Of course, 2020 is anything but typical. While the COVID-19 pandemic hit the retail sector hard, with Moody’s forecasting sales for the year to be flat to down 5% and Coresight Research predicting a possible record 25,000 store closures by year’s end, it also served to spur a trend that was already growing: the shift to online shopping.
During the first six months of 2020, consumers spent more than $347 billion online, an increase of roughly 30% over the same period in 2019. No surprise there since most of us were hunkered down at home with nothing better to do that shop.
But how will those trends affect the upcoming holiday season, especially with everything loosening up at least a bit? Greatly, according to a new market research survey conducted by CTG.
Respondents were first asked how often they shop online. The majority (nearly 70%) said frequently, while the remaining 30% said sometimes. No one answered rarely or never.
When asked how their online shopping habits have changed due to the pandemic, more than 70% of respondents said they had increased. Even more pointedly, when asked how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect their holiday shopping, more than three quarters (76.92%) said they would do more of their holiday shopping online.
HOW consumers view technical issues
These statistics show how critical it is for retailers to have their eCommerce sites operating at peak efficiency. As consumers continue to move more of their shopping online, especially during the holidays, their expectations are shifting as well.
Quite frankly, in a brick-and-mortar world, shoppers are willing to put up with more minor annoyances once they find an item they want. Standing in line for 10 minutes with their arms or cart full of holiday gifts, while aggravating, is better than having to drive or walk to another store and start the hunt all over again. In-store consumers tend to be a little more patient if an item they want is priced incorrectly or if there is a problem with a gift card.
The same is most definitely not true in the online world. If there is a technological issue with a website or app, three-quarters of those surveyed said they will exit out of a potential purchase, and nine out of 10 said they will search for the product of interest on another website or app.
But why? Searching another site is as easy as opening a new browser window or web/mobile application while the first one continues to process. If they can find what they want before the original transaction is completed, they complete the purchase on the new site and abandon the cart on the first one.
What types of issues will cause potential customers to abandon their purchases? Topping the list, as you might expect, are major technical issues such as a page crashing, load time, or errors (48%), followed by the website not being mobile-friendly (41%) and broken links or button malfunctions (37%). Privacy and security concerns, as well as payment issues, were also mentioned by 33% of respondents.
Finally, when asked whether they would be more likely to shop with a certain company if the desktop and mobile versions of their stores provided a seamless omnichannel experience, nearly 90% said yes.
These are some of the issues facing retailers as they count on holiday sales to give them a much-needed revenue boost. The challenge now is how to ensure none of them crop up to harm the customer experience, especially given the wide variety of operating systems and consumer devices in use—and the limited time and availability for thorough quality assurance (QA) testing.
Getting ahead of the holidays through testing
As a leading testing company, CTG offers a broad range of software QA testing and consulting services. One that retailers may want to consider to prepare for the holiday season is an end-to-end health check of their eCommerce site. This involves looking at their current testing practices and providing recommendations to optimize their website and mobile application(s), communication between the two, links from marketing emails, and other areas. It also looks at the current test team and whether supplemental resources (which CTG can provide) are required.
Other testing services available through CTG include:
Testing Advisory Consulting—CTG will develop an overarching strategy for an organization’s testing program based on its business needs.
Test Methodology and Process—This service evaluates an organization’s current environment and recommends the best test methodology and processes, for implementing a new testing program or optimizing an existing one.
Automation Testing Services—Automation helps increase coverage while reducing test cycles and maximizing cost effectiveness by using technology to replace or accelerate labor-intensive, manual application and software testing cycles.
Test Tool Implementation—This vendor-agnostic service assists with the selection and implementation of the best technology to meet an organization’s unique testing needs.
Testing Training and Certificates—CTG helps increases the knowledge, productivity, and accuracy of testing teams through comprehensive training and access to certification programs, all administered by our testing experts.
TESTING ACROSS DEVICES AND OPERATING SYSTEMS
Another tool that can be a game changer for any retailer at any time of the year is our hybrid digital testing approach that leverages crowdsourced testing. This innovative testing method, which can be added to any program, uses a diverse, global group of expert testers and our proprietary crowdsourcing testing platform to test every aspect of a site or app in the context of the complete customer experience.
Most traditional testing options tend to focus on confirming the functionality of a site or app on the most common devices and operating systems. For example, conventional QA teams might test iPhone 8 and up running iOS 13 or later looking for page load time issues, broken links, outdated pages, and other technical issues.
Operating on the proverb that “many hands make light work,” this crowdsourced app testing methodology can be designed to cover as wide a range of real devices and operating systems as a retailer expects its customers to use. In addition to usability testing of core device and OS functionality, QA testing professionals will also check to ensure that they can move transactions smoothly between devices—no matter how old or new they may be.
In addition to checking for technical issues, this type of in-depth testing will look at how real users experience the site. For example, the final report will include the test result and feedback such as “there were too many photos on page,” “the photos were too small and hard to see,” “type was difficult to read,” “words are missing in the copy,” and other issues. If multiple languages are used, experts can ensure the translations sound correct to native speakers of those languages.
Just as important is the time element. An internal QA department might be able to do all this testing, but it could take months to complete. In the meantime, an update may have made the testing performed to date obsolete.
Bringing in additional resources can accomplish all of this testing in a couple of weeks, a few days, or even a few hours. It has the flexibility to bring in as many resources as needed to fit the timeframe—and budget.
CTG can also schedule quarterly deep dives to ensure everything continues to operate optimally throughout the holidays. Even simple upgrades or code changes can create unexpected issues downstream. A quarterly test ensures nothing was broken when the original changes were made. In the last quarter of the year, retailers may even want to schedule more frequent tests just to be sure they’re not missing out on any sales due to technical issues.
Broken eCommerce sites are a problem for retailers in any year, but with all of 2020’s revenue uncertainties, ensuring an eCommerce operation is running optimally is mission critical.
CTG’s testing services can help keep a retailer’s eCommerce operations from feeling like they belong on the island of misfit websites.
Managing Director, Testing, North America
With more than 25 years’ experience in the healthcare industry, Tanya has a strong track record of managing and building solution practices, including testing and go-live/activation. At CTG, she leads the North American Testing practice.