Trends Or Quality: What Should Come First In Mobile E-Commerce | Hacker Noon

When the market competition gets tough, companies resort to brainstorming the how-to-stand-out highlights. In m-commerce, it can be AR functionality, voice search, advanced personalization, or some other feature that promises to bring your experience to another level. And that’s great unless you treat it as a race and try to beat the competitors no matter what. As a QA specialist, I have learned the value of software quality for business. And usually, that’s not something you can put on the back burner without consequences for a business. In this article, I tried to explain how to balance the desire to keep up with the trends and the overall quality of m-commerce software.

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Kate Zalozna Hacker Noon profile picture

@katezaloznaKate Zalozna

Passionate about good software products that make our lives easier and shape a better digital world.

The global share of m-commerce in e-commerce has increased to 72.9%, and that’s considerable growth compared to 52.4% in 2016[1]. The analysts operate slightly different numbers in their reports and predictions, but it is evident that mobile sales amount to a larger share each year. Naturally, a mobile-friendly website or an app becomes a significant advantage for a company. Even more than that – it is one of the most important elements of customer retention. But what should companies actually do with this data? 

It all seems pretty simple: develop a site/app, keep the functionality up-to-date and performance adequate, and that’s it. However, the development process is not always that simple. Companies already understand why testing mobile websites and apps is significant. But there’s another dilemma: run proper testing or go live because the release date has already been set?

Dilemmas And Debates

The rush to release a new feature that will help stand out gives a new boost to the never-ending debate: is it trend or quality that should be prioritized? As a rule, m-commerce projects are dynamic, ever-changing, and facing fierce competition. Testing becomes more significant with every new iteration, and deadlines are tight.

Such situations aren’t rare in big companies that lack flexibility. Another similar case is the lack of concern about the product’s performance. If a person’s only duty is to launch a product within the given time, you can’t be sure if they care about the actual result or need to mark a task as completed.

Well, a person in charge of a mobile platform will be the one to decide how much testing is enough. I just would like to analyze this issue from a QA specialist’s viewpoint. Maybe, you’ll find some ideas that will help you take a fresh look at your project.

Player One: Trends

I can understand where the desire to follow the trends comes from. Mobile commerce indeed offers vast opportunities for companies and, thus, can become a playground for developers. While a business analyst should decide whether implementing a particular feature will help a product get a competitive advantage, let’s suppose it does.

For example, AR has been receiving a lot of attention lately. Being suitable for a broader range of products than other kinds of XR technologies, it is likely to make an e-commerce website more appealing to users. An opportunity to see if a piece of furniture fits in a room or clothes suit you sounds like a great idea, right? If you’re on good terms with technology, you are likely to prefer this option instead of visiting a store due to some doubts, especially given the present-day environment. 

Apart from the visualization, features and technologies such as voice search, on-site personalization, chatbots, video reviews (including those by real clients), live commerce features, and new digital payment options (including e-wallets and cryptocurrency) have an opportunity to make a shopping platform more attractive for users. I bet you’ve also noticed that such extras would make you come back to a particular m-commerce site/app.

And that’s only the functionality on a user’s side. When it comes to the retailer’s side, there is as much room for improvement. In particular, there are ways to employ AI for gathering insights, simplify content adding, and more. It all becomes possible by adding new features and connecting extensions, etc. Making this functionality accessible from mobile devices makes managing an online store easier. 

From this perspective, each new feature contributes to the overall product quality. The more compelling and helpful features we add, the more valued the m-commerce platform will become.

Player Two: Quality

Quality can mean different things. Being a CTO in a QA company, I may have some personal interest to single out a particular definition. Quality reflects to what extent software matches the requirements specification. Still, I promise to focus on the valid argument, not the emotional factor. 

Let’s be honest: we can talk about appropriate quality enhancement through new features only if new and existing functionality works as supposed. In other words, there is product quality per se – the basic level of requirements and user expectations a product should meet.

Simply put, there is little sense in adding voice search if the website search algorithms aren’t refined and fail to display relevant results. There is little sense in releasing an AR extension based only on the assumption that it will work just like you expect if you don’t plan to test it. The same goes for every trendy feature. It’s like Maslow’s pyramid, only for the digital realm. There are basic needs we have to fulfill initially. 

When you start searching for some information on quality assurance and software testing, all (or almost all) web pages you’ll find will quote a long list of benefits that comes from testing. As a rule, high customer retention rates, increased ROI, and stuff like that come at the top. Theoretically, quality influences that, but only if it is backed up with a decent selection of items, relevant product descriptions, and efficient customer support. Product/service quality, in its turn, backs up all of the mentioned must-haves. 

I’m not saying that companies should ignore trends and innovations, but they should evaluate the feasibility of each idea and their own capabilities. In other words, it is necessary to implement an idea accurately, and QA is an essential part of this process (I’ve told a little bit about how mobile e-commerce app testing goes before).

A lot has been said about why developers shouldn’t do the testing. I’ll only add a quick reminder:

  1. knowing a product well causes some bias;
  2. software testers can start working while coding is in progress, saving developers’ precious time. 

QA specialists don’t code, but they are better than anyone else when at the think-like-a-user part. We’ve worked with enough m-commerce platforms to learn about typical bugs and defect-prone functionality. We’ve faced some tricky scenarios that encourage us to try and break something. 

‘Quality AND Trends’ Instead Of ‘Quality VS Trends’

If you expected to find a one-word answer at the end of the story, I have bad news for you: there are no simple solutions like that in software development. Trends and quality should always go hand-in-hand. And that’s not another cliche (though I should admit it’s a tired phrase I’ve just used) but how the things work.

Just think about it referring to your personal experience. Which of the following would you prefer: 

a) a website with a brand new interface and a bunch of appealing features (e.g. AR, voice search, easy checkout, a variety of payment methods, etc.) that takes too much time to load and doesn’t allow you to complete a purchase?

or

b) a website that works great but looks like it has been last updated in the early 2000s – with a confusing UI and no mobile-friendly version?

Neither it is, right? Most likely, you will start looking for an alternative that doesn’t give you a headache. Of course, the situations are a bit exaggerated, but they prove that there’s no other way to compensate for serious shortcomings than to rectify those.

How It All Works In Real Life

Summarizing the years of experience in QA, I can say for sure that the majority of issues come from poor planning. That’s one of the reasons we end up discussing the ‘quality vs trends’ situation. 

It often happens that a client’s expectations do not suit their budget. Sometimes after we provide an estimate, a company decides that testing is too expensive. As a result, they need to cut something, and instead of full testing for the final version, the QA team gets to work with an MVP. In such a situation, we always specify that the QA team would be able to cover only the basic checks. That’s the best we can do, so we need to clarify the risks. 

Naturally, it is better to start testing at the early stages. In this case, a QA team has enough time to run full testing and check the new features properly. Again, the more stable the basic functionality is, the fewer bugs you can expect to see in the reports. 

Back to the deadlines, there is one more problem QA teams face way too often. Clients come with urgent requests for performance testing right before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Christmas, etc. And as a rule, we need to run performance for much higher traffic than usual. Why does it happen? It’s still (not so) good old issues with time management and project management. Companies remember about trends – Black Friday sales, but often forget to plan well and enough time for preparation. 

Honestly speaking, I am not against working under such circumstances. We all make mistakes that, hopefully, will help us to plan better in the future. Meanwhile, a large number of purchases are at stake. Both m-commerce platform owners and their users have high hopes. We cannot just ignore this fact.

Finally, there is a thing I wouldn’t recommend doing (ever!): launching a marketing campaign or promo before testing the functionality being promoted. Seriously, don’t do it. 

Bottom Line: How to Manage

An ideal solution is to test early, test often, and implement complex trendy features when an m-commerce platform is already stable. But ideal formulas would work just fine in a perfect world, and that’s not the one where we are living. There’s a high probability you are dealing with tight deadlines, so what should your team prioritize? 

Obviously, a suggestion to do planning more carefully is not helpful at this stage. Nevertheless, the best idea is still to get the most of ‘trend + quality.’ At least, run some functional and performance testing for the new feature and run regression tests for the business-critical functionality. The primer will allow you to make sure that you are releasing stable working features. The latter verifies that the updates haven’t affected the rest of the functionality unexpectedly. 

Sources: 

[1] Mobile retail commerce sales as percentage of retail e-commerce sales worldwide from 2016 to 2021.

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