'Digital-first' has dominated 2019, with retailers trying to boost sales as the UK high street falls into an apocalyptic state. As we head into 2020, how has the digital world changed?
This year has been a mixture of wins and losses for many retail brands. Boohoo's revenue surged with sales estimated to grow by an additional 43% - 45%, while brands such as Mothercare and Patisserie Valerie undergo store closures and even bankruptcy. The future of many established brands has been questioned as customer preferences change and the evolution of retail continues to develop. Read the website testing 2020 guide.
But for brands such as Boohoo which have survived and even thrived in the cut-throat retail world of ecommerce, 'Digital-first' has been the guiding light.
What is a 'Digital-first' approach?
We all know that you only get one attempt at a first impression and this is the same for websites and apps that have a transactional focus. Brands have slowly been realising that user loyalty isn't the same as it was 5, even 10 years ago, with customers choosing to use a competitive brand when encountering a single bug or slow loading time. Thus the 'Digital-first' approach began.
This new approach highlighted the importance of first impressions on digital shoppers, and encouraged digital integrations that bridged the gap between in-store and online services. Given that the average American spends 12 hours a day on digital devices, the 'Digital-first' approach matched many user's expectations and even went beyond them, with additional functionalities that made online browsing and shopping more convenient. Functionality such as auto-filled memorable information, location trackers and store locators all made the process of buying online easier.
It's hard to avoid the successful impact of digital retail with sale events such as Black Friday, and Alibaba's Singles Day breaking records. This year Singles Day sold just over £1 billion worth of goods in an astonishing 96 seconds.
Closer to home, UK clothing and homeware store Next is one of the primary adopters of the 'Digital-first' approach and the benefits have been seen across the business, regardless of Brexit trade concerns. As a result, Next's overall revenue for the first half of 2019 rose by 3.7%, while their online sales also grew by an impressive 12.6%. The company is now determined to increase its presence in the e-commerce world across the globe by improving the digital experience for users outside of the UK through localisation features.
What's your quality rating?
But there's more to the 'Digital-first' approach than just integrating new functionalities that match your specific customer expectations. Adding more and more options to your site is one way of ensuring your customers are being catered for, but if these functionalities don't work then the entire site is negatively affected. This links back to what we discussed at the start about the importance of first impressions and the importance of customer loyalty.
Ensuring your customers aren't met with a blank screen when they click on your site should be a top priority, but what about all the bugs that hide in your customer journeys? Have you tested every single customer journey through scripted regression testing and functional testing to ensure your users aren't being met with conversion blocking bugs? If not, why not?
Put simply, bugs no matter where bugs are in a site they reduce conversions, revenue, and customer loyalty. Users aren't prone to coming back to a website after experiencing one bad customer journey, even if the site belongs to a certain brand. Prestige brands such as Nike have products that can be bought on the e-commerce giant Amazon, making personal sites less effective. And with the digital world increasing in congestion every day, why should users put themselves through a frustrating customer journey, when so many other sites out there can provide a high-quality, more user-focused journey?
The 'Digital-first' approach is about more than just matching customer expectations, it's about going beyond them and ensuring every single journey on your site or app is seamless and personalised.
Brands such as Next that are already hitting targets are now taking digital quality and the 'Digital-first' approach further with website testing that includes globalised localisation features and accessibility testing.