The Bullet: An Award-Winning Duo

No respectable product page is complete without a bulleted list that succinctly sums up the most important features and benefits of said product. The key concept? Features and benefits.

Without benefits, there’s no guarantee consumers will care about the features of your product. Without features, there’s no reason to trust that the product can deliver on promised benefits.

And remember the butterfly effect of content merchandising? It doesn’t apply only to the introduction or supporting paragraphs of your enhanced content. Bullets are also likely to be copied far and wide, so it’s worth it to spend the extra time to make them smart, concise, and effective.

Drive the Point Home

Why use bullets, anyway? What’s wrong with sentences and paragraphs, which are great for explaining simple and complicated products alike?

Butterfly stamp with the word "feature" on one wing and "benefit" on the other. Illustration by Breanne Boland.

Nothing, of course. In fact, there are many, many things right with full-fledged copy.

But there will always be those of us with short attention spans who read the copy, are on the verge of buying, forget whether the copy said the gadget in question worked with our new smartphone or not, try to research that, get distracted by something else… and there goes a sale.

An online customer is in the middle of an unrelenting cacophony of information. At times like that, a bullet can save the day.

Bullets also create some white space, giving your stellar copy room to breathe.

Less Is Not More

If you’ve heard of a thing called a bicycle, you’ve probably heard of Brooks saddles. Some might say Brooks has earned the right to stand back and let their satisfied customers and well-developed brand image take care of selling their products. We would disagree.

I might be convinced to buy a Brooks saddle if I heard an argument for their superiority that amounted to more than “they just are [better].” But I haven’t. Let’s look at these two examples of bullets for the Brooks B17 Imperial saddle. The first is from Amazon:

Vague product bullets about Brooks saddle

This saddle could be just about anything–a small cardboard box with a handle, an iPhone speaker dock, a baby Galapagos tortoise–based on these bullets.

By contrast, the bullets on REI for the B17 saddle clearly address three main features of the product–leather, center cutout, and bag loops–and their benefits.

Good product bullets about Brooks saddle on REI

More Is Not Always More, Either

Now is a good time to remind you that bullets are one part of a good product description, not all of it. They’re there for people who don’t read the whole description, who want to quickly compare your product to a competitor’s product, or who simply don’t remember what they just read. Write your bulleted list for the high-level reader, who awards points for vivid, easy-to-scan, memorable prose.

Example of bad product bullets about vertical mouse

This list contains crucial facts about this product, but much of it is obscured by the too-long sentences and awkward use of repetitive “headers.” At least half of this list could be converted into a short description, which a strong, thoughtfully edited bulleted list would complement well.

Match Made in Content Heaven

The bullets for this Williams Sonoma Orangex Juicer hit the sweet spot at the intersection of language, brevity, features, and concrete benefits. We’ll explain why with (of course) a bulleted list:

  • Length: Five bullets is enough to cover the important stuff without overwhelming the reader.
  • Tone: Each one starts with a specific product feature and uses a verb.
  • Believability: The benefit paired with each feature is clearly stated and specific.
  • Detail: It’s clear what the juicer for, how it works, and how to operate it.
  • Organization: There are two headers below the product’s main benefits for extra info.

Good example of product bullets for juicer

The Takeaway

The best things come in pairs. Present the full, robust information your customers need. But complement it with easy-to-read bullets that put your product’s best features and benefits center stage.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 10/7/2011 at content26’s old blog, For this update we made minor edits, updated the examples, and added a link or two.

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