor signing up to a newsletter? Bad emails. So let’s tell them the emails won’t be bad.
Likewise, if you’re about to buy a super expensive dress online, what exactly will you want to know before taking the plunge? Firstly, whether the sizes available are going to be right for you, and secondly how easy will the dress be to actually look after.
As shown below, AYR combats both of these questions head on directly on the product page, adopting the voice of the visitor with the two questions: “Which size?” and “What’s it like?”.
Once a visitor clicks on the “what’s it like?” question, a visitor is met with the following landing page:
As well as letting a shopper know how they need to look after their new purchase, AYR also adds a splash of humour via the line “And take her to dinner sometimes :)” to ensure things don’t get too dry. The smiley face just proves it’s okay to have fun with your visitors and break traditional copywriting rules now and again.
Across their digital marketing, AYR also nail the wording of their CTAs. Below is a classic example of the brand turning a standard promotion for its pop-store into a friendly, fun invitation to try on clothes and “hang” out.
“Italy Made. Veneto Inspired. NYC based. Shoes inspired by and designed for women's adventures (daily and beyond).”
Great micro-copy in...
We’re aware the two examples used above adopt a voice that is perhaps more attractive to a younger demographic, but good micro-copy can also be used in a way that appeals to shoppers across all ages.
One brand proving this Idoni.
As a new kid on the block, it was important for Idoni to use its homepage to spell out who they are, what they sell and what they stand for before losing a visitor’s interest. Here’s how they achieved this:
Alongside a beautifully shot image of the shoes they sell, the simple but powerful copy “shoes for your every day (that are anything but everyday)” manages to sum up the fact that these shoes are practical but stylish, and you won’t find them anywhere else.
This micro-copy links nicely to the brand’s overarching ethos, which is: "the fundamental belief that when it comes to shoes, women shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort for style (or vice versa).”
For those who stick around on the site, Idoni quickly moves on to what sets them apart from competitors.
As shown below, this is done nicely through more clever use of language:
Like news journalists, marketers need to strip everything back to bare bones when writing headlines. Idoni do this perfectly, managing to sum up what they want to say in two or three words per heading.
“Out of stock”
As touched upon earlier on in this post, micro-copy is also understood as something marketers can use to help website visitors with instructions/forms to fill out, for example “write your email in this box”.
For its in-stock notification system, Idoni uses the written word to help a shopper know exactly what they need to do; for example, "enter your email address".
The brand also adopts the voice of the shopper to confirm what it is they are singing up to e.g “notify me when this product is available” and “yes send me news and offers”.
… So basically
We know this is a lot to take in, and different brands will use micro-copy in different ways depending on their personality, ethos and demographic.
However, here are the top things to remember when creating kick-ass micro-copy for the modern reader:
- Less is more - cut redundant copy
- Capture your voice - if your brand was a person, who they really use that word?
- Have fun - if you think a smiley face or phrase plucked from urban dictionary will work, go for it
- Use micro-copy to help your visitors - put yourself in your shopper’s shoes and see where you can use words to help enhance the customer journey
- Be consistent - make sure your micro-copy reflects the longer copy used across your other marketing channels