The Evolution of the PDP


Product description pages (PDPs) are a vital piece of the e-commerce puzzle, linking the customer between endless digital shelves and retail reality.It’s no surprise how much they’ve evolved over the years. Change is a constant factor in the fast-paced world of e-commerce: trends, technology, markets, seasons, and even customer expectations shift endlessly. Brands need to be agile and continuously seek new opportunities to improve their online shopping experience if they want to remain competitive.

Over the years, e-commerce has evolved by meeting increasing customer expectations with technological advancement at a rapid rate. Customers seek more than just a transaction when shopping online, they’re hoping for an immersive experience with a brand they can relate to. An authentic brand with a strong identity is often rewarded with loyal customers that can become lifelong advocates, and PDPs play a key role in that online experience, driving sales as well as customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty.

“Of course, the objective and the goal is still the same, which is to make that sale, but it’s a way more complex environment than it used to be… and we need to [do all the above] while creating and maintaining the brand identity, which I think is one of the biggest challenges but also one of the most beautiful ones.”

- Carlos Leon.

Carlos Leon, Photography Lead at Mango, perfectly described the leaps and bounds of the PDP during his talk at FLOW: Copenhagen:

Traditional PDP: Describe and visualize = sale

Evolved PDP: Inspire, influence, experience, communicate = sale

01 The history of e-commerce and the PDP (a brief overview!)

You may be surprised to learn that the foundations for e-commerce were laid as far back as 1979 when British inventor Michael Aldrich invented Videotex by linking a modified TV to a computer with telephone lines, allowing the transmission of secure data. The first recognized online marketplace, Boston Computer Exchange, opened for business in 1982, but it wasn’t until the ‘90s, with the widespread availability of home PCs and the internet, that the traditional format of the PDP began to take shape…

1990s - The emergence of mainstream e-commerce: With the dawn of the internet age, the concept of online shopping began to take root. Initially, PDPs were basic, consisting of text descriptions and low-quality images. The mid-'90s saw the birth of e-commerce giants Amazon and eBay, and by 1999, global e-commerce was worth over $150 billion.

Early 2000s - Visual enhancements: As internet speeds improved and bandwidth increased, PDPs evolved to incorporate more visuals, including higher-resolution images and sometimes even simple product videos. However, they remained relatively static and lacked interactivity.

Mid to Late 2000s - Interactive elements: As web technologies advanced, PDPs started to become more interactive. Features like zoomable images, 360-degree product views, and color swatches became increasingly common, providing shoppers with a more immersive experience.

2010s - Mobile optimization: As mobile usage surged, PDPs adapted to accommodate smaller screens and touch-based interactions. Responsive design became essential, ensuring that PDPs rendered seamlessly across various devices.

Late 2010s - Personalization and AI integration: PDPs began to offer more personalized recommendations and content based on user behavior and preferences. Dynamic pricing, social proof elements (such as reviews and ratings), and personalized product suggestions became standard features.

02 The present-day PDP

Smartphones now make up almost 80% of retail site traffic. And with the rise of omnichannel retailing, PDPs have expanded beyond traditional websites to integrate seamlessly with social media platforms and marketplaces. The Covid-19 pandemic caused rapid international growth in e-commerce and a shift in customer expectations. Brands had to adapt quickly to keep up with an insatiable appetite for digital content and an online retail experience in the absence of the high street.

That appetite hasn’t subsided since the pandemic, and the expectations have remained. Additionally, more and more web traffic is coming directly to the PDP via social or advertising, skipping the traditional routes of homepage and category pages. So, it’s more important than ever to ensure your PDPs show a variety of inspiring content that portray brand values and product stories.

There are seemingly endless content options to integrate into your PDPs, but the latest trends and technologies we’re seeing in 2024 include:

Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR): Allowing customers to visualize products in virtual or real-world settings before making a purchase. Imagine being able to see how a new sofa (or ten!) might look in your living room before making a purchase. Or even walking into a virtual store to check out the latest looks. AR and VR have huge potential in revolutionizing the way we shop online.

Video: Yes, we’ve mentioned this already! But the more recent widespread adoption has, in part, been influenced by the rapid rise in video popularity on social media platforms. Video provides the customer with information that static imagery isn’t able to, such as garment flow, functionality, fit and detail. Providing these facts upfront often leads to higher conversion and lower returns.

