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How to get your shopping app right this festive season

The rise of ecommerce and popularity of mobile phones means that many consumers will rely on their applications to complete this year’s Christmas shopping.

A recent global study from Zogby Analytics on behalf of CA Technologies showed that 51 per cent of consumers are already using applications to make online purchases, so extending that throughout the festive period will come naturally. The perceived speed, convenience and ability to avoid in-store queues will incentivise many to turn to their mobiles in order to tap into the best sales on the shopping calendar.

But those hoping to avoid typical shopping frenzy frustrations might be disappointed, as the mobile shopping experience doesn’t always stand up to the challenge. Cyber Monday is famous for its retail disasters – unresponsive applications, overloaded servers and slow checkout. That’s particularly worrying given consumer patience is at all-time low: the Zogby study shows that 58 per cent of consumers say their tolerance for technical issues impacts their decision to use or purchase a brand’s application and 47 per cent have dumped a brand’s application for another brand due to a better feature or service.

And in a world where even websites don’t stand a chance – 47 per cent of consumers would abandon a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load - and during of the busiest shopping period of the year, how can developers face the tough task of delivering apps that are not only up to scratch but also meet quickly changing consumer expectations? Following these three simple steps is a good start:

  1. Integrating well with the Web

In the age of universal connectivity, the most competitive retailers will be those offering the most convenient, engaging ecommerce sites, mobile apps and other digital touch-points. These retailers will use APIs alongside advanced technologies for application, infrastructure, and identity management to surface, connect, manage and protect their various digital assets. The key here is to provide a similar shopping experience regardless of the channel used by the consumer, so that those shopping through apps will get an equally seamless service to those preferring to shop on the Web or pop in-store.

This involves integrating applications with the Web in a way that enables secure sharing of information, allowing consumers to take advantage of services like tokenisation, which provide 1-click transactions and saves shoppers the pain of re-entering delivery and card details every time they shop.

  1. Improving app testing process and continuous delivery

Improving the app testing process is fundamental to shortening the app delivery lifecycle – something that’s key when it comes to making sure apps are in tune with consumer expectations. Development teams need to work very closely with operation teams in order to ensure apps are aligned not just to business priorities but also to what shoppers really want and that any live feedback is incorporated into the continuous delivery process.

Since competitive digital retail is about more than just building impressive websites and mobile apps, it also requires the creation of consistently engaging omnichannel experiences and a seamless flow of meaningful, customer-centric interactions. Continuous delivery is key here and hinges on quality testing - launch a flawed application and your customers will run to your competition. To achieve this, organisations need to automate the way test cases are designed and executed and simulate the behaviour, data and performance of the application as early in the testing cycle as possible, to ensure it works seamlessly across every platform and device.

  1. Working those APIs

Finally, a successful omnichannel retail offering means creating the most up to date, immersive shopping experiences possible and APIs play a key role here by facilitating systems integration and making it significantly quicker and easier to deliver truly engaging apps and interactions.

To maintain a competitive customer experience, developers must ensure that retail applications and the APIs that power them perform consistently. The best way to avoid slow-downs and provide an excellent customer experience is by deploying enterprise-grade solutions for application performance management and API management. Such an approach is particularly important ahead of days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where many websites and apps will experience a sudden and significant increase in traffic and technical difficulties are to be expected.

When it comes to days like Cyber Monday, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach but by getting these three crucial elements right, dev teams can not only provide shoppers with a smoother and more enjoyable shopping experience and improve brand loyalty, but also give their CIOs and CFOs some much-needed peace of mind.

Ritu Mahandru, VP of App Delivery at CA Technologies

Image source: Shutterstock/Lenka Horavova