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21 Must-Have Features For Ecommerce Sites

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21 Must-Have Features For Ecommerce Sites

Are you creating a new ecommerce store for your business or looking for ways to improve the functionality of your current store?

Creating an ecommerce experience that is sure to delight your customers can be as simple as taking a little inspiration from the top ecommerce brands.

The following are 21 must-have features for ecommerce sites.

Example brands were selected from The Top 50 Ecommerce Companies in the U.S. list published by Similarweb.

1. User-Friendly Navigation

The key to helping customers find the products they need quickly is to offer a user-friendly navigation system.

Products should be logically categorized, with the most popular categories listed first.

Screenshot from Sephora.com, March 2022Example of User-Friendly Navigation

Sephora knows how customers like to shop.

Some specifically seek out products by brand, while others shop by category. Their navigation bar reflects this organization, along with quick links to inexpensive and sale products.

2. Site Search

In addition to user-friendly navigation, site search is a feature found on most of the top ecommerce sites.

It allows customers to bypass the navigation and search for exactly what they want.

example of site searchScreenshot from Nordstrom.com, March 2022example of site search

Nordstrom offers a site search with suggestions for popular brands and products that match what you enter.

Most site searches can be tracked using Google Analytics.

3. Footer Navigation

Have you considered the best way to utilize your website’s footer to help customers find your top products?

Try a list of links to the top products, services, and information that customers want to find.

example of footer navigationScreenshot from T-mobile.com, March 2022example of footer navigation

T-Mobile uses its footer to direct customers to their social media profiles, English and Spanish sites, featured phones and plans, support, and company information.

Their footer effectively includes links to everything they want both customers and search crawlers to discover from any page throughout their website.

4. Product Videos

Adding video to your product pages can increase conversions.

According to Think With Google, over 50% of shoppers said that online video helped them make a decision on which brand or product to purchase.

Most ecommerce platforms allow retailers to add videos and images to their product pages.

example of product videosScreenshot from Apple.com, March 2022example of product videos

Apple uses video to highlight features of its latest iPhone on its sales page. Their use of high-quality product images and video help sell their products online and in-store.

5. Product Reviews

The most popular form of user-generated content found on ecommerce sites is product reviews and ratings.

This section of an ecommerce product page is crucial to providing social proof to shoppers that a product will fit their needs.

eBay allows customers to rate and review products, displaying reviews below the product descriptions and sponsored items.

example of product reviewsScreenshot from eBay.com, March 2022example of product reviews

Other eBay users also have the option to rate reviews as useful or not, moving the best reviews to the top of the list on the product page.

6. Generous Return Policy

Want to increase consumer confidence in the products you sell? Offer a generous return policy and include it on your product page.

example of generous return policyScreenshot from Walmart.com, March 2022example of generous return policy

 

Place it near your add to cart button to increase the chances that it will have a positive effect on the number of purchases.

7. FAQ For Products

Another way to incorporate user-generated content into your ecommerce store is by adding a section of the most frequently asked questions by customers.

This section can help your store in a number of ways.

  • Increase the number of sales by answering your customer’s top pre-sales questions about your products.
  • Reduce the amount of time your customer service has to spend on answering questions about products, before and after the purchase.
example of FAQScreenshot from Amazon.com, March 2022example of FAQ

Amazon’s question and answer section on product pages gives customers the ability to ask questions, answer questions, and vote up the best questions to ensure the most frequently asked ones appear at the top.

8. FAQ For The Store

In addition to the FAQ for your product pages, consider adding a FAQ page for your main store.

This should cover any of the general questions people may ask about online privacy, security, payments, shipping, returns, and other shopping concerns.

example of faq for the storeScreenshot from Etsy.com, March 2022example of faq for the store

Etsy offers answers to the most frequently asked questions in its help center.

This saves their customer support team from having to answer general questions and gives them more time to solve complex issues.

9. Order Tracking

Once your customer places an order, the top question on their mind is when will my order arrive.

Make it simple for customers to check their current order status on your website.

example of order trackingScreenshot from Autozone.com, March 2022example of order tracking

AutoZone has an order tracking page that doesn’t require customers to log in.

They simply need their email address and the order number they received in their order confirmation email.

10. Email Opt-In

According to Mailchimp benchmarks, emails sent by ecommerce businesses have an average open rate of 15.68% and a click rate of 2.01%.

This is important considering the revenue-generating potential ecommerce emails have.

If you can’t get visitors to make a purchase on your website, one of the next best conversions for your store would be to attain the visitor as a subscriber on your email list.

This would allow you to reach them with future sales and email promotions.

example of email opt inScreenshot from Samsung.com, March 2022example of email opt in

Samsung prompts visitors to subscribe to their email list to receive their latest offers using a pop-up.

Another way ecommerce retailers can capture email addresses is by adding an opt-in form in the header and footer of their website.

