One of the most fundamental, and overlooked, steps in a technology implementation is testing. Testing should take place both pre- and post-launch to ensure problems are caught before they reach web site shoppers, says Kristen Montella, vice president of direct marketer Lillian Vernon’s online operations. Lillian Vernon is No. 59 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
“E-retailers need multiple systems environments that mimic production,” Montella told an audience in the e-retailing technology track at this week’s Internet Retailer 2007 Conference & Exhibition in San Jose, CA. “It’s critical to test new implementations before customers see. Not ad-hoc, but a real plan for real testing, not just for new code but for everything,” she added.
Technology build-up phases should work upward from design to development to testing, followed by launch. But post-launch testing is needed to ensure that any unforeseen problems are discovered internally, rather than by customers.
One caveat: Neither customers nor information systems programmers make good testers, Montella noted. Programmers are too close to the project and therefore can’t always see new technology from a practical perspective.
Although customers should not be the guinea pigs for new technology implementations, they still must be accounted for, said Matthew Poepsel, vice president, performance strategies, at Gomez Inc., an online marketing research company.
As online retail architecture becomes increasingly complex, each implementation or code update should reflect the idea that the shopper is the focus, said Poepsel, who joined Montella in the technology session. “The end-user is becoming more removed, sometimes fading from view as retailers look at devices, code, etc. That’s unfortunate because inevitably something will break and then the call center gets very interested in the user perspective.”
Changes to web page presentations and functions are “great as long as you develop appropriate experiences along the way. If the experience is negative and the customer is waiting, you have a problem,” Poepsel said.