Microcopy refers to the standalone and often unassuming lines of text in web and app design: form field labels, button text, instructions, error and confirmation messages, etc. While this text often seems negligible, on a subconscious level it has a great impact on your user’s experience. Especially for ecommerce, microcopy is an ideal way to “fill in the cracks” of your UX and cover crucial topics you couldn’t mention elsewhere. In other words, microcopy helps a site say everything that needs to be said.
In this post, we’ll talk about what microcopy is exactly and how to best use it for ecommerce.
What is Microcopy in Ecommerce?
Microcopy is the text left once you’ve stripped away all the standard web page copy, blog articles, headings, titles, and banners from your site. In many ways, “microcopy” defines all the misfit text that doesn’t fit in other categories.
And that’s what makes it so powerful. Microcopy is your chance to communicate whatever you want, even if it doesn’t fit in organically with other site copy. Often it complements other text, with extra context or added incentive to interact. But other times microcopy exists all on its own, such as promoting company features or making the user feel more comfortable.
Let’s look at the most common usages for microcopy:
To survive in a competitive market like ecommerce, you have to advertise your brand’s own value propositions — why customers should shop from you instead of others. Policies like free shipping or money-back guarantees won’t help your business if customers don’t even know you offer them.
Many designers include a brand’s top value propositions in microcopy — in addition to mentioning them elsewhere in site copy and blogs, etc. By emphasizing these messages, particularly with an accompanying icon like a truck or dollar bill, you draw more attention to them, increasing their visibility and your own conversion rate.
In UX design, microcopy can directly ease your shoppers’ fears and remove obstacles to buying. For example, everyone hates spam, so mentioning that “We won’t share your email with third parties” above or below an email signup will convince more people to join.
This also works well for reminding shoppers that they can enter their credit card number risk free (“Proceed to secure checkout”). Security risks are a top concern of online shoppers, so err on the side of too much reassurance than too little.
Less severe worries than spam or cyber crime are also worth mentioning. Confirmation messages are good UX, and customers appreciate simple acknowledgements of their actions, so they don’t wonder whether or not “it worked.” A simple message like “order approved” or “wish list saved” can help anxious users enjoy your site more easily.
Some people need you to explain things… and some don’t. You can have the best of both worlds with an unobtrusive microcopy explanation — there for those who need it, avoidable for those who don’t.
Explanation microcopy also adds extra context, so the user understands what’s happening and why. One common example is an error message; if a user tries to perform an impossible task or go to a page that doesn’t exist, they need to know they can’t, or they’ll keep trying.
But the most common use of explanatory microcopy in ecommerce is for overcoming sales obstacles. If an online store ever asks for your phone, you often see the microcopy “Why we need your phone number.” Many shoppers see this as an invasion of privacy, so it’s better to explain your motives than to have customers think you’re up to something nefarious.
Calls to Actions
Microcopy isn’t just to help your customers; you can also use it to help yourself. Including a call-to-action or a click trigger, especially with a clickable button, is known to increase conversions; a Brafton study cited that changing their CTA buttons increased revenue by 83% for one month, with an average ecommerce conversion rate of 22.03% quarter over quarter.
Calls to action are microcopy’s most utilitarian benefit for companies. Changing a word here or there in the button text has been known to drastically increase conversions. In particular, microcopy both encourages clicking and clarifies what users can expect if they click, which brings us to our next point…
It’s not always about including microcopy but including the right microcopy. The words you choose should be deliberate and precise to avoid any ambiguity. For example, if you sell sandals or flip-flops, listing them under the “shoe” category could be confusing to some people. You can clarify better by changing the category name to “footwear.”
Much of the skill in writing microcopy involves choosing the perfect word. Because microcopy is supposed to be “micro,” you want to be as efficient with words as possible. If you can explain something as clearly and quickly as possible, your efforts will pay off with improved user behavior.
Sometimes tasks aren’t always self-evident, or at least certain aspects need to be specially called out. You can add a line or two of microcopy instructions just to keep the ball rolling.
For example, if users can search for either product names, brand names, or product categories in your search bar, include a grayed-out instruction line that says so. That lets your customers know about certain site features they wouldn’t have discovered on their own.
Adding a Little Personality
Last, microcopy can be used to showcase your brand personality and engage better with shoppers. For casual brands, you can include jokes or Easter eggs in microcopy; because microcopy is inherently tangential, these side notes won’t interrupt the overall flow of the site.
Phrasing your error messages with humor can help lighten the mood, and the same can be said of how to word your explanations and instructions. Just remember that being funny or witty should never come at the expense of clarity — in web design, function always beats out fun.
Now that you have a better idea of what microcopy is and how it’s used in ecommerce, can you think of any ways you can use it for your online store?
Do some brainstorming now, and shortly we’ll return with 8 expert tips on how you can write your own microcopy just like a professional.
Interested in optimizing the ecommerce sales funnel? Take a look at our breakdown for each step.