In a fragmented digital landscape, where e-commerce brands are releasing updates and new functionality in faster cycles than ever before, digital managers need to keep a close eye on how this activity is affecting their online sales conversions.
For effective commercial decision making - it’s crucial for a digital team to understand the relationship between the changes being made on a website and their effect on its smooth operation and usability.
Developing an ongoing website testing strategy can give you a clear view of how these are combining with external influences (such as new device and operating system releases), and impacting overall site performance and future website conversions.
Here are 3 major areas where website testing can uncover issues and bugs inhibiting the growth of your brand’s conversion rate.
1. Abandoned baskets
According to Baynard nearly 70% of all digital baskets are abandoned before a purchase is made. Some have estimated the total costs to e-retailers of those lost baskets is reaching £18 billion per annum. Much of this is the result of natural indecision, changed minds and card declines - but many of the abandonment stories are really about buggy sites and poor U/X.
Of those customers who abandoned a purchase in Baynard’s survey:
17% reported the website had errors or crashed
26% said the check out process had been too long and complicated
Unexpected errors and crashes aborting payment journeys are often seen as a reality of life in a environment of almost constant version and operating systems updates. But, regressions API failures and the emergence of new browser/device specific bugs can, and should, be tested for both pre and post release. Frequent, systematic testing can catch these issues early on and even help brands avoid them altogether.
There is also an ongoing need to spot and correct the usability issues that are making customer journeys unduly onerous and consequently affecting conversion. For example, understanding if payment paths are resolving differently then expected on certain devices may explain different revenue results for different operating systems. Are the required forms appearing stretched, distorted and difficult to fill in on certain browsers?
Usability testing can dig into this kind of detail and provide feedback on the way design could be altered to improve performance. It can show you if your payment journey contains too many steps or is illogical or difficult to follow. It can also show if an optimal payment experience differs according to the demographic who are most likely to purchase on your site.
All kinds of testing on payment journeys, both functional and non-functional, can play a vital part in optimising your ability to convert visitors to customers. But these tests are at the most effective when they are conducted with thousands of testers, rather than a handful, and using the full range of real world devices that reflect the likely composition of your audience.
The rise of the ‘grey’ and ‘purple’ pounds have presented both new challenges and new opportunities for digital brands. Their increased importance in the retail space represents a well documented and long term demographic shift towards an older population and a social movement towards greater inclusivity that is being supported by government legislation around the world.
Designing and refining your site to be accessible to everyone regardless of physical disability or neurodiversity is an ongoing process. And with 21% of adults currently requiring some form of accessibility feature to effectively use websites and apps - there is a real need to ensure your testing encompasses usability findings from these angles, too.
Of course, sites and apps need to be tested against and compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, in order to avoid costly and potentially damaging lawsuits. But developing digital solutions that prioritise accessibility, and are able to incrementally improve experiences for everyone is key to many brand’s long term strategic thinking:
“When we shift our thinking away from the minimum legal compliance to focus instead on the commercial opportunity and the creative challenge of building better experiences for everyone, we create a more sustainable, customer orientated approach to digital information and services.”
Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays
Manual testing by diverse demographic groups can give you the insight you need to optimise your site for every customer.
3. The need for speed
The speed of an e-commerce site is also central to its commercial success. Famously, Walmart found that when their website load times jumped from 1 second to 4 seconds, sales conversions declined sharply. On the other hand, for every 1 second of improvement in website speed, they experienced up to a 2% conversion uplift and as Hubspot has pointed out - after being on the receiving end of a frustratingly slow digital experience, 80% of customers say they will never return.
But how do you know what’s responsible for your slow website performance and what you can do to plan against it? Is your testing set up to understand how well your site is able to cope with spikes in traffic on particular devices at particular times?
As some retailers are discovering payment journeys are aborted more frequently on mobiles and at very specific moments in the retail day, has your business got the capacity to test different device experiences on WIFI, 3G and 4G? Can you properly replicate the peak time pressures that might be causing load related failures and consequent loss of sales?
A different way
Website testing should be a dynamic and responsive function in your business, keeping pace with the way evolving sites behave in a shifting digital landscape.
But understanding the difference between functional, non-functional and accessibility related conversion problems is a complex business. Being able to do so depends on having the access to the right analytics and a systematic approach to testing that can isolate specific issues throughout the lifecycle of a website.
In this way, human performance testing at scale may be the key to opening up new opportunities and even solving problems you didn’t even know you had. If those tests can output clear and prioritised corrective action for a business to take, they can add real tactical and strategic insight to can keep your revenue growing.