Digital channels have progressed so much in recent years that testing is now utterly vital if your business is to thrive in the current digital age.
In March 2020, when the UK entered into the first of its Coronavirus lockdowns, society was hastily thrown into the world of “digital first”. The ability to transact at bricks and mortar points of sale or service were restricted whilst the world came to terms with the onslaught of COVID-19.
Digital became the necessity, rather than simply just being another option for consumers to make use of. The alternative was now the primary.
Whilst this was expedited somewhat by the pandemic, the transition into “digital first” was something that had been gradually happening for a number of years before that.
Why? Simply, companies like profit! The wants and needs of their customers naturally change over time, different age groups require different things, technology develops and progresses, wages and economic health ebb and flow, all of which have an impact on spending habits. This drives change.
A key metric for any retailer is conversion rate i.e. of the total amount of people who visit you, how many convert their visit to a purchase. Whether it be at a physical location or via a digital medium such as an app or website, increasing that conversion rate is crucial. As a rule of thumb something that is buggy, inefficient or poorly designed will generally have a lower conversion rate. Therefore, ensuring you are catering your offering to your customers’ needs is key to increasing that conversion rate, leading to increased turnover and profit. A fundamental part of delivering that offering is mobile testing.
In 2021 in the US alone, nearly $768 billion was spent via digital channels. A report suggests that by 2025 – a mere 3 years away from now – that will have nearly doubled to just over $1.3 trillion!
Generational habits play a huge part
What’s possible ‘in-person’ within the 4 walls of a store will often be dwarfed by the capability of a device in your hand via the app or website it presents to the user. Why then would a company invest in more bricks and mortar when they can increase their reach digitally, even branching into new geographical areas?
A prime example of this is banks and building societies that have been slowly decreasing their in-person branch presence across the UK for a number of years now, in favour of providing more digital offerings, much to the dismay and reluctance of the older, less technically able, generation.
The younger generation, however, expect things quicker, and aren’t likely to travel to a physical location to transact, so digital offerings facilitate that preference better. It’s estimated that people check their phones, on average, 58 times per day. It’s only natural to assume they’ll not just be checking social media during that time, and that their generational inclination will be to carry out as many of their day-to-day tasks as possible.
“Digital-first” isn’t just somewhere companies are heading, either. Companies such as Gymshark, valued at over a billion dollars, have solely operated in the digital space from day one of their existence, and only now are starting to work on opening physical stores. Gymshark very much embodies the digital first approach – initially via their website and later via an app.
Regardless of how a company arrives at Digital as a channel, it is becoming more and more popular by the second – with multiple hundreds of billions spent online each year, and endless amounts of interactions enabled for every imaginable want of the consumer.
Gone are the days when you’d have to “go-out” to attend to your errands – it’s all accessible from a device in your palm! Things such as ordering your groceries, ordering and having medical prescriptions delivered, booking a taxi, “seeing” a GP or doctor via a video call, checking home security cameras or seeing who is at the door, turning lights or heating on in your home, just to name a few, are all possible within a few taps or clicks.
It’s not just retail – it’s services too
And it’s not just retail that’s been subject to this change. A wide range of business services are now accessible via apps or websites – from anywhere in the world. The workforce of years gone by would have needed to log on from within the walls of their company offices, but with the increase of working from home (since the pandemic), and companies no longer being beholden to a physical location, most business services can also be fulfilled with a few taps – and providers of those services have quite rightly jumped on the band-wagon to serve that need.
Technology also plays a part as well – the rate of innovation on multiple fronts has changed the landscape within web and app development space, such that companies can provide users with rich, beneficial experiences that are consistent across multiple platforms.
There’s also the fact that companies now have the capability to integrate their digital presence into their physical. For example, UK supermarket, Tesco, allows you to order and manage your grocery orders via an app (or website) but also provides you with a “points card” (via a digital wallet or physical card) that incentivises you on both sides of the digital/physical divide.
We are now in the age of mobility, connectivity and integration – and firms are moving with the times, rather than focusing on the past.
What role does testing play in this?
Testing can have a meaningful impact on whether a service merely intends to be rich and beneficial to the end-user, versus one that actually is. This is even more relevant in e-commerce/retail where it has a real and tangible effect on profit and loss. Billions and (in a few years’ time) trillions are at stake here…
The future is clearly mobile – and the necessity to succeed with that experience is critical to the success of your business in the new age of commerce. So, what kind of testing could you expect to do within the mobile space, and what considerations do you need to make?
Considerations for mobile testing
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your website or app is functionally sound when visited from a mobile device. Ensuring that customer/user flows are fulfilled, functionality operates as expected and the requirements/user stories are being met is your first and most important port of call. This is a core, structural pillar of your testing.
