Microcopy: Small text with great potential

At various points in his or her customer journey, a visitor must make a decision to continue. In many cases this decision will be made by clicking or not clicking a button.


What is microcopy?

Microcopy is text that appears near a Call To Action button. A few years ago it was often a number of words of text that were displayed in a small font (this is where the name microcopy comes from) under or near a button. Nowadays, however, you more often see a list of on average about three items with check marks and/or icons where context-related benefits of the webshop are highlighted. Such 'microcopy' text in that form is also called reassurance copy.

What can you use microcopy for?

Microcopy is often used to highlight important benefits or options of the webshop ("Free delivery tomorrow"). This may involve advantages over competitors ("Personal advice in our 60 stores") as well as key points of the organization itself ("We receive a 9.0 from our customers"). However, another important point for which you can use microcopy is to remove uncertainties and/or questions from visitors ("Free return within 30 days"). Finally, you will find quite a few persuasion points that try to convince visitors to make a purchase ("More than 2.8 million customers preceded you").

Where is microcopy used?

Microcopy is most commonly found on the product page and shopping cart of ecommerce web shops. To some extent this makes sense, of course, because microcopy is usually displayed near a call-to-action (CTA) button. Of course, category pages often also contain CTA buttons, but due to the limited space there (and the large number of buttons shown) you will rarely find microcopy here. Strangely enough, only limited microcopy appears to be used in the checkout.

How to determine the best text?

In many cases, user research will be a good first step in determining what is the right text to display as microcopy. You could think of user testing, interviews, or surveys here. Based on this, you can then determine which questions or uncertainties visitors have in a certain context (such as on a product page or in the shopping cart). You can then display microcopy that removes these questions and uncertainties, or gives that extra push to the visitor. An alternative way to get inspiration for suitable copy is to look at what close competitors are doing.

What about legibility?

Microcopy of course implies the use of a very small font. However, such small text is not useful if you want visitors to actually be able to read the points. Therefore, when displaying this text, adhere to guidelines that are available for text and conversion.

Examples of microcopy

To find examples of microcopy being used 'in the wild', I investigated 100+ ecommerce web shops from the Netherlands.

100+ Dutch webshops

I checked the product page and shopping cart to see if microcopy is shown near the button, and if so, which one it is. Of course, make sure that you do not simply copy examples from competitors. Make sure that you use A/B testing, if possible, to determine whether the new microcopy actually results in an increase in conversion.

Microcopy productpagina

Microcopy on the product page

76 of the 100 Dutch ecommerce web shops surveyed use microcopy on the product page. In only a handful of cases does this involve a short line of text under the CTA button. In all other cases, the aforementioned list of three items on average. The following topics are most often covered on the product page:

  • Delivery moment: The purpose of this is to make it clear to the customer when he or she will receive the product ("Ordered before 9:00 PM, delivered tomorrow"). It is striking that many companies choose not to show the moment at which the visitor receives the item, but only to mention when the item will be shipped ("Ordered before 9:30 PM = shipped today"). Especially when it concerns a gift or a piece of clothing that is purchased for a specific occasion, a delivery time does not provide sufficient information.
  • Shipping cost: Many online shops now choose to ship items for free. Those who do this often mention this in their microcopy ("Free shipping"). For web shops that choose to charge shipping costs, this applies in most cases up to a certain order amount. These web shops also often choose to include information about delivery costs in their microcopy ("Free shipping from €50").
  • Returns: The returns policy is another point that many online shops include in their microcopy. Many companies simply indicate the number of days within which you are entitled to return the product ("100 days' right of return"). However, others choose to also mention the (absent) costs of returns, often in combination with the number of days of return policy ("Free return within 30 days").
  • Reflection period: Instead of only stating the return period and any return costs, many online shops also talk about a 'cooling-off period'. You will see many simple examples ("100 days' reflection period"), but also combinations of reflection period and possible costs ("Free returns and 30 days' reflection period").
  • Stock: Finally, the stock is also regularly reflected in the microcopy on the product page. These are actually two different forms. On the one hand, it is sometimes stated that there is more than enough stock to remove any uncertainty ("In stock, delivered to your home tomorrow"). On the other hand, stock is sometimes also used as a form of scarcity ("Less than 7 in stock").
Microcopy winkelwagen

Microcopy in the shopping cart

52 of the 100 Dutch ecommerce web shops surveyed use microcopy in the shopping cart. Just like on the product pages, in only a handful of cases this concerns a short line of text under the CTA button. Here too, in all other cases it concerns the aforementioned list of three items on average. In addition to the points below, previously mentioned matters such as delivery time, delivery costs, returns, cooling-off period, and stock also regularly appear on the shopping cart page. The following topics are most frequently covered on the shopping cart:

  • Reserved: A number of parties (particularly in the fashion industry) state that the items in the shopping cart are not reserved ("The items in your shopping cart are not reserved for you"). The message serves two purposes. Firstly, it will potentially alleviate any disappointment if items are left in a shopping cart for a long time and then become unavailable. However, it will also serve to create a form of scarcity, where visitors are encouraged to take action because the chosen items may no longer be available at a later date.
  • Warranty: The warranty period and any conditions can be shown in simple form ("2 year warranty") or with more explanation ("120 day money back guarantee!"). Of course, the relevance of mentioning warranty is likely specific to each industry. For example, a warranty statement will be more relevant for more expensive electronics items than for a toy.
  • Speed: Visitors would like to pay for their purchases as quickly as possible. An indication of how long this process is expected to take ("Easy to complete in 2 minutes!") can help convince them to click the button that takes them to the checkout.

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Interesting microcopy

In addition to themes that recur regularly, there are also a number of points that are only mentioned by a very limited number of web shops. These points can, in a positive or negative sense, provide ideas for how your own webshop could possibly (not) use this.

Product page

  • "Climate Neutral Free Shipping and Returns" (NA-KD). This is striking because many brands these days are of course trying to project a sustainable or environmentally conscious image. However, the high return rate of web shops is of course not directly in line with this. The fact that NA-KD states that they handle shipping and returns in a climate-neutral manner can therefore be seen as a unique plus.
  • "Can be paid with cryptocurrency" (Beryl). Digital currencies like Bitcoin are starting to become more mainstream. While it may still be too early for most businesses to offer cryptocurrency as a payment method, it may be something to keep a close eye on for the near future.
  • "Packaged with care to avoid transport damage" (Mastertools). Now it is of course the case that every company probably does its best to prevent transport damage. However, user research by Mastertools has probably shown that users see (possible) transport damage as a potential reason not to order DIY tools from them online. By including this point so emphatically in their microcopy, they may remove some of the uncertainty about this point.

Shopping cart

  • "By continuing to order, you agree to our Terms and Conditions." (Expert). In my opinion, Expert comes up with this message too early. None of the other 100 parties examined mention in the shopping cart that they agree to the general terms and conditions. This notification may therefore possibly (and unnecessarily) deter potential customers. The checkout page where the purchase is actually made seems to be a much more suitable, and also more common, place to place this message.
  • "Ordering on account possible" (CentralPoint). My suspicion is that ordering on account is possible with multiple parties, but CentralPoint is the only one of the Dutch web shops examined that mentions this option in their microcopy. Especially for companies where quite a lot of business purchases are made, this seems to be a smart way to remove some uncertainty from potential customers.
  • "Pay online safely and worry-free" (Schaap & Citroen). Although Schaap & Citroen is not the only party that mentioned 'safety', this involved only five parties in total. My suspicion is that security for visitors is still an important issue regarding online payments, especially with all the media attention for issues such as phishing and data leaks. Often an icon of a lock (and of course an actual well-secured webshop) can remove a lot of this uncertainty, so is this possibly worth A/B testing?


Microcopy can be used in many different ways in a webshop. Reassuring is an important form of this. The above article discusses important themes that recur regularly, as well as examples of Dutch web shops.

About the author

Theo van der Zee (MSc, Psychology) has been building and optimizing websites and web shops for more than 20 years. As a freelance conversion specialist, he helps companies to improve their websites based on research and experiments.

Read more about Theo

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