Ecommerce Testing – It can be make or break!

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Living in the times of omnichannel retail, seamless shopping experience and innumerable alternatives available to the customers, a test professional has a very collaborative role to play and be a part of the bigger picture when working on an e-commerce platform.

Testing E-commerce comes with its own challenges but at the same time for a test analyst, it is also an opportunity to be innovative, creative and at times test as someone who does not really know the system too well. Exploratory testing and not knowing too much detail about a system are the some of the ways to replicate “real” user behavior and thus, uncover hidden issues before the user spots them post go-live.  Apart from doing the usual stuff, a tester can in such cases also add additional value by making usability suggestions and advice on ways to improve the overall user experience.

The retail industry is moving fast towards integrating different sales channels giving the customers a common view irrespective of where they choose to shop. The customer’s very first bad experience on an e-commerce website can make them abandon an application/website forever.  A second chance is a rare thing and success/failure directly impacts the brand image and revenues.

There are some key areas that need focus while e-commerce testing, a lot of these need attention during the requirements gathering and the design phase rather than during actual test phase. The primary focus during static and dynamic testing of an e-commerce platform should always be on what is highly visible to the customer and matter the most to them. A QA needs to don a “User’s” hat and make relevant suggestions on what would give the customer a reason to return to the same website and also drive them to stores.

  • User Experience – This is the most important aspect of an e-commerce platform and it constitutes much more than the look & feel, colors, text, logos etc. Think of the bottlenecks that can lead a customer to abandon the basket midway, analyze and identify if there are any scenarios that might take the customer to a dead end where they wouldn’t know what to do next. Are the error messages appropriate and convey the meaning clearly? Are there any unnecessary distractions in the checkout steps that may take the customer away from completing the checkout? The earlier a QA identifies a tricky scenario, lower is the cost, time & complexity of implementing a change.
  • Inventory & Stock – A customer should ideally have one view of the inventory irrespective of where they shop. In this area, for a QA it is worth concentrating on – Is the customer encouraged to use an alternative channel when a product is not available in the customer’s preferred medium? Is there any benefit offered to a customer for them to choose a channel of less preference for a product that isn’t stocked in the channel of their first preference? These benefits may include enabling a promotion or discount applicable only on the channel that has available stock.
  • Drive the customer to store & Order Fulfilment – Ever wondered if an online retail website has good enough ways to drive the customers to stores and then once they are in the stores, is there an option to order online from the store? Integration is the key to increase both online and in-store sales. Today, the customer wants to buy from anywhere and ship from anywhere/to anywhere. A single shopping journey may span across different channels and how efficiently order fulfillment is designed can have a strong impact on sales. QA’s can contribute in identifying such scenarios by participating early in the project lifecycle.
  • Ease of Returns – Almost every retailer today that has some online presence competes with the likes of Amazon, eBay, and Google. Be it deals, the ease of shopping or returns, the market is led by these giants. Thus, even as a medium scale retailer, it is important to build an easy to use interface for returns and refunds.  Does an e-commerce platform allow a customer return a product on any channel irrespective of from where it was originally bought? Focus on refund/return scenarios is equally important during testing.
  • Cross Browser/Cross-Device – The market is flooded with a variety of hardware devices that customers nowadays use to access websites and applications. These devices use a different browser and OS combinations. It is very critical to identify the most popular browser, device, OS combinations that a company’s customers use and then decide on which ones need more focus. What a user can do through a desktop, he/she should be able to do the same from an iPad or an iPhone or an Android phone. Is your website/application compatible with variety of devices? This is an essential part of the test planning that QA’s need to look at.

Any job can get monotonous when it lacks creativity. As a tester, you sometimes get interesting opportunities to participate in something that lies a little outside one’s domain. In e-commerce testing, grab that opportunity and add value to the product that is under test. Move from quality control to quality assurance. Fit into the bigger picture. Until the next post, enjoy testing!

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