Next up, you need to ensure that the front-end is talking and working with the back-end systems that feed it the content and data it needs to present to the user. Most applications – iOS/Android, especially, but also a large number of websites – are what’s referred to as headless. That means that the application itself is simply a vessel that shows data – a container if you will. That data is delivered, extracted and queried via APIs from backend and external systems. From an e-commerce perspective that data can include product descriptions, images, pricing, stock availability and much more. Testing needs to be incredibly robust in this area as it can make or break that user experience.
Then we have cross-browser testing (also known as mobile compatibility testing). When testing any application (or website viewed on a mobile) it’s important to ensure it’s thoroughly tested across the most popular browsers and devices used by your customers. It’s all well and good designing, building and testing something on one device, but in the world of e-commerce, the spread of devices, operating systems and browser combinations are practically boundless! Ensuring your offering is sound on your top devices and browsers will ensure your customers do not abandon their purchase and go elsewhere when they encounter issues. Google Analytics and other similar services can help you pinpoint the most popular devices and OS being used by visitors to your site.
Next, if you are the kind of firm that has a world-wide presence and regional stores, then Localisation Testing should be part of your testing plans. This testing can cover anything from language (translation, or the display of right to left languages), to date formats (US vs UK date formats for example), currency symbols and much more.
Then we have Payment Testing; whilst this technically falls under Localisation Testing, I think it’s worth discussing this on its own. This testing ensures that local payment methods are operable, consistent and stable in any local implementation of your service, as well as covering popular payment methods that are platform specific (i.e., Apple Pay or Google Pay). It encapsulates front-end testing (how the user interacts with it), as well as the integration with payment gateways, merchants and ultimately, the users bank. The action itself is simple – a tap or a click – but the journey that action goes on needs to be thoroughly checked and verified before signing it off. Payment Testing, especially, has an impact on profit and loss – so getting this right really does pay off.
You’ll also likely need to consider performance testing – specifically around the integrations to and from backend or 3rd party services. Can it handle tens of thousands of concurrent users, or multiple purchases per second? This needs to be solid if you are to ensure your customers can make payments and obtain goods, completely uninterrupted.
Security is also a consideration – is your customers’ data secure? Are the APIs that carry data back and forth secure? Is the necessary authentication in place and operating as expected? This is just as important as ensuring customers can spend money with you.
Back in 2018 British Airways were subject to a breach of their website and app checkout pages, whereby lines of malicious code were injected and data was skimmed. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office found “the airline was processing a significant amount of personal data without adequate security measures in place. This failure broke data protection law and, subsequently, BA was the subject of a cyber-attack during 2018, which it did not detect for more than two months.”. It reportedly affected 400,000 customers’ data, and the initially proposed penalty was £183.9 million.
In that respect, security testing should not be overlooked regardless of platform.
Finally, we have scripted and regression testing. This provides rapid (immediate if automated) feedback on whether the application has regressed following an update to a newer version. This often precedes the release of a new version, as the final verification that any new functionally delivered or updates to the existing code have not caused existing functionality to regress. It ensures that important/key journeys are covered in a specific and consistent manner each time you are preparing to release – and often is a vital criterion during pre-release checkpoints (also known as a ‘go, no-go’ meetings). Remember, regression testing will tell you if something has changed (i.e. stopped working as it should).
Those are a few of the different types of testing you can employ to ensure your application or website is ready for the mobile masses, but what about once it’s released?
What about post-release? What can I do then?
Post release testing can ensure that in the minutes or hours following deployment, your application is operating as it should in a real-world setting. Some firms call this First Occurrence Validation, others call it Live Proving, but broadly it’s termed as “Post Release Testing”.
The importance of testing on mobile devices
The mobile space is hugely profitable at the moment (spend on apps alone across all major app stores topped $170 billion in 2021). Ensuring you are providing the best experience for your customers or users has never been more important. If you don’t provide a great service, someone else will. It’s not about whether consumers will spend, it’s who they’ll spend it with.
The mobile app testing space itself has seen huge investment with the market itself valued at nearly $6.2 billion last year, and forecasts suggesting it could hit nearly $15.3 billion by 2028. Companies clearly are keen to invest in this space.
As we’ve covered above, there are a number of considerations to make when planning and executing your mobile testing strategy. It’s very important to ensure your customers are getting the most optimal and enjoyable experience they possibly can when they’re looking to spend their money with you. Not only does the design of your digital offering need to be closely aligned to their wants and needs, but the execution/coding of it needs to be sound. They will ultimately vote with their (digital) feet and go elsewhere if it isn’t.
Ensuring your mobile testing strategy and its implementation is the best that it can be will increase your chances of interactions converting to purchases and thus revenue, but also have a positive impact on your reputation, and in turn increase the chances of those consumers returning in the future. It pays to be thorough, considered and robust in your approach.
Sam Needs is an experienced Test Consultant with over 9 years experience working in sectors such as Financial Services, Retail and Business Banking, Utilities, Consultancy and Telecoms.