As the holiday season is here, a tremendous amount of activities encompassing many different market segments are underway. Retailers are equally eager to cash in on the post-pandemic shopping spree.
NRF’s forecast is good news for everyone.
While retailers are busy handling the seasonal customer boost, it’s vitally important to take steps to ensure high availability and data integrity. Here are a few ways to gear up your e-commerce application for holiday spending:
The importance of domain knowledge in retail and e-commerce applications cannot be underestimated considering the multiplicity of interacting systems. Every function must work smoothly where even a small bug can get public attention on social media within seconds. Even seemingly insignificant features like a broken hyperlink to subscribe to newsletters or a popup asking for feedback within seconds of visiting the website can be a big distraction from the main purpose of the application, which is to attract and engage potential shoppers. It’s essential to freeze the code well in advance and to introduce customization changes on an as-needed basis only.
Another piece of advice is to focus on the end-to-end experience. Pay attention to new user registrations where they are searching for specific products. It’s best in such situations to make relevant product recommendations, and then finally lead them to payment options. Make sure that customers have enough options to choose their preferred mode of payment – credit card, debit card, net banking, etc.
If you are continuously seeing a high drop-off rate, drill down to fundamentals. Analyze the entire user journey and focus on ease of use. Don’t treat bugs as a one-time problem to be neglected and put off until later. A simple example of a bug that can affect the entire user journey is the incorrect validation of a valid phone number in a delivery address form. Although such a problem needs to be addressed, what is perhaps more important is that it also serves to annoy the potential customer. Too many such annoyances can lead customers to look elsewhere.
After financial institutions and social media, retail, and payment industries occupy the next largest chunk of the attackers’ playground. If you are not ready with a good set of countermeasures, you may find that your company is the next to incur heavy losses. Sometimes the innocent act of keeping old versions of code within the same code file leads to strange behavior. A classic example is switching off the counter for coupons only to find that your coupons are being used more than once!
Some systems may prove to be very hacker-friendly. These systems give more information than is necessary. Security vulnerabilities are introduced by seemingly simple things, including not disabling directory traversal, having only client-side validation, and having sensitive URLs and ports exposed to the public.
In one of our engagements, the customer was not aware of the risks of displaying the exact server version on their website. With this seemingly innocuous piece of information, a hacker can easily find and exploit the vulnerabilities inherent to a given server version. GSPANN consultants asked them to stop displaying the server details anywhere on the website, thus closing this particular vulnerability. No matter what the industry, it’s best to take ample security precautions and not be of the opinion that security is for financial institutions only.
With a myriad of use cases to test, it is of the utmost importance to use the power of automation in testing. This includes automating critical path scenarios, generating a lot of realistic test data, as well as checking compatibility across platforms.
If you are dependent on certain systems for the successful execution of end-to-end tests, use mocks to simulate quick checks. At the same time, implement mechanisms to instantly take an object through the various stages of its lifecycle to aid in testing. For example, an order cannot be canceled until it’s placed, which, in turn, requires a user to be logged in. You can save a lot of time by using state-transition mechanisms instead of waiting for the pre-requisites like the user registration to be completed to cancel an order.
Automation is especially useful if the release cycles are short and there are large numbers of test scenarios to be run on different devices. Whether your application works on mobile devices, tablets, through the web, or mobile web, API automation has a huge advantage in terms of the time spent.
The number of website visitors is going to be massive given the season. With the comfort of mobile phones, shopping is one click away. To stay on top of application performance and availability, study analytics, study past trends, and have a performance assessment done by experts to understand system limitations. All of these will in turn generate good recommendations to ensure that slow performance doesn’t drive your customers towards your competitors. Pay attention to core web vitals such as loading, interactivity, and stability, as shown in this image:
There are plenty of free tools that can give you a brief overview of how fast your pages load and offer recommendations. One of the easiest and effective ways to improve your website’s performance is to load images as a sprite and minify the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Our client was pleasantly surprised at the value that this simple change added.
Though they are a good start, intensive performance testing is necessary for a seamless experience on the D-Days.
To summarize, be prepared for customers’ holiday spending by implementing: