Retail Winners Prioritize Digital Quality

Retail Winners Prioritize Digital Quality

One thing is for certain. The retail industry — and the software that enables it — is getting more complex and competitive each day. I see this in my work with such retail leaders as Walmart and Sam’s Club. These global retailers constantly work to increase software quality, and they understand the high stakes at play when it comes to their customers and the exceptional experiences they have come to demand across all channels.

Deloitte’s retail industry outlook for 2022 projects a continued acceleration of the fusion of digital and physical experiences. It suggests that retailers should make significant investments that not only meet the e-commerce needs of the present, but also those of the future. It further states that a key takeaway from the pandemic has been that consumers have reset their level of reliance on technology and digital platforms. Customers tried and adopted new and innovative ways to shop. In Deloitte’s recent holiday retail survey, consumers indicated that though they feel more comfortable returning to stores, their preference for online channels remains higher than before the pandemic.

What does this mean for the world of digital quality? Let’s first take a look at some key findings in our recent "State of Digital Quality in Retail 2022" report.

State of Digital Quality 2022: Retail survey scope

Applause analyzed a portion of our testing data from calendar year 2021 to identify common barriers to digital quality across different dimensions. We discovered many valuable retail themes that include perspective and context from our global testing community along with recommendations for retailers. Here’s an overview of the data scope in the retail report:

  • testing across 103 countries

  • multiple testing categories

  • more than 57,000 retail bugs found

  • 5,500 mobile devices

  • 500 OS versions

See our infographic for highlights.

Functional bugs dominated the realm of retail digital quality

We evaluated five different bug types: content, crash, functional (workflow errors), lags and latency, and visual. The vast majority were functional bugs, representing 73.5% of the total bugs. As the pandemic lingers and retailers continually evaluate supply chains, adjust inventory levels and innovate in the physical store to better accommodate the increasing digital influence, it’s obvious that back-end and customer-facing technologies must integrate seamlessly as newer technologies continue to find their place in the retail industry. VR, AI, ML, smart home and smart wear, voice, robot couriers, as well as the rise of m-commerce, mean that retailers are navigating the omnichannel landscape, often juggling entirely different technologies at once, many of which are still novel.

The big problem for retail: cart abandonment

Across all regions, retail workflow errors were the most common flaw our testers discovered. These bugs prevent shoppers from completing their desired tasks. Whether your customer is searching your site for all options in a category, trying to access an online chatbot or customer service rep for assistance while browsing, or checking out, they expect to be able to accomplish their mission without any glitches.

With cart abandonment rates lingering around 70% (depending on the study) for desktop customer experiences, and mobile app cart abandonment climbing up into the 80% range, retailers can’t afford any glitch that will increase the odds of a customer abandoning the shop. For example, testing for mobile — which must include things like checking mobile site speed, keeping key content elements above the fold, minimizing copy to the bare essentials, better menu management on a smaller screen — must be done with real shoppers in any markets in which your brand exists, checking not only for key functionality, but also for accurate localization of content.

Of course, as part of the in-market representation of shoppers, companies must focus on serving persons with disabilities (PWD). The Return on Disability Group’s "Design Delight from Disability - 2020 Annual Report: The Global Economics of Disability" states that most companies focus on compliance, not value creation, when it comes to PWD. They are missing their biggest value driver: serving PWD as customers. A focus on inclusive design benefits all customers, not just those with disabilities. For example, a persistent design element like an on-page text reminder for a shopper to fill in a particular form may not only aid a neuro-diverse shopper, but anyone who might be distracted, preoccupied or in any other mental state that might work against completing the task at hand.

Response to an app that doesn't work can run the gamut from a moment’s annoyance to permanently abandoning your brand. Reviews from unhappy buyers can drag down retailer ratings and persuade other potential customers to choose a competitor’s solution. In addition, poor user experience can increase churn and raise customer acquisition costs.

Improving quality consistently pays off in cost savings, faster releases, and increased customer satisfaction and retention. Here are a few summary points that have been backed through this year’s retail report:

  • Every digital experience requires comprehensive functional testing

  • Customer journeys must track seamlessly across devices and locations

  • Accessibility is more than a legal checkbox

  • Localization goes beyond translation

  • Testing with real, live payment instruments is the only way to ensure every customer can transact successfully

Retailers must constantly innovate and remove friction

Leading retailers understand the constant pressure to create the best physical and digital experiences to retain existing customers and attract new ones. And the bar is constantly moving higher.

Think about your first online shopping experience. You visited a brand’s website, placed the order and waited for it to arrive via standard or priority shipping. Soon, Amazon entered the scene, providing shoppers with a consolidated view of product alternatives at a variety of prices and shipping options. Today, shoppers can be in their favorite store, check out a specific product, contrast it with a local competitor’s offering online, compare both scenarios with what they can find on Amazon, drive to the local store to get a hands-on feel for the product, and ultimately, order the product through any channel they wish.

As a retailer in this highly complex environment, how do you ensure that all customer and prospect touchpoints with your brands are frictionless and top-notch? All channels exist by themselves and as part of an intricate web of customer journeys.

We believe that only testers who match your customer profiles — those who would use your app or website or visit your physical store — can help you create the best digital and physical shopping experiences. And these testers must represent the people in the markets in which you sell (or hope to sell). Many Applause customers are concurrently doing functional testing, payment testing and user experience testing. Testing for all these elements at once is very complex; labs simply don’t cut it.

Check out our "State of Digital Quality in Retail 2022" report for a full view of the challenges facing the retail sector and suggestions for how to overcome them.

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Chris Sheehan
Chris Sheehan
VP, Strategic Accounts
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