Whether you’re selling eyeglass frames or earphones, swimsuits or swing sets, you’ll inevitably have shoppers unaccustomed to buying them online — or buying them ever. Others are trying to buy a gift that they know little about. All too often, such shoppers get lost in product descriptions. What does “ophthalmic frame” mean? What’s a “rear acoustic port”? A “monokini”? A “shiplap roof”?

You don’t want people to scoot away because they don’t understand the options. Equally, you don’t want people to misunderstand and buy the wrong item.

Uninformed People Shop — a Lot

What I see repeatedly is online shops assuming that shoppers know nearly as much about their items as the sellers do. Sometimes the shopkeepers are just oblivious to the ignorance of these consumers. Other times, those setting up the products for sale believe that everyone looking for what they sell is savvy and clued in. When told that their product descriptions have terms that need to be explained, they scoff, “Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone shopping at our site understands what’s what.”

Unfortunately, folks who are immersed in a specialized field tend to forget what it was like when they were learning. They tend to overestimate how much lingo their shoppers know. They also disregard problems shoppers have in relating facts or technical information to their own needs and desires. And they wrongly dismiss the possibility of someone who’s not an aficionado trying to shop for someone who is.

How to Clue Shoppers In

There are four main methods to help ensure that visitors fully understand your offerings. First, you can insert little explanations right in the product descriptions. Second, you can include explanatory resources, such as buyer’s guides. Third, you can add context in your descriptions that clarifies which item suits what purpose. And fourth, you can reword your blurbs so they use only everyday language.

Explanations right in the product descriptions work well if there’s just one point or two that might need clarification. Simply define the technical term with a dash or in parentheses. For example, instead of writing “ophthalmic frame,” you’d write “ophthalmic frame – glasses frame designed for prescriptions lenses” or “ophthalmic frame (glasses frame designed for prescriptions lenses).”

But it would be a clunky fix to do this in hundreds of places. So the second option, explanatory resources, might work better when you have loads of items that need the same set of clarifications. Here you could add a hyperlink for each term that shoppers might not understand, triggering an explanation that appears when the mouse points to the word or phrase. Alternatively, such a link would take the shopper to a glossary of definitions.

Buyer’s Guide

Some sites provide this second type of solution…