Who is best placed to test your ecommerce platform and ensure your customers get the best possible online experience? This is a question that retailers have grappled with for years. Is it better to invest in people and resources to do it in-house, or should ecommerce directors outsource the job to a third party?
Until relatively recently a convincing argument could be made for doing it yourself, but thanks to a raft of factors, including an increase in platform complexity, a chronic skills shortage and the need for increased commercial agility, the scales have tilted decisively towards outsourcing. Here are four reasons why it makes sense to partner with a market-leading web performance monitoring and testing company.
The stakes are too high to take risks
The UK is now the world’s third largest ecommerce market behind China and the US, accounting for $101bn in 2019. Moreover, Edge by Ascential analysts predict that ecommerce’s share of chain retail will continue to rapidly increase in the UK, expanding from 21 per cent in 2019 to 26 per cent in 2024. Put simply, the ecommerce stakes are now too high to take risks. If a website fails during peak trading, for example, it swiftly attracts negative headlines, has the potential to seriously erode a string of key KPIs (not least conversion rates) and becomes a board-level issue. At the other end of the spectrum, an ecommerce website plagued by a long list of difficult-to-detect code errors and CX flaws (broken buy buttons, slow load times, poor user journey, bad UI etc) will quietly leach sales, seriously undermining the retailer’s ability to compete in what is likely to be a crowded retail market.
Ecommerce performance monitoring and testing is too demanding and too complex to do successfully in-house
Let’s be clear about this, web testing can be carried out in-house, but doing so to a consistently high standard soon becomes prohibitively expensive. For example, testing third-party widgets, can never be a case of ‘one and done’. They are constantly being updated and changed beyond the control or knowledge of the website owner and at any point an issue may arise, so they need to be tested on an ongoing basis. Effective testing and optimisation now calls for continuous 24/7 testing regime, because at any point a seemingly small website change may trigger an unforeseen issue that can threaten performance. Ecommerce platforms also need to be tested and optimised on a 24/7 basis across all channels, not just desktop or mobile.
Strength in depth
Web performance and testing service providers by their very nature, are more likely to have been exposed to a wider and more varied range of assignments, from small content-managed websites up to large, complex ecommerce platforms for multinational organisations. The knowledge and experience built up through all this testing is applied to your projects. A history of successfully handling software testing projects should be a requirement in the checklist for an outsourcing partner. The skill set and range of expertise of the testing team should be thoroughly examined to affirm that they are acquainted with the details of the developed product or a similar one. If training is required, it should be done under your close watch.
Remove ego and add impartiality to the testing mix
A fresh and impartial set of eyes reviewing your website code and CX are less likely to have their vision clouded by emotion or loyalty. Instead a third-party testing company can put ego to one side and focus on looking for problems, find issues that are affecting quality and clearly report back their findings without any ego clashes between internal teams. Put simply, outsourcing validation of your product to an independent testing services provider will give you an unbiased and clear view of your product and its strengths and shortcomings.
Third-party testing in action
Dixons Group is just one retailer that has outsourced its ‘customer experience monitoring’ operation. The company now asks, ‘what do customers want to experience?’ and ‘have we met the requirements that customers care about in each journey?’ To achieve this level of customer understanding, Dixons Group uses a third-party to employ a dynamic user journey approach to help monitor customers’ experience. These dynamic user journeys are now being used across the websites of Dixons and PC World. The websites are tested 24/7 with a series of different journeys that mirror how a customer would interact with the sites. The journeys vary slightly to reflect the content of the different websites and cover general browsing and search as well as the navigation through the site to the checkout. If a problem occurs, an alert is issued. A visual report of the journeys is displayed in the IT department and the 24-hour operations room. Members of the ecommerce and the e-merchant teams also get copied on any alerts
Although online fashion retailer Boden builds most of its applications, it outsources testing to monitor how its customers are experiencing its web services. Testing covers the main steps a customer might go through such as selecting items of clothing, choosing sizes and colours, adding to basket and then progressing to payment. The journeys change every time, just like a real customer. If there is an issue at any point, Boden is alerted.
During a recent update, Boden experienced an intermittent problem relating to the ‘catalogue request’ functionality. Whilst Boden believes the subtle issue was unlikely to be off-putting to most customers, they were able to drill down into reports produced by their testing company, recreate the scenario and then fix it – and thus prevent future bigger problems, should this issue compound with future code changes to trigger real trouble.
Developing an in-house web performance monitoring and testing team can be a prohibitively expensive and complex challenge for any organisation. It’s made even more difficult by the ever-increasing scarcity of skilled personnel and pressure on budgets.
That’s why more and more ecommerce businesses are outsourcing testing and optimisation to third-party organisations who, thanks to economies of scale, can offer a best-of-breed, fully managed service based on a realistic mix of end-to-end customer journeys, without breaking the bank.
For more information about market-leading, fully-managed web performance monitoring and testing, contact Tribe.
Deri Jones, CEO, Tribe