11. Push Notifications

If you want to bypass spam filters and social media algorithms, the next best way to capture your ecommerce store visitors as subscribers is through push notifications.

Push notification services allow visitors to subscribe to your latest updates in their browser.

When you have a promotion you want to notify subscribers of, you can send a message that will be delivered to their notification center via their browser.

sample of push notificationsScreenshot from Shein.comsample of push notifications

Shein is one of many ecommerce brands that allows visitors to subscribe to push notifications.

Once subscribed, visitors will see the latest messages from Shein in their desktop notifications.

example of push notificationScreenshot of a push notification from Shein, March 2022example of push notification

12. Chatbots

One of the benefits of running an ecommerce website is its ability to generate revenue, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year. That also means providing support to your customers during those hours as well.

According to LivePerson’s survey of 5,000 consumers, positive sentiment about the use of chatbots nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, from 31% to 61%.

Many ecommerce stores use chatbots to assist online shoppers with basic questions and navigate them to a specific product or support page.

example of chatbotsScreenshot from Lowes.com, March 2022example of chatbots

Lowes uses an always online expert, which is an automated assistant with specific prompts for visitors to choose when looking for a specific answer, finding a specific product, or solving a basic customer service inquiry.

13. Coupon Codes

We know that consumers often search for coupon codes on Google when presented with a coupon or discount box on a checkout page.

In the United States, 88% of consumers use coupons when shopping, using coupon sites like slickdeals.com, groupon.com, and retailmenot.com.

If you want to keep customers on your website throughout the checkout process, give them great deals via your own coupon codes.

example of site that uses coupon codesScreenshot from Victoriassecret.com, March 2022example of site that uses coupon codes

Victoria’s Secret uses a bar at the top of its website to highlight its latest offer.

When visitors click on View Offers, they will get additional offers and coupon codes to apply at checkout.

14. Product Availability Filters

Do you have multiple options for customers when it comes to pickup or delivery methods?

Give customers the ability to quickly find the products that are available with their preferred pickup or delivery option.

example of product availability filtersScreenshot from Walgreens.com, March 2022example of product availability filters

Walgreens offers customers an item availability filter that will sort products based on their pickup, same-day delivery, shipping, or in-stock availability. This gives you the best chance to convert customers based on fast availability.

15. Mobile App

In addition to having a mobile-friendly store for shoppers to make a purchase from any device, also consider having a mobile app for your store.

Mobile apps allow you to keep your brand on your customer’s minds, placing your app icon/brand logo on the smart devices customers use most.

You don’t have to wait for customers to open up a browser or another app for social media or email to get your latest sales messages.

You can push those promotional updates through your app to any customers that have notifications turned on.

example of mobile appScreenshot from the Home Depot app, March 2022example of mobile app

Home Depot offers an app that allows customers to shop for products online and have them shipped to their homes or reserved for in-store pickup.

16. Gift Registries

If you do a search for gift registries on Google, you will find dozens of well-known brand retailers.

Target, Amazon, Walmart, Crate & Barrel, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond are just a few that appear on the first page of SERPs.

Why are gift registries important to driving sales? Let’s just look at wedding registries for a moment.

According to The Knot 2020 Wedding Registry Study, 80% of respondents set up a wedding registry.

CNBC reported findings from Baird’s 2022 survey that Amazon leads as the top wedding registry provider with 45% listing penetration.

example of gift registriesScreenshot from Target.com, March 2022example of gift registries

Target offers gift registries for babies, weddings, and charities. You can also create a custom registry to celebrate any occasion you choose.

17. Multilingual Support

If your ecommerce store caters to customers in a specific region, you have two options to support the top languages spoken in their region:

  • Depend on Google Translate to help customers translate your website into their language.
  • Create multiple versions of your website for specific languages.
example of multilingual supportScreenshot from Xfinity.com, March 2022example of multilingual support

Xfinity uses English on their www subdomain, and Spanish on their es subdomain.

Content can be switched from English to Spanish using the En and Es links in the main navigation bar.

18. Loyalty Program

Do you want to increase customer retention? One way to encourage people to shop from your ecommerce store again is to offer a loyalty program.

These are typically free or paid programs where customers get private or early access to the best deals.

Many allow customers to accrue points per purchase that lead to various rewards, such as a specific dollar amount off your next purchase or a free product.

example of loyalty programScreenshot from Ulta.com, March 2022example of loyalty program

Ulta is one of many brands that offer a free rewards program for their loyal customers.

Customers can join for free and earn points redeemable for products and services online and in-store.

19. Carousels

While marketers may not agree on the value of image and video carousels on the homepage, you will find many ecommerce brands use them.

Major retailers such as Walmart, eBay, Home Depot, Samsung, Wayfair, Lowes, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Kohls have carousels with their latest promotions and sales.

example of carouselsScreenshot from Chewy.com, March 2022example of carousels

Chewy is another ecommerce brand that features a carousel on the homepage. Theirs promote discounts for auto-ship orders, healthy pet food, flea & tick medications, pet bedding, and more.

20. Local Store Information

If your ecommerce brand also has physical store locations, you can boost offline sales by adding details for the nearest store to your website’s header.

This would allow customers to shop online, reserve for in-store pick up, or browse their local store inventory before going to make an in-store purchase.

sample of local store informationScreenshot from Coscto.com, March 2022sample of local store information

Costco offers a link to the closest store based on your zip code. They also display current store hours.

21. Personal Data Policy

Depending on where your ecommerce store is based and the customers that it serves, your site may need a policy that notifies visitors of the data that is collected about them on your website using cookies from the website and other analytics tools.

sample of personal data policyScreenshot from Michaels.com, March 2022sample of personal data policy

Michael’s ecommerce store displays a popup advising visitors about cookie usage to enhance user experience and analyze website traffic.

Visitors then have the option to accept the policy or adjust their cookie preferences.

Start Creating Fantastic Shopping Experiences

It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel in order to provide a fantastic shopping experience for your users.

It’s simply a matter of listening to your customer’s feedback and monitoring your competitors to see if new trends in ecommerce arise.

While you don’t need to try every new feature your ecommerce platform has to offer, you should look into the ones that your customers have come to expect from the top retailers in your vertical.

Combine your customer’s feedback with A/B testing to see what implementations drive more sales and higher customer satisfaction.

 


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Gen Z Ditches Google, Turns To Reddit For Product Searches

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In this photo illustration, the Reddit logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.

A new report from Reddit, in collaboration with GWI and AmbassCo, sheds light on the evolving search behaviors of Generation Z consumers.

The study surveyed over 3,000 internet users across the UK, US, and Germany, highlighting significant changes in how young people discover and research products online.

Here’s an overview of key findings and the implications for marketers.

Decline In Traditional Search

The study found that Gen Z uses search engines to find new brands and products less often.

That’s because they shop online differently. They’re less interested in looking for expert reviews or spending much time searching for products.

There are also frustrations with mobile-friendliness and complex interfaces on traditional search platforms.

Because of this, traditional SEO strategies might not work well for reaching younger customers.

Takeaway

Companies trying to reach Gen Z might need to try new methods instead of just focusing on being visible on Google and other search engines.

Rise Of Social Media Discovery

Screenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Gen Z is increasingly using social media to find new brands and products.

The study shows that Gen Z has used social media for product discovery 36% more frequently since 2018.

This change is affecting how young people shop online. Instead of searching for products, they expect brands to appear in their social media feeds.

1719123963 547 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Because of this, companies trying to reach young customers need to pay more attention to how they present themselves on social media.

Takeaway

To succeed at marketing to Gen Z, businesses will likely need to focus on two main things:

  1. Ensure that your content appears more often in social media feeds.
  2. Create posts people want to share and interact with.

Trust Issues With Influencer Marketing

Even though more people are finding products through social media, the report shows that Gen Z is less likely to trust what social media influencers recommend.

These young shoppers often don’t believe in posts that influencers are paid to make or products they promote.

Instead, they prefer to get information from sources that feel more real and are driven by regular people in online communities.

Takeaway

Because of this lack of trust, companies must focus on being genuine and building trust when they try to get their websites to appear in search results or create ads.

Some good ways to connect with these young consumers might be to use content created by regular users, encourage honest product reviews, and create authentic conversations within online communities.

Challenges With Current Search Experiences

The research shows that many people are unhappy with how search engines work right now.

More than 60% of those surveyed want search results to be more trustworthy. Almost half of users don’t like looking through many search result pages.

Gen Z is particularly bothered by inaccurate information and unreliable reviews.

1719123963 785 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Takeaway

Given the frustration with search quality, marketers should prioritize creating accurate, trustworthy content.

This can help build brand credibility, leading to more direct visits.

Reddit: A Trusted Alternative

The report suggests that Gen Z trusts Reddit when looking up products—it’s their third most trusted source, after friends and family and review websites.

1719123963 403 Gen Z Ditches Google Turns To Reddit For Product SearchesScreenshot from Reddit study titled: “From search to research: How search marketers can keep up with Gen Z.”, June 2024.

Young users like Reddit because it’s community-based and provides specific answers to users’ questions, making it feel more real.

It’s worth noting that this report comes from Reddit itself, which probably influenced why it’s suggesting its own platform.

Takeaway

Companies should focus more on being part of smaller, specific online groups frequented by Gen Z.

That could include Reddit or any other forum.

Why SEJ Cares

As young people change how they look for information online, this study gives businesses important clues about connecting with future customers.

Here’s what to remember:

  • Traditional search engine use is declining among Gen Z.
  • Social media is increasingly vital for product discovery.
  • There’s growing skepticism towards influencer marketing.
  • Current search experiences often fail to meet user expectations.
  • Community-based platforms like Reddit are gaining trust.

Featured Image: rafapress/Shutterstock

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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

More resources: 


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