Diverse imagery: Brands have been making a conscious effort towards inclusivity with their choice of models for some time now. Those that are doing it best translate this to their PDPs by showcasing the product with multiple models. Customers are more likely to relate and make a confident purchase when, for example, they are seeing how an item of clothing fits on different body types, how it looks on someone their age or how makeup looks on different skin tones.

Sustainability: Customers are more conscious than ever, 64% of people now prefer to buy from companies with a reputation for purpose as well as profit. (Source: Havas’ Meaningful Brands Report 2021). Shouting about your brand’s efforts towards a better future as well as the product's sustainability attributes is high on the agenda, but should always be genuine!

User generated content (UGC): When a customer purchases an item they love from a brand they have an affinity with, chances are their followers are going to hear about it. Free advertising, great! Brands are now utilizing this and taking it a step further by featuring this content on their PDPs. It’s a brilliant way to boost authenticity and customer engagement. However, it does require a little management for accuracy and quality.

3D/CGI: 3D modeling of products is becoming more advanced and accessible to the industry. Interactive 3D models allow shoppers to rotate, zoom, and examine products from different angles, providing a more immersive and realistic viewing experience. While virtual try-ons bring the excitement of the fitting room to the comfort of home. All this can help reduce any uncertainty by allowing the customer to explore more of the product than they’d see in traditional imagery.

Generative AI: The use of AI-generated models, or avatars as they’re often referred to, can be a subject of contention. And how customers will react to it in the long term has yet to be seen, especially when we talk about customers craving authenticity. But there are many ways to co-create with generative AI, it breaks down barriers and unleashes creativity, meaning your only limit is your imagination when producing on-brand content for your PDPs.

Infographics: We have been conditioned to consume content quickly and visually. Attention spans are short, so if a product has features that need an explanation, it’s unlikely a customer is going to seek this information in a product description. Using a mixture of text and graphics on images can be an eye-catching and effective way to communicate the unique selling points and features of a product. You often see great examples of infographics on the PDPs of cosmetics brands.

Elevated and editorial photography: We’ve seen an ongoing trend of brands moving towards elevated product images or utilizing the storytelling power of editorial photography to complement traditional e-commerce imagery, such as flat lays or invisible mannequins.

  • Elevated photography: What qualifies as elevated imagery might be different from one brand to the next, but we see it as dynamic model shots set against anything more interesting than a seamless, neutral background. It can also involve props, meaning studio teams have a wider scope for creativity and a better chance at creating content that feels on brand.

  • Editorial photography: These images are captured and curated in a way that tells a story. Often shot on location, they’ll help to support a narrative such as a campaign message or the brand’s ethos while portraying a specific mood or tone. You’ll usually be welcomed onto a homepage with this style of photography and see it weaved into other areas of the website such as category pages too.

Both photography styles provide PDPs with a premium feel, showcasing products in a way that inspires customers and enforces brand identity. In a world where people are consuming more media than ever before, breaking through the noise with standout imagery is essential for capturing attention.

03 Proving (and improving) your PDP performance

The evolution of the PDP is owed to the constant innovation led by forward-thinking brands and their teams. New ideas, when successfully implemented, have quickly become industry standard in the fast-paced world of e-commerce, and the cycle of PDP evolution continues now and into the future.

The options for effective PDP content and layouts are seemingly endless. It’s easy to want to do it all, but you risk bombarding your customers and confusing them out of a purchase. Product description pages are an extension of your brand, and what makes yours work may be as unique as the brand itself. Sure, there’s a few non-negotiable factors, such as images, prices and descriptions, but even they come with explorable variables!

However directly (or indirectly) you influence the content of your PDPs, understanding the process of validating and enhancing their performance will enable you to seek opportunities and contribute towards proactive initiatives for more effective PDPs.

How to optimize your PDPs for better conversion.

With research and testing.

During his talk at FLOW LA, Daniel Hyde mentioned three words to keep in the forefront of your mind when formulating your PDP content strategy…

“Customers. Customers. Customers.”

Effective product description pages are achieved via a continual cycle of customer-centered research and testing. Begin the process with the customer in mind and keep them there, you’ll start to truly understand what works for your brand while remaining focused on the end result of more sales, less returns, and higher customer trust, loyalty, and satisfaction.

Getting under the skin of things - Qualitative vs Quantitative research.

Understanding what does and doesn’t work on your PDPs is the first step towards making improvements. Many factors affect a customer’s decision when purchasing online, the emotional side of a purchase is layered with the technical functionality of the website. We’re so used to shopping online that we rarely stop to think deeply about how complex the process is (unless it’s your job!). Combining qualitative and quantitative research will provide a deeper understanding of customer mindset and resistance points.

Qualitative research - focuses on understanding behaviors, attitudes, and motivations using methods such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, and observations to gather rich, descriptive data. You may discover customers feel there’s too little (or too much) product information, their image preferences and expectations for video content aren’t met, or just simple navigation issues.

Quantitative research - involves collecting numerical data on a large scale for statistical measurement and analysis. This approach aims to test hypotheses, identify patterns, and establish correlations. Metrics can include click-through rates, time on site, visitor counts, bounce rates, and anything else that can be measured numerically.

On their own, each provides useful data relating to the customer experience, but neither paints the full picture. Only when used in unison can you begin to fully understand the effectiveness of your PDPs and identify areas for improvement.

So what next?

Act on findings with the Design Thinking Framework

During his talk at FLOW LA, Daniel Hyde recommends the Design Thinking Framework as a method to test, create, and apply changes.

The design thinking framework is a customer-centered approach to problem-solving that encourages innovation. Issues are discovered and solutions applied via a three-stage process: understand, explore, materialize.

This process is underpinned by six phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test and implement.


This is where your qualitative and quantitative research comes into play. Whether you’ve already identified an area for improvement or not, it’s time to gain a true understanding of your customer’s experience, as well as their wants and needs.


Collate your research to identify user issues. Cross-reference all research to gain insights into the customer journey and seek opportunities for improvement.


This is the creative part! Look at the issues identified in the define stage and brainstorm solutions to your customers’ unmet needs. Encourage as many solutions as possible, then build and rework them as a team.


Shortlist your top ideas and build tactile solutions for internal testing and feedback. Refine them enough until you understand what’s working and begin to consider the feasibility of a full rollout. Is the juice worth the squeeze?


It’s time to share your polished prototype(s) with your customer focus group for some ‘real world’ testing and feedback. Has it met the needs you identified? Is the customer experience better or worse? What impact has it had on your KPIs?

Be sure to keep asking yourself questions that aim at the end result. Fingers crossed, you’ll be able to confirm without doubt that your idea will have a positive impact.


The most important part of the process. Design thinking isn’t worth much without the ‘design doing’! Ensure your solution is implemented effectively so it can begin to impact the customer journey (and your sales) in a positive way. You can then validate those changes with A/B testing to prove its effectiveness.

Don’t stop there

There’s a reason the design thinking framework is often illustrated in a circular manner. The end is effectively the beginning of the next cycle. Improve what you’ve just implemented or begin looking at new areas. Proactively strive for continual improvement instead of reacting to issues when they arise. Start with the customer, keep them in mind throughout the process and you should see a positive impact on the performance of your PDPs - and wherever else you apply this method!

04 The future of product description pages

Tech is advancing so rapidly right now that it’s difficult to predict how PDPs will look in 5, 10, or 15 years' time! And it’s not just the customer-facing e-commerce platform that’s going to change, production workflows will streamline, and we’ll adopt new ways of working to keep up with the ongoing evolution of the PDP, it’s an exciting time!

We’re at this moment of digital transformation… I think this is a similar moment to when we emerged from the darkrooms to embrace digital technology” - Juliana Vail - Creative operations and innovation consultant, FLOW: LA 2023.

What’s on the horizon?

What we will see in the near future is a wider adoption of the technologies that have recently emerged but are currently held back by implications caused by cost, practicality or quality issues.

Enhanced Personalization: Leveraging the power of AI, customer data can be used to create dynamic PDPs with content that adapts based on customer data. Dynamic pricing, product recommendations, even copy and images could all be generated specifically to individual customers.

A new dimension in e-commerce: As the industry overcomes the challenges of CGI and 3D for wider adoption, brands will be able to create lifelike virtual representations of their products, allowing shoppers to explore in more detail. From interactive 3D model views to virtual try-on experiences, CGI and 3D imagery will offer a more immersive shopping experience.

Looking at future models: AI-generated models and influencers are already here, but we’re likely to see their presence increase as the tools advance and the pace of the industry accelerates. The ethics of this within the industry have yet to be determined, and you should expect having to navigate through varying AI regulations around the world as they emerge.

An alternative reality: Web3 and the metaverse have huge potential to revolutionize the way we shop. Virtual shopping spaces already exist, but as the technology matures and gets more widely adopted, we may see traditional PDPs become secondary to a new online experience or entirely obsolete!

Where’s that crystal ball when you need it?!