Don’t be fooled into thinking that conventional tech team processes will help you find all the online glitches that are losing your ecommerce operation sales. In fact, only a third of all the bugs that sap sales figures can be found that way.

The other two major sources of problems that hurt your business – hidden bugs and bugs in business logic — can linger totally undetected. They will erode conversion figures until ecommerce firms shift away from monitoring metrics and focus instead on customer experience and real customer journeys.

These lurking bugs come in many different shapes and sizes, ranging from buy buttons that don’t work, validation errors that cause forms to misbehave and catalogue-related bugs that trigger issues with price, inventory availability and broken product links – to name but a few.

Flawless user experiences

The challenge is that ecommerce customers expect online sales platforms to work at every interaction, and on every possible platform and operating system. Despite the need to provide a digital experience that delights, Gartner research suggests that only 18% of companies are delivering their desired customer experience.

A major cause of this gap between expectation and reality is that for the past decade ecommerce testing has been focused on verification – establishing that a platform works – rather than validation – does the platform do what the customer expects and wants.

Verification testing merely checks that the code complies with a specification provided by the business. These specifications are assumed to be perfect and completely replicate how users interact with and use the software. The problem is, they don’t.

There’s simply no way a specification writer could know how users will react to every part of the software or capture everything that could impact customer experience. Even if there were, it would make the software development painfully slow. By adopting this approach, customer experience is being ignored from a software testing perspective.

Delivering better customer experiences

The solution is to switch from simply checking that software meets technical requirements, to ensuring that it delivers better user experience and business outcomes.

As testing shifts from a verification-driven activity to a continuous quality process, the new goal is to understand how customer experiences and business outcomes are affected by the technical behaviour of the application. More than this, though, it’s about identifying opportunities for improvements and predicting the business impact of those improvements.

If you care about your user experience and business outcomes, you need to be testing the product from the outside in, the way a user does. Only then can you truly evaluate the user experience.

The best way to reveal the elusive bugs that quietly sap conversion rates unseen is to replicate what consumers do on a live site, based on real behaviour across a realistic mix of end-to-end journeys including real drop-off ratios.

Walking in your customer’s shoes

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, and its equally inconceivable that you should use an ecommerce platform without walking in the customer’s shoes.

A user-centric approach to testing ensures that user interface errors, bugs and performance issues are identified and addressed long before the application is live and has the chance to have a negative impact on the customer experience and, potentially, brand perception. Fast, reliable websites and applications increase engagement, deliver revenue, and drive positive business outcomes. Ensuring that these objectives are met should be an essential part of modern testing strategies.

Gone are the days when website testing meant a four-week code lockdown before peak trading. The ecommerce sector is nowadays so dynamic, and websites are infinitely more complex, thanks to customisation and personalisation, that retailers need the flexibility to continually adjust and improve their offering right up to the very last minute to remain competitive.

This means that realistic website testing should be an on-going process of continuous development, holistically testing every area of the site including third-party widgets, and every channel including mobile which is growing in importance by the day. Only then can retailers be confident that their conversion rates aren’t being devoured by hidden bugs.

Article by Deri Jones, Tribe