Automation or machine-enabled process enhancement is the future of all industries and the Retail Industry is no different. The days when human intervention was required to deliver packages will soon be  gone and replaced by drones being designed to fasten and improve average delivery turn-around time. Areas which are tedious and time-consuming like warehouse management with mundane tasks like item picking/selection are automated using robots. Quality Assurance is known to be a critical area for the Retail Industry and considering the direct end-user level of interaction – Testing should be performed bearing in mind the time-to-market and the business impact of a lost customer due to a bad experience.

Automation Testing is known to yield savings and have effective results in the long term. Automation Testing is Manual Testing++ (read Manual Testing plus plus) i.e., Domain Knowledge and Application Understanding form the crux of a good Automation suite. Domain knowledge is essential for an effective Automation suite and challenges vary for each domain.

eCommerce is basically nothing but a store available anytime, anywhere for a customer on his desktop or mobile for purchase. Although the real physical store (also known as brick-and-mortar retail stores) are still prevalent and form the major chunk of the industry; the shift of paradigm towards eCommerce is impacting the brick-and-mortar stores and is making business team(s) to take the technical shift seriously. Retail Industry is such a dynamically changing industry which has to keep innovating and doing something exclusive always to keep customers hooked.

Retail Industry Testing involves testing an application which is rapidly changing with a zero compromise for error(s) and the lowest turn-around time. Retail Industry Testing consists of verifying multiple integration check-points with the lowest time-to-market and zero tolerance for bugs. The zero tolerance for bugs is due to the reason that even a minor UI miss will directly impact the end-user and Retail Industry is heavily end-user dependent and no issue/bug can be considered minor since one bad experience land you’ve lost a loyal customer.

The Challenges of Automation in Retail Testing:

  1. Configurable Behavior: All Retail outlet(s) would require constant update(s) to their behavior based on the market and consumer needs: a brick and mortar store would put up posters and mark-down product prices on boards during periods like Holiday season and other sales whereas the similar changes for an online application would require UI and functionality changes. This would require code level changes and effort for development and testing with the overhead of frequency of the change(s) – This bottle-neck can be resolved by a cloud-based channel platform which allows customization of the site without requiring code-level changes (Ex: Blue-Martini and Demandware). Although the challenge of removing code-level dependency is removed from the site customization; the testing effort of the changes would remain constant and increase at times. Automation Solution would reduce the time-taken for testing by parallel execution of test-case(s) in desktop and mobile using cloud-based browser platform and continuous integration.
  1. Multiple Integration(s): An e-commerce website is fully functional with several third-party integrations working together in s“Top 3 Test Automation Challenges in eCommerce”ynchronization to complete a work-flow. Several critical modules like tax calculation, fraud order management and legacy gift card are usually handled by third-party integrations. With all integrations in place, the website/app should work at optimal levels – The complete site functionality should be tested in a Big-Bang approach with all integrations plugged into. Thus the complete testing also known as End-to-End Testing is vital to ensure the stability. End-to-end testing would involve testing several complex modules like tax-calculation, address validation, loyalty management, e-certificates/gift certificates and several other integration testing. Considering multiple integrations and volume of testing required, solutioning with Automation testing makes interactions with multiple systems seamless and in perfect sync which enables the system to completely test end-to-end functionality of the website/app with minimal human intervention.
  1. Ever-changing Product Data: The heart and soul of any eCommerce business model is the product(s) data i.e., the goods sold by the respective eCommerce business. The product data keeps changing more frequently than the behavior changes mentioned in #1; this is done to cope up with the ever-changing market needs and to satisfy the customer needs. Automation Test Suite is a collective entity i.e., the Test Scripts, Test Data used and the Framework together form the Automation Test Suite. The frequent changes in Product Data for Business Needs would require frequent Automation Test Suite updates; failing to do so will impact the stability of the Test Scripts and lead to false values in Automation Report.

The Retail Industry is constantly evolving to match the dynamic requirements of the Consumer(s). Technology needs to match it in almost all vital areas of the industry: Inventory Management, Customer Service. There are Robots helping customers shop in Stores by displaying and picking suggested products based on the list of questions answered before the purchase and Augmented Reality allowing customer to try clothes and accessories via a Mobile App.

The shift in momentum towards eCommerce and advancement in technology is used very efficiently by Retail Industries. A very good example is to allow customization of products online for the user i.e., user can select the color of the strap of the footwear they are about to purchase. This level of technology will increase the complexity of testing and would increase the dependency on the quality of the websites/apps being developed with the limitation of time-to-market. The global retail sector is expected to grow to US $28 trillion by 2019 according to Research and Markets which is a growth rate of close to 3.8% per year and thus would require emphasis on quality (Testing Solutions) considering the volume and criticality.

An e-Commerce application relies heavily on user experience and requires extensive test platform coverage and several rounds of regression to ensure bug-fixes have not introduced new bugs in the existing behavior/functionalities. This phase of testing is critical to the business since any minor issue would result in major business impact. Also the complexity of testing is high due to the volume of functional changes and multiple integrations. Automation offers an effective solution to the challenge of covering all functionalities across the wide range of test platforms in a minimal turn-around time at a fraction of the cost.

The challenges like configurable behavior, Integration-level dependency and constantly changing product-data can be efficiently handled by Aspire’s DCqaf Framework – equipped with a cloud-based testing platforms and Continuous Integration will work as a solution to the challenges faced by the Retail Industry offering high quality and long term return on investment.

Govind Sripada

Govind Sripada

Retail Test specialist at Aspire Systems
Govind Sripada is an ecommerce Retail Test specialist at Aspire Systems. Primarily focused on Retail domain, his area of interest would revolve around E-Commerce (B2C and B2B), Web based: System and Integration testing and back end integration and validation.
Govind Sripada