E-commerce Copy You Can’t Use This Labor Day

My inbox implores you.

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Photo via Bitmoji.

First of all, E-commerce has three acceptable spellings, so if we could all agree on one, that’d be swell. Next, as Labor Day weekend arrives, so do the sale emails plumping my inbox to capacity with all manner of enticements. This isn’t a coy little dance anymore, I know you’re trying to get me to buy stuff. I, in fact, want to buy stuff. The jig is up, so enough with the hand-on-my-ass copy. Old moves have no place in modern marketing.

I don’t do this to complain, though I do so enjoy complaining. I do this to help. To make us better, more efficient marketers who create copy that’s effective, goal-achieving, and more than anything, not entirely expected, annoying, and unfortunate.

So, before Labor Day, I ask of you very little. Just don’t do the things below, and maybe then I can get through this holiday weekend without adding my laptop to the plethora of offerings atop the bbq grill. Sound good?

  1. Ending sentences in “today.” Example: “Our jeans are all 20% off! Get a new pair today!” I don’t know why but when I read this all I see is a daytime soap opera commercial for a device that lets you dust the top shelf without a ladder. You sound like you’re selling something, and if you sound like you’re selling something, you’re not going to sell much.
  2. X will have you doing Y. “Our new fleece pullovers will have you feeling cozy in no time!” Whhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy??? Would you say this out loud? Like to a person? No? So maybe don’t view it as a way to communicate through a screen, either. It doesn’t sound real, and lot of the best copy out there right now is having a conversation with its audience. A normal one that you’d have…you know, with humans. Simple rule: If you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t type it, either.
  3. We’ve got you covered. Do you? Do you really? Because if I look at my inbox, so does everyone else, so I’m wondering why I should let you cover me instead of those other emails. “We’ve got you covered.” Jesus. If we cannot, as an industry, come up with another way to tell people we have the things they need, we should be shamed into writing lists of side effects for trendy pharmaceuticals advertised in back-of-airplane-seat magazines.

I don’t like to be entirely unhelpful, so here is one thing I think we all need to try to do. It’s gonna feel weird, I know we’re all wired to aim for wit at this point, but maybe there’s another way?

Just tell the truth. Don’t try to dress it up in clever vinaigrette, just tell the damn truth. Tell the consumer what is in the email. It’s okay, you don’t have to feel like you’re not trying hard enough to be clever. Sometimes we don’t need clever, we just need information.

I saw this subject line from Barney’s Warehouse this morning and found it really effective: “Up to 70% Off Labor Day Savings Starts Now”. Lulu Frost did the same thing: “20% Off Labor Day Sale Starts Now.” It’s not cliché or expected when it’s just dispersing the information. They’re concise, they lead with the numbers we want to see, and they participate in something we all know is happening without resorting to cheesiness or cliché, which sometimes happens when we try to be clever. We can all get a little comfortable with not being clever. Clever’s been covered.

Go forth, my copywriting brethren and sistren, I’m write behind you.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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