How Test Automation can help Retailers save big bucks

how-test-automation-can-help-retailers-save-big-bucks

Does anyone remember Circuit City? It was one of the top U.S. electronics retailers that went out of business in 2009, as it couldn’t address the new-age needs of the customers. It finally succumbed to its inability to respond smartly and skilfully to the growing popularity of online retailers like Amazon.com.

As consumer experience goes through a chain of transformations, the retail sector has to get geared up accordingly to deal with the changes. Traditional retailers and giants like Walmart have spent over a decade and innumerable billons to restructure and revamp their brick-and-mortar businesses to address the needs of the online shopper.

In August 2016, Walmart, world’s largest retailer and a predominant player in the big-box stores category announced its $3.3-billion-dollar deal with Jet, the year-old online bulk retailer. It has been cited as the largest deal ever for an e-commerce player. While the deal got sealed, Walmart management acknowledged that its online strategy was not generating the desired results and they required external technology and expertise.

At the same time, strong online brands like Amazon are taking a reverse route with a view to reinforce ‘Omni-channel’ retailing. Amazon created news when it opened its first physical bookstore in Seattle’s University Village. This practice has been observed across various online brands, who have opened their physical stores. The objective is to provide seamless experience to customers across physical, online, mobile interface. However, this poses additional challenge for retailers.

These are amongst the many challenges that the retail sector is facing in the wake of the evolving consumer demands and preferences. As some industry experts say, Out-of-the-box thinking for enhanced productivity and competitive advantage continues to remain a challenge for the retail sector. This is where technology comes to rescue, and when technology has to play an integral part, it needs to get tested for the desired performance.

Whether it is a brick and mortar outlet or an online ecommerce platform, IT has been enabling retailers to tackle market challenges and attend effectively to consumer demands.

What is the criticality of IT/technology in the Retail sector? In literal terms, technology works for you 24*7, which is not expected from a human.

  • Know your customer: While the customer shops at your store, goes to the billing counter and while the items get scanned at the Point of Sale (PoS), the retailer gets every possible data to know the customer better and predict the possible preferences. Segmentation of such purchase patterns further enables retailers to gauge the inventory flow that helps to order the required stocks and avoid any out of stock situation.
  • Planned approach: With the right technology platform in place, retailers get equipped with well-analysed information for enabling the business. This further helps get the right results within timelines. Leveraging the right Technology platform helps manage activities and strategize effectively across offline (physical stores) and online stores.
  • Omni-channel approach: Whether the customer is shopping online or offline, technology platforms help retailers to offer consistent and seamless experience. It further helps manage and control activities from a single dedicated space, which not only provides ease of business, but also turns out to be cost-effective.
  • Seamless customer experience: Ecommerce is rapidly evolving and posing innumerable challenges for the long established retail brands. One of the key factors that e-commerce players are able to offer is flawless and personalized online shopping experience. Online shopping portals are increasingly getting interactive and responsive to the customer needs – right from offering impressive options, ordering, immediate cancellations/exchange, and much more.

That’s why they say, online retail is here to transform, but IT/technology is its biggest Enabler.

Some of the key reasons why some retail biggies fail is that they are unable to harness the technology effectively. What works best is to on-board the required technical, implementation, and test automation expertise to make the technology platform work for you!

The digitally connected universe and the mobile-enabled consumer is changing the shape of the retail industry. The retail industry is exceptionally challenged with high operational overhead and lower profit margins. The overheads comprise, maintaining a chain of retail stores, where the profits expected could be absolutely miniscule. At the same time, IT systems are expected to provide the same levels of quality as across any other industry.

Considering some peculiar challenges that the retail domain has been facing, it demands a much more mature software Testing approach. A strong and seasoned testing partner can build an efficient Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) process that accelerates software development and build comprehensive testing strategy.

Some key testing challenges that the retail sector needs to address are:

  • Testing of legacy systems: What customer needs is a one-stop shop, where the retailer is big or small, it has to store massive loads of merchandise. Large retailers work with IT systems designed almost 20-30 years back, endlessly releasing software. This makes testing complex and test coverage not so effective. This requires end-to-end testing process to effectively test all applications.
  • Managing promotions: While the retailers promote various promotional coupons or activities, it is imperative to offer them online and manage the activities