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5 best practices for ecommerce testing during the holiday season

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have just passed for 2017, with online businesses continuing the annual trend of conquering more of the global market. This is a pretty predictable result, and highlights the need for retailers to make sure their ecommerce website is performing at optimal levels during the holiday season.

We’ve tested A LOT of ecommerce webshops over the years, so our team knows what they are talking about it when it comes to best practice. Here are some recommendations I collected from them about how best to prepare for a holiday deployment.

eCommerce testing helps a lot during the holiday season
A responsive website brings responsive customers.

1. ‘When automating for an ecommerce website, prioritise the ordering flow’

When automating for an ecommerce website, you should prioritise the ordering flow. This is the part that has the most iteration and thus takes the most effort to test manually.

Start off by automating a happy flow order:

  1. Add a product to basket
  2. Checkout
  3. Payment
  4. Order confirmation

Once you’ve got that running successfully, you can continue with integrating different use-cases:

  • Different products
  • Multiple products
  • Order while logged in / out
  • Different delivery / invoice address
  • Different payment methods
  • Failing payment

By developing all these tests dynamically, you can start combining all these cases and make sure that every order path works. Keep in mind that automated testing does not replace functional testing. In the end, someone will always have to manually go through the ordering flow to check it visually.

Check out this video about how to write Gherkin scripts. The ecommerce example used in the video might be useful to you.

– Gijs Paulides, Test Automation Engineer

2. ‘Releasing new features right before a peak day is too dangerous’

Never ever release new features just before peak days. I learnt this from experience. This happened on a project I was working on, and quite a lot of traffic was lost because of a bug in a release two days before a major campaign. As a result, we couldn’t release a fix in time, because releasing during the campaign wasn’t allowed, so the bug had to stay there for the duration.

Lesson learned: releasing right before a peak day is too dangerous. If something breaks, the impact could be disastrous, especially on a site with a high number of users. Imagine if the release accidentally blocked the checkout feature – this is quite an issue for ecommerce!

– Martin de Haan, Software Test Engineer

Reasons for cart abandonment

Issues with the checkout process is one of the top reasons for ecommerce cart abandonment (Source: Andra Baragan/Baymard Institute)

3. ‘Readiness and risk preparation tips for a holiday deployment’

I was working as a subcontractor on the online store for a major software company around the time of the Black Friday sales in 2014. The previous year had seen some down time and a server crash during the sales. But in 2014, planning for the holiday period started months in advance, with the major focus being site availability and responsiveness.

From this experience, I recommend you give priority to the following areas to be ready for holiday deployments:

  • Conduct intense load tests and assume increased server traffic.
    Always plan for more traffic in a smaller time period. Gather data from past years if possible and make projections. Plan for a spike in traffic during timed releases.
  • Use a tracking pixel.
    We included one for site visits, shopping cart abandonment and click traffic. This is highly recommended for gathering data.
  • Contingency plans and coverage.
    Make sure your team(s) are on site, logged in, and ready if anything goes wrong. Have a backup site and backup person ready to make sure your site’s most important functionalities are still live.
  • Ensure clear lines of communication.
    Have phone trees and conference call bridges already dialled in and active, with the relevant project details centrally located (on something like Confluence) and sent out ahead of time. No one should have to worry about who to contact if something goes down.
  • Test your site frequently!
    And have group follow-up sessions to gather feedback.
  • Make it fun, and keep up a positive outlook.

– Daniel Lewis, Software Tester

4. ‘Look after your site’s performance in general’

The most important thing is that the website should load quickly. A fast, responsive site is essential since customers spend more time on the site this way. A lot of customers will leave the site or cancel their purchases if the site is very slow.

Plus, since mobile traffic is high during sales periods – and this trend is only increasing! – all sales pages and campaigns should be responsive and mobile/tablet friendly.

Don’t forget to test that your promotional codes work! Products on sale should also show the correct sales prices, and when the sale ends, the prices should switch back to the originals. Finally, make sure product stock is updated quickly in the system to show on the website what is really available, to avoid disappointing customers.

– Rubeena Basheer, Test Engineer

Demandware study 2016: ecommerce traffic and orders by device
Ecommerce traffic and orders by device (Source: Demandware/Respondr, 2016)

5. ‘Testing transactional emails shouldn’t be forgotten’

Transactional emails are also known as triggered emails, which are sent out to customers after a certain action is created. For instance, a purchase. There are different types of transactional emails used per organisation, but the ones widely used in the ecommerce field are:

  • registration or confirmation emails
  • password resets
  • order confirmations/cancellations

When we test ecommerce platforms, transactional emails tend to be less important compared to integration, functional and security tests. And we often assume the customer does receive the order confirmation after a purchase is successfully placed. However, this is not the case. Customers sometimes do not receive confirmation and are left wondering if orders are successfully placed! Transactional emails need to be thoroughly tested, especially before holiday peak time, because we often bump into so many issues – such as this – when orders start flooding in.

– Jue Xu, QA Manager

Do you need an extra pair of eyes on your site this holiday season? Find out here how spriteCloud’s ecommerce testing approach can help your site provide an optimal customer experience.


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