In the age of omni-channel retail, creating engaging shopping experiences and building customer loyalty is more complicated than ever before. Meeting the 24/7demands of the connected customer requires constant innovation and decisions based on reliable applications.

Quality Challenges Typical to Retail

Retailers must continually refresh their omni-channel front end with a non-glitchy user-centric experience while also handling a huge load of transaction data on a diverse array of backend systems and third party applications for order management and fulfillment, pricing, inventory management, and customer account history.  To read about the quality challenges typical to retail in detail, click here.

There is a need to continuously roll out exciting features, offers, and customer experiences with enhanced speed and agility in today’s dynamic retail world.

Why Retailers Need a Robust Test Automation Strategy

A robust test automation strategy is of crucial importance in helping retailers keep up with constant innovation, and also address the risks of inconsistent scenarios.

However, it is worth noting that not everything can be automated, and to reap the rewards of test automation, significantly higher upfront investments also need to be made.

A phased approach, keeping in mind different contributing factors, must be followed in order to reap key benefits. Here are some of the important points to consider for building a robust automation strategy.

  • Feasibility Analysis

Before we start with the automation of the manual test cases, it is necessary to identify and list the business requirements that can be automated. Also based on the nature of the requirements, an automation feasibility study needs to be conducted. A feasibility analysis involves:

  • Understanding the Functional aspects of the application

Automation testers need to first understand the functional flow of the application. Proper knowledge transfer (KT) must be provided to the automation team on the technical architecture of the application, the add ins based on the technical architecture, and the communication protocols.

This will help the automation testers divide the test cases on the basis of functionality and also understand the applicability of automation tools and tool adapters.

  • Analyzing % of automation coverage

It is important to evaluate which retail workflows and business requirements can be automated. The number of test cases that can be automated out of total test cases helps to arrive at the % of automation coverage.

  • Comparative analysis and quantitative evaluation of various automation tools based on application compatibility

There are several considerations that the tester needs to keep in mind.

While selecting an automation tool for an omni-channel retailer, for instance, we must ensure that the tool is compatible with the technology platform on which the system is running. OS manufacturers are often known to supply customized versions of OS to support a particular system; the selected tool thus has to be compatible with the specific OS.

Automation tools sometimes fail to identify objects used with touchscreen UI features. For touchscreen UI automation, it is therefore crucial to make sure the proposed tool is able to recognize the objects in the application.

The best approach is to carry out a thorough review of the various requirements and purpose of testing. Once the requirements are documented, the tools which can best address them at relatively lower costs need to be identified. A comparative analysis of the shortlisted tools (based on various criteria with specific weightages) can be conducted before arriving at the best possible option.

  • Considering the ROI

This helps to assess the financial feasibility of the automation initiative. The breadth of automation coverage is an important factor in determining the ROI from automation.

  • Scope of Automation

As discussed earlier, it is imperative to identify the right test scenarios for automation. When it comes to the scope of automation, anything less than a thorough review would lead to the automation of test scenarios which cannot be executed during later test cycles, resulting in a waste of time and money.

The most popular use of automation is for those test cases that need a lot of human intervention and are executed often. But, automation could also be used beyond regression test cases.  For e.g. the use case of an ecommerce application that is used in several different languages could be one such scenario.  In this case, test automation can be advantageous not only to check whether the most important user scenarios work in different languages, but also verify if all translations in the user language are correct.

Typical scenarios that demand automation in retail include sales, return, exchange, discounts, promotions, price change, price lookup, merchandize locator etc.

  • Identification of a Test Automation Framework

At the core of a successful test automation strategy is an automation framework. It consists of a predefined set of business processes and validation rules to guide the interaction between different components on which the scripts can be designed, deployed and executed. In the absence of an automation framework, testers would need to create test scripts based on the scenarios. This approach calls for multiple actions to be performed against every single object, resulting in creation of ad-hoc test scripts along with duplication of testing efforts.

Some of the common challenges that can be addressed by a suitable Test Automation Framework are depicted in the diagram below.

Retail-friendly Test Automation Strategies

In the current retail marketplace of disruptive digital technologies, application changes and code deployments happen almost on a daily basis. Therefore, the right testing framework must fit in with the latest software development approaches, and allow seamless integration into the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment pipeline.

With omni-channel retail becoming the de facto standard, the framework should also be capable of providing cross platform along with scripting language independence. It should also be scalable enough to meet the innate challenges of mobile testing such as device fragmentation, multi O/S testing etc.

The right automation framework can significantly improve the scope of automation, and help to realize ROI much faster.

That said, it’s worth noting that every retailer has unique goals and complexities- there certainly is no one-size-fits-all. At a minimum, we hope our guide enables you to get your organization off on the right foot.

Krittika Banerjee

Krittika Banerjee

Research Analyst at Aspire Systems
Fond of exploring contemporary technical and digital innovations, Krittika is always updated with what is new on this front. She writes about innovation and latest technology trends in various sectors.
Krittika Banerjee