5 E-Commerce Must-Haves in 2013

The next holiday season will be here before we know it, so here are the top five must-have e-commerce features that retailers need to grow their business.

Superior website and web application performance, and a true understanding of the end-user perspective are a common thread among all of them. Performance and load testing will also play a big role in ensuring websites and applications are running optimally heading into the holiday season.

1. Mobile Optimization: According to Adobe’s Digital Index, over the past two years, mobile page views as a percentage of retailer website traffic have steadily increased, but conversions have been going down. This isn’t all that surprising, because mobile site visits tend to not be terribly engaging sessions.

Your mobile commerce might not yet have a significant correlation to conversions or revenue, but it is critical to ongoing customer loyalty. Given the dramatic growth in mobile commerce traffic – perhaps the first interaction with a potential customer – the experience has to be perfect. This is the key to keeping visitors on your mobile site now, or driving them to a desktop site later when they actually decide to buy. Retailers need to ensure they’re delivering exceptional mobile web experiences across the devices and browsers most frequently used by visitors.

2. Seamless Transactions: Retailers must optimize the speed and reliability of business-critical transactions like check-out, especially during times of peak load. Testing a complete end-to-end check-out process requires “gluing together” a number of disparate processes and third-party providers (like shopping carts) into a single seamless transaction. This is known as testing the complete web application delivery chain, and it can present challenges as end-to-end use cases can be difficult to test with standard tools.

Retailers need an approach to performance and load testing that actually tests the system as end users will experience it. Testing from outside the firewall is the only way to get a true read on the performance of third-party services and an entire end-to-end application.

3. As Much Free Shipping As You Can Afford: Upgrading delivery options or offering free delivery is another approach for perceived end-user value. But frequent changes to delivery options beg the question: how often are we going to change and how are we going to manage the ongoing testing and performance requirements? Performance tools need to support dynamically changing environments and accurately test and measure performance without complex, time-consuming scripting.

4. Product Page Excellence: Retailers must strive to offer the richest, best-in-class product detail pages. Increasingly, this will mean leveraging third-party services like product tours, product demos and even video. Retailers will need to make sure all these third-parties are performing optimally, which again requires an understanding of the true end-user perspective. Performance testing tools must be able to follow the path a transaction takes and find out where slow-downs are occurring. This provides necessary proof and helps all parties, including third-party vendors, to better understand opportunities for optimization.

5. Ongoing, 24x7x365 Data Showing When Your Site Performance is Less than Superior: By now, we understand the importance of website and web application performance. Some retailers are going a step further by looking for occasions when a customer experience may not be up to standards, and then proactively refunding customers. Retailers need automated systems that can detect when performance falls below pre-defined thresholds. This is the key to enabling this value-add feature, and the larger goal of finding and fixing performance problems before customers do.

Features such as those listed above will help retailers stand out this holiday season. But realizing value from these features depends on a commitment to high-performance, which in turn depends on a true understanding of the end-user perspective. Ultimately, having all the greatest features in the world will mean little if performance is sub-par, or if you can’t accurately measure performance across the complete application delivery chain.

Mark Eshelby is the Web Load Testing Product Manager for Compuware's Application Performance Management (APM) Business Unit
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