Question of the Day, “Do online shoppers scan or read?”

by James on December 8, 2008

Conventional direct marketing wisdom says long copy out sells short. Online, conventional wisdom says people scan so keep it short. Which is correct? Probably both, it depends on the circumstances.

Many years ago, as a naive Account Executive, I asked the Executive Creative Director to explain why long copy performs better than short copy. Much to my surprise he responded. You need to understand, his inclination, especially as it related to naive AEs, was to ban you from the creative floor for being impertinent. His explanation was simple, succinct and laden with common sense.

“Long copy sells better because it provides an interested consumer with all the information they need to make a purchase decision. If they aren’t interested, then they probably won’t see the advertising so it doesn’t matter if it’s long or short.”

It doesn’t seem like we use long copy in online advertising but in an effective campaign it’s still there. We use the medium to present it differently. A banner ad or Search invites the interested prospect to look further; the ad is designed to get clicked just like a well-designed outer envelope invites the recipient of the direct mail package to open it up to see what’s inside. The best landing pages present the argument required to close the sale, just like a good letter would. Sub pages provide the color and additional detail about the product being sold, like a brochure would. The offer and call to action are spread throughout so, at any time, it’s easy for a prospect to become a customer.

Hip Shots

  • Casual visitors to your web site scan so give them the information they need in the headlines and sub heads.
  • Serious shoppers want information to make an informed decision so give them as much as they need clearly and efficiently.
  • Consider how each element of your online ad campaign affects and interacts with the sales / purchase process and craft each to perform best against its specific task.

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