retail transformation resources


Importance of test automation in omnichannel retail experiences

DECEMBER 6, 2022
Written by Team SkillNet

As the retail industry looks to provide seamless, connective, and personalized omnichannel experiences for shoppers, test automation has become increasingly important. By automating tests, retailers can quickly and easily ensure that their shopping experience is consistent across all channels, including in-store, online, and mobile.

According to Activate MS companies have reported 24% increase in ROI instantly once they started automated testing. Yet, according to Software Testing News Only 5% of companies carry out fully automated testing.

What is test automation?

Any digital experience requires automation testing. Testing automation is merely the process of automating QA testing using test automation tools. Generally, these tools have been “dumb AI” applications: they are brute-force and rigorous. Today, though, machine learning algorithms are making test automation and test automation tools more advanced.

Automated testing is essential because shoppers expect instant, seamless interactions that evolve with their needs. One of the major benefits of testing automation is that it accelerates the software delivery process. As an example, as we find that shoppers want more mobile experiences, companies can expand their mobile reach. They can quickly create mobile apps with test automation vs manual testing because the QA process will be much shorter.

Why Test Automation is Trending Now?

Test automation has become reliable, accessible, and scalable; there are now easy-to-use plug-ins, tools, APIs, and software suites explicitly designed to automate tests and improve retail shopping experiences. Most of this has to do with two things: the cloud and machine learning. The cloud provides the resources that DevOps test automation needs to be more robust and advanced while machine learning means that test automation can be even more intricate.

At the same time, many companies find that their channels are growing in complexity and need help to deliver the experiences omnichannel shoppers expect. Test automation makes it easier for retailers companies to test multiple services quickly and efficiently and the proliferation of DevOps test automation has made test automation more approachable to the average organization.

Manual vs. automated testing

Manual testing is done by a human tester who manually enters data, checks results, and makes changes as needed. Automated testing is done using tools that automatically execute tests and report results.

Automated testing is more efficient than manual testing (in fact SkillNet has reduced test cycle time by 96% for a client) because it can be completed faster and with fewer errors. The reality of retail application testing is that it’s very complex and requires testing a lot of moving parts (that is integrations); anything that is routine, mundane, and repetitive is a great AI task.

However, it should be noted that there are still areas where manual testing is necessary. When testing the user experience, manual testing cannot be entirely replaced by automated testing. Automated testing has to be used when metrics are clear and quantifiable, such as page load speed.

Impact of Cloud on automated testing

Cloud testing tools enable retail enterprises to check the performance of their cloud resources. Apart from creating a virtual replica of cloud-based resources, it also helps them evaluate cloud-based applications. The main advantages are low costs, virtualization, ongoing access to cloud resources and easier disaster recovery. All of this helps retailers to create functionality quickly to respond to customers.

Machine Learning & AI in Test Automation

Given that test automation is a complex process, companies can avoid many of the problems by using Machine learning and AI.   AI/ML can be used in two phases: first in test automation authoring and execution and second in analysis of test outcomes, identification of trends in the results.

AI/ML can also help with platform and device-based automation testing plus can help analyze the data and generate insights which can reduce errors.

Why should retailers consider testing automation?

Retailers need to connect to more channels than ever. Automated testing will help retailers expand and scale without losing quality or service. As customers expect more on-demand services, retailers must find ways to provide these services while preserving their profit margins. Testing automation lowers the burden on retailers to maintain large IT and quality assurance teams and creates more predictable, reliable results.

The increased focus on MACH (Microservices, API, Cloud and Headless) architecture means that it requires quick verification of accurate working on microservices, APIs and rendering the interface data on the UI correctly. Many of the MACH scenarios can be automated for testing. Here too the testing cycle time can be reduced.

Meeting the Quality Challenges Typical to Retail

Retailers are experiencing four significant challenges: the need for enhanced speed (frequently at reduced costs), consistent omnichannel deployment, complex integration challenges, and preserving the security and privacy of their customers.

Complex retail customer journey requires advanced testing
Complex retail customer journey requires advanced testing

To meet these challenges, retailers must focus on quality at all stages of their software development process — and software testing for retail can help. By automating tests, retailers can improve their software quality while ensuring that their customer experience is consistent across all channels.

The Need for Enhanced Speed

The retail industry is driven by customer experience and innovation. To meet these demands, retailers need to release new features and functionality continuously. However, releasing new features quickly can lead to lower software quality. Test automation can help retailers minimize the risks associated with releasing new features by automatically executing tests at every stage of development.

Consistent Omnichannel Deployment

As shoppers move freely between channels, retailers must provide a consistent customer experience across all channels. Retailers must ensure that their websites, mobile apps, in-store systems, and call center systems are all functioning correctly. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their omnichannel experiences are consistent and meet the needs of their customers.

Complex Integration Challenges

Many retailers use a variety of software applications for their store and digital commerce portals.. These applications must be integrated to work together seamlessly. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their software applications are correctly integrated and functioning as intended.

Security and Privacy Concerns

As data breaches grow, retailers must ensure that their customer’s information is safe and secure. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their software applications are secure and compliant with industry regulations.

Benefits of test automation in retail

Test automation is already being used throughout the industry. But as retail becomes more digital savvy, automation provides some essential benefits that are specific to customers store and online experiences.

Speed Augmentation at Low Cost

Faster development velocity is the top driver for retail test automation, as in other sectors. In addition, because so many processes and interactions are now software-based, there are more potential risks and areas for errors. Automated testing can help retailers find and fix these errors quickly before they have a chance to impact customers.

Omnichannel Deployment

As customers move freely between channels, retailers must provide a consistent customer experience across all channels. Retailers must ensure that their websites, mobile apps, in-store systems, and call center systems are all functioning correctly. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their omnichannel experiences are consistent and meet the needs of their customers.

Automated testing helps faster deployment for omnichannel experiences
Automated testing helps faster deployment for omnichannel experiences

Faster, Cleaner Integration

As mentioned, many retailers use a variety of software applications to run their businesses—and these applications must be integrated to work together seamlessly. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their software applications are correctly integrated before issues occur.

Security Enhancement

Automated testing can help retailers find errors quickly and accurately. By automating testing in real-time, retailers can identify problems (such as potential performance bottlenecks) before they become major issues, reacting accordingly.

Accurate Error Detection

Automated testing can help retailers find errors quickly and accurately. By automating testing in real-time, retailers can identify problems (such as potential performance bottlenecks) before they become major issues, reacting accordingly.

Enhanced Feedback Loops

Automated testing can provide retailers with immediate feedback on the health of their software applications. By automating testing, retailers can quickly get information on whether a new feature is working as intended—and if not, why. When some eCommerce companies are doing millions of dollars of transactions every day, every minute counts.

Test Automation Intelligence

In addition to all of the benefits above, automated testing can also help retailers make their testing processes more intelligent. By automating tests and tracking results over time, retailers can gain valuable insights into their software applications. These insights can help retailers optimize their test automation processes and improve their overall software quality.

Challenges to test automation

While test automation can bring many benefits to the retail sector, some challenges must be considered. Not every retail company is suited to bring test automation to bear, especially when they are trying to accelerate their software development strategies in other ways. These are some of the major challenges to applying software testing for retail.

Complexity of Applications

Many retail software applications are complex. They may have a variety of user interfaces, including web, mobile, and POS. They may also include a variety of back-end systems, which can make automated testing more difficult.

Test Data Management

Another challenge is test data management—ensuring that the right data is available for testing and that it is accurate and up-to-date. This can be a challenge for retail companies with large, complex datasets.

Organizational Change

Finally, implementing test automation can require organizational change. Test automation often requires new skills and processes, disrupting the status quo. Additionally, automated testing may require changes to how development and operations teams work together.

Retailers must carefully consider these challenges before implementing test automation. A partner specializing in automated testing can help.

Which retail technology systems can benefit from test automation?

Point of sale systems, order management, eCommerce, CRM, inventory, merchandising, and even the customer experience can be automated. Ideally, retailers must utilize testing across their entire infrastructure to create a true omnichannel experience. One of the best ways to identify which retail systems can benefit the most from automation is to work with a technology partner who has expertise in retail & commerce systems and in testing.

Point-Of-Sale

The point of sale is often the first and last interaction between retailers and their customers—making it critical to the customer experience. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their POS systems are working correctly and that they provide a consistent experience for customers across stores and online channels.

Order Management

Order management systems are the backbone of retail operations. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their order management systems are integrated with the rest of their systems and that reporting standards are maintained across multiple channels and point-of-sale systems.

Digital Commerce (eCommerce and Mobile Apps)

An eCommerce portal is the face of a retailer to its online customers. Each visitor on the portal is a potential opportunity of error of the portal. Thus, in case a retailer has 100,000 shoppers visiting the site daily, the opportunity of error is 100,000 per day. This possibility requires extensive test and quick testing to release feature and solutions as well as fixes. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their eCommerce portals are easy to use, navigate, and search; that they provide a consistent experience across all devices; and that they offer the features and functionality that customers expect.

CRM Solutions

CRM solutions are used by retailers to manage customer data and interactions. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their CRM solutions are integrated with other systems, such as digital commerce, phone order (call centers), mobile apps and POS. When using advanced CRM solutions, automated testing may test new features and customizations programmed into the platform.

Inventory Solutions

Inventory management is a critical part of retail operations. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their inventory solutions are integrated with other systems, such as POS and order management to merchandising and warehousing system. An intelligent inventory solution can help perform automatic backorders in case of inventory trigger level is reached at a specific store. Additionally, automated testing can help retailers ensure that their inventory levels are accurately reflected across all channels.

Merchandising

Merchandising solutions are used by retailers to manage product data and pricing. It is the master data system for many downstream systems. Correct integration with different applications is key for the overall operations of the retailer’s business. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their merchandising solutions are integrated with other systems, such as eCommerce and POS.

Customer Experience

The customer experience is the sum of all customer interactions with a retailer. Automated testing can help retailers verify that their systems provide a consistent, positive customer experience by testing technical aspects such as whether customers are bouncing off the page and if page speeds are fluctuating.

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Some important test automation tools

There are various popular test automation tools: Selenium, Appium, WebDriver, JUnit, and TestNG, etc. When it comes to testing retail technology, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to work with a partner who understands the complexities of retail and can help implement the right test automation strategy for the company.

Conclusion: Enabling retail omnichannel experiences with better test automation

Seamless experiences across stores and online are becoming the norm for retail customers—and they’re only going to become more common in the years to come. As such, retailers must have a robust test automation strategy to ensure that their software applications can keep up with customer demand.

While test automation can be complex, working with a partner specializing in retail and commerce systems can help you overcome any challenges you may face. Automated testing can help you release new features quickly and efficiently while gaining valuable insights into your software application’s performance over time.

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About the Author

Team SkillNet

Makers of Modern Commerce

SkillNet Solutions, provides technology and consulting services to companies that are digitally transforming their retail business to modern commerce.

From design and delivery of cloud solutions, implementation of COTS and SaaS applications, SkillNet creates data-enabled solutions and rich customer journeys for local and global brands to stay ahead of the curve. Our solution accelerators enable clients to become more agile and efficient in harnessing technology, so that shopping can be a convenient and personalized experience.

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