When looking to optimise conversions on websites, many marketers will naturally think about testing features like CTAs, page layouts and designs, as well as headlines.

However, optimising conversions can also be about the smaller details, the pieces of text that appear next to calls-to-action and form fields, targeted to address users’ questions and concerns wherever they’re likely to occur. This text is often referred to as microcopy.

What is microcopy

Microcopy isn’t sales or product copy, but the small pieces of text used around a website’s navigation, CTAs and webforms.

Microcopy consists of just a few words, perhaps a sentence or two, and can smooth the customer journey through your site.

These pieces of copy are designed to be easy for users to scan and digest, and can be especially useful when guiding shoppers through checkout forms.

Here are some examples of microcopy that are commonly used in ecommerce:

  • Text in calls-to-action – ‘buy now’, ‘enter secure checkout’ etc.
  • Error messaging around form fields
  • Instructions on entering payment information
  • Explainer text around form fields
  • Stock level messaging
  • Copy on delivery and returns propositions

Why does microcopy matter?

Microcopy adds the human touch

Without microcopy, webforms on ecommerce sites would be stark and not so easy to understand.

Adding some copy makes it easier to navigate, and can add personality to what would otherwise be a dry and functional process.

Copy can also help to convey and reinforce the brand’s tone of voice and add some fun, like this from MailChimp.

mailchimp microcopy

Microcopy can help build trust

By helping customers and answering key questions where they need answers, you can help to reassure and build trust with them.

This may be by providing key information on things like delivery and returns, or more directly on privacy and security, with key messaging around payment fields.

Microcopy can negate the need for major design changes

If customers are abandoning at a particular stage of checkout, or a tricky form field, the problem could be solved with some microcopy to guide them.

Like design or layout changes, copy should be tested, but it can be a more direct and cost-effective solution to conversion issues.

Examples of microcopy in action

To explain why some information is needed

For many form fields, the purpose of the information is obvious (name, address etc) but others may make shoppers wonder why they need the information.

On ASOS, customers are asked for their mobile number, which some customers may question. In this case, a simple piece of copy explaining that it’s for delivery updates does the trick.

Security reassurances

Small pieces of copy can be used at the point where customers may have concerns about checkout security.

Here, AO.com adds messaging about payment protection right at the point where people are entering card details. It’s a subtle message which is easy to scan and read for those that need it.

To answer key customer questions quickly

Here’s a great example from furniture retailer Loaf, which uses short sentences to address key concerns about orders.

It explains the process clearly, in a way that is quick and easy to digest, and has that personal touch, using the brand voice.

Pre-empting common user mistakes

Some form fields can trip users up, and these can be identified using analytics data, and uncovered in more detail with user testing.

Copy can solve the problem by explaining how customers should enter information. Many sites have fields like this, postcode and address fields are two such examples.

Indeed, it’s amazing (and infuriating) that many sites don’t explain these fields in advance when a specific entry format is required, instead of serving an error message once customers have entered information.

For example, if sites have lots of errors from customers entering passwords ‘incorrectly’ then a piece of text explaining the password requirements can pre-empt the issue and avoid errors.

Confirming basket add

Here, ASOS uses a neat piece of microcopy confirming that items have been added to the shopping cart, with the additional information that it will be held for an hour.

This provides quick feedback to customers, and the information about how long items are kept adds a little urgency to the process.

Explain guest checkout

Here, Crate & Barrel explains its guest checkout options with some microcopy. For instance, it explains that customers can create an account later on in the process.

Explaining card entry fields

It’s important to remember that not every site visitor is a seasoned web user.

Some may be unsure when shopping online, and require more guidance and reassurance than others.

Card entry fields may require little explanation for some, but it can pay to cater for all user levels and explain fields so anyone can understand, such as explaining where the three digit CVC code can be found.

Reassurance on pricing

Online travel sites have, in the past, had a reputation for adding extras onto bookings, so it can pay to add a little reassurance here, as Virgin Atlantic does.

A little piece of copy confirms that the price shown is the total price, with no extras to be added later.

Microcopy for persuasion

Booking.com uses several pieces of microcopy here, from the urgency messaging about high demand and number of bookings, to the reassurance that people can book now with the option to cancel later.

Messaging like this can convey useful information, and can also be persuasive enough to push customers into making a booking.

In Summary

Microcopy has many uses and applications, beyond those I’ve listed here. The common factor is that great microcopy is about understanding users and how they behave.

Take a look at your site, carry out some tests, and think about how microcopy could be used to help your users.

To understand the current state of UX research in 2018, download our brand new State of UX in the Enterprise 2018 survey report. 
state of ux 2018
Main article image by Linh Pham