Microcopy: Near Invisible Text That Converts Visitors to Customers (Even When They Don’t Read It)

Microcopy: Near Invisible Text That Converts Visitors to Customers (Even When They Don’t Read It)

Browse, browse, browse. “Hmmm. Looks interesting.” Open a product page, customize order, click the back button. “I’m just not sure.” Browse more, revisit product page, leave. “What else is there? Ah, a new email!”

Sound familiar?

That’s what many visitors do on your ecommerce website.

You’ve probably done a great job at bringing potential customers to your online store. But if you find that they aren’t making important decisions - like clicking the Add to Cart button which Ott will cover in a few weeks — or filling a subscription form for instance — there could be a disconnect between their expectations and your user experience.

Or, maybe your visitors need some encouragement to pull the trigger.

Whatever the reason for dismal conversions, you can strengthen them by working on those seemingly invisible tidbits of text scattered throughout your website.


Introduced by Herbert Lui last week, microcopy refers to the small pieces of copy - no more than a few words - used on a website to guide and instruct visitors in high consideration zones.

When executed on correctly, microcopy has the ability to increase sales and leads. Tweaking your microcopy slightly could dramatically increase your conversion rate. When Veeam - a data protection and management software - experimented with tweaking their microcopy to clarify a call to action, their conversion rates increased by almost 161.66%).



Image via: CXL 

Microcopy in Action

Microcopy is dispersed around a website, near high consideration zones, and in several instances invisibly influences a visitor’s decision making.Just consider how removing the line “No credit card required” on Kissmetrics might make you feel about signing up for the free trial it offers.

“Will my credit card be charged?” Whoever wrote the microcopy did a great job at anticipating their visitor’s concerns. In a global survey of 15,000 participants analyzing online shopping behaviors,  PayPal found that 46% of US residents fear their payment information will be stolen on the web.

People don’t stop to read microcopy. The visitor might not consciously spend more than 3 seconds on “No credit card required.”or might even just glance at it, but the effect is significant.

So, if someone is hesitant about providing their credit card details before they buy from a company they’ve never bought from before, the microcopy will calm their inner doubt. They’re likelier to give it a try.

This is why you'll frequently see so many little assurances near the add to cart button.

Well-crafted microcopy also tells visitors that they will be taken care of. Weak or missing microcopy confuses them and erodes the visitor’s trust.

For instance, take a look at this call-to-action (CTA) button:

Image via: Business 2 Community 

The word “Submit” won’t get people excited. Most visitors don’t like submitting anything, and it doesn’t clearly state what will happen next. In fact, it may end up increasing friction by making the visitor more anxious (“What will they do with the information I’m submitting?”).

During their checkout usability research study of the 100 largest ecommerce websites, Bayman Institute found that most people have learned to anticipate the undesired (usually automated phone calls and spam emails) when providing personal information online.

Therefore, your microcopy should be actionable and purposeful. A phrase like “Get Verified” could be a better alternative to compel visitors to follow through.

When you think over it, most CTAs on the internet have impersonal microcopy. Sure, some of them are useful – but how many of them actually assuage lingering hesitation? Not many.

Then there’s the opposite situation — missing microcopy that would have alleviated the visitors’ worries. Have you ever abandoned buying an item because you didn’t know if shipping would be included in the displayed price or not?

Visitors seeing this category page won’t have a clue about a shipping fee. The site relies on the expectation that the visitor would explore whether the price tag includes shipping fee or not when it should be self-explanatory.

In contrast, have a look at Amazon (which deserves applause here):

Free shipping is mentioned directly below the price. The retail giant does a great job at guiding visitors with compelling microcopy throughout its website.

A visitor’s perspective, which is influenced by the good and bad things they’ve experienced or heard, will determine how they interpret microcopy on your website.

Consequently, if your potential customer has had their credit card charged in the past without proper disclosure, they would be skeptical if you don’t provide them with additional context. Use microcopy to be transparent and increase conversion rates.

Lululemon’s microcopy on its checkout page calm the visitor’s fear of registration and sharing their personal information, and eases the user into their decision to buy with or without registering a new account.

Just a few lines have enhanced the entire experience on this checkout page. Herbert Lui will give a detailed overview of reducing fears and adding clarity to the checkout page next week.

Tapping Into the Power of Microcopy to Influence Customers

Most ecommerce businesses are under the impression that only headers and landing page copy matter for branding.

And obviously they do, but consider the use of microcopy in both expected and unexpected places shows site visitors you’ve imagined stepping into their shoes to help them along their journey.

If you’ve never focused on microcopy, you’re probably not alone. Below I’ve listed some actions you can take to make your site visitors feel secure and informed with those small parcels of text.

1. Anticipate People’s Thoughts

Great microcopy takes negative thoughts out of people’s heads by addressing their needs when they’re about to take action. Because they have their own beliefs while navigating your website, you need to think about how to influence them.

Ask yourself:

  • What feeling does the visitor want to feel, and how might they feel right now?
  • What action is the visitor trying to take?
  • What will make the visitor feel more comfortable buying?

This information is typically uncovered in usability tests and through feedback loops which we've covered extensively these past few weeks. Microcopy is a direct response to some of the minor details and hesitations visitors have in your research.

Here’s an example of anticipating their visitors’ thoughts:

The Russian Store’s product page includes some subtle microcopy next to stock availability. Then there’s some around the price. It could be that their visitors shared bad experiences of delayed shipping or hidden fees with them. Microcopy has been used throughout the page to eliminate fears.

Conduct feedback experiments to gain specific insights on your visitors, and then use that learned context to write great microcopy.

2. Clarify Your Direction

It’s important to explain the actions you want visitors to take as clearly as possible. For instance, many ecommerce sites place a Search bar on the top of their homepage, but rarely tell visitors what they should use it for.

RoseGal’s Search bar doesn’t offer much insight. What should the visitors search for?

Use microcopy to clarify things, like ShopStyle does on their homepage.

ShopStyle wants users to search for brand names and stores through the Search bar on their homepage. By being specific, they let people know what the search really entails.

Keep explanations short and simple. That minimizes misinterpretation or confusion. Use as few words as you can in your microcopy, but enough of them to clarify what you mean.

3. Generate Good Feelings

At times putting a smile on people’s faces can defuse panic when they get stuck or see errors on your website after performing a particular action. Send good vibes through your microcopy to deliver a friendlier experience.

While this won’t work in every case, something that lightens up a visitor’s mood is a novelty most folks enjoy.

Gmail’s error message is a brilliant example.

They address what went wrong in a light-hearted tone.

Final Thoughts

Although the process of polishing a website’s microcopy is straightforward, many ecommerce merchants’ focus waver from it.

If you want to genuinely help your visitors, use microcopy to deliver precise direction where drop-offs occur. The simple tips mentioned above will help you produce huge improvements for your store and your visitors’ experiences.

About the Author

Dan Virgillito is a storytelling specialist, blogger and writer who helps digital startups get more engagement and business through online content.