Pounds (and Dollars) of Prevention ... Cross Browser & Load Testing Before The Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is approaching (hurray!) and that means that the online shopping season is also coming up. The peaks of this season are Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to take place this year on November 25th and 28th, 2016, respectively.

The trend to online sales is noticeable and here to stay, with almost 50% of holiday shopping done online, and mobile now plays a huge part of the mix. In 2015, online sales were $2.74 billion. That's 21.5% more than 2014. The average pageviews per minute increased by 109%, and mobile traffic exceeded the 50% line and constituted as 57.2% of all online traffic.

2016 numbers are expected to be even higher. That makes sense - it’s more convenient to buy from the comfort of your home, and if one site crashes from high levels of traffic, customers can easily move on to another.

To make sure you're ready and you don't leave money on the table, we recommend you conduct the following tests on your website or app. Cross browser and load testing can be run and analyzed quickly and easily, so you still have time to discover bugs, errors and bottlenecks, and fix them in time for Black Friday (and Cyber Monday!)

Cross Browser Testing

Few things can be more frustrating for busy online shoppers than going through a shopping workflow only to arrive at a checkout page that just sits there after the "Buy" button has been clicked. Sometimes it can be as innocuous as a barely noticeable browser alert indicating that a pop-up window has been blocked, more often it's a customer who is using an older browser/OS combination that was not included in the functional test specification. While some hardy shoppers will think to fire up the website in another browser and go through the process all over again to see if it will work, most will just quit in frustration and leave the e-retailer with money on the table.

As the holiday shopping season is often the inflection point for annual profitability for many retailers (the "black" in Black Friday) any shopping experience that fails because of incompatibility with the consumer's desktop or mobile configuration is easy money down the drain. Unlike a number of industries, e-commerce retailers have to expand coverage to as many browser/OS combinations as possible. If the product team is looking at traffic analytics and testing for the browser/OS/device configurations that account for 90% of website traffic, it's possible that up to 10% of shoppers are unable to successfully navigate the website or mobile app. Think of it as a new form of retail shrinkage.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to test your website and mobile app across a wide array of browser, OS, and mobile configurations. Just as importantly, many web development teams recognize that ensuring cross browser compatibility is important to the health of the web - and to living up to the “code as craft” manifesto - here’s a great post from Justin Scott, Chris Mills and Ali Spivak at Mozilla, “Make The Web Work For Everyone”.

So, how do you get started? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Map your most critical purchase workflows and prioritize the development of these test cases.
  2. Purchase workflows are business-facing decisions - consider using BDD to help define your testing strategy and write your test cases.
  3. Use Google Analytics to understand which browsers, OS and mobile devices your audience use, and then rank these in priority order when determining cross browser coverage goals
  4. Use a cross browser testing platform like Sauce Labs to give you access to over 800 different browser, OS and mobile configurations, along with secure, on-demand scalability to run these tests in parallel.

Load Testing

Testing your browser is crucial for user experience and making sure transactions are completed, but the testing process isn't complete without load testing. Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring traffic spikes and peaks, and performance testing ensures your website and app can handle the heavy holiday loads and traffic spikes.

How does it work? Load testing simulates user behavior by a large number of virtual users and traffic from multiple geo-locations. It also lets you quickly run tests in different frequencies. Then, you can analyze different KPIs like average response time and throughput, enabling you to discover statistical trends and find out where your bottlenecks are.

This is crucial since a crashed website can lead to losing money and frustrated customers. On Black Friday in 2014, Best Buy's website was down for an hour, as a result of increased mobile traffic. In 2015, John Lewis's website went down and analysts predict this cost them up to £2.8m. But this doesn't have to be the case. Stance, a fashion retailer, prepared for a huge traffic spike when they signed up Rihanna for their new sock collection. By load testing in advance on their new infrastructure and simulating 10x their normal traffic, they were ready to prepare their site on time.

Here are 4 quick load testing tips (read more here):

  1. Make sure you load test the complete stack, including the surrounding infrastructure. This ensures the testing is as accurate as possible.
  2. Create and simulate real world user experience - create scenarios according to your user habits. A real world test eliminates real bottlenecks that could occur.
  3. Run load tests from the production environment - to ensure your testing is accurate and that each point is tested properly. We recommend you choose a time you know traffic is low, and simulate loads from multiple geo-locations and environments.
  4. You can load test on different open source tools like JMeter. CA BlazeMeter enables larger scalability, runs through the cloud, enables collaboration and has intelligent reporting abilities.

Continuous Integration

While it’s important to test before the holiday season, there is no replacement to continuous testing and continuous delivery. “Shifting left” will lower your costs and improve product quality year-round. Incorporating tools like Sauce Labs and CA BlazeMeter, ensure you are always ready.

Click here to get ready with a cross browser testing or load testing demo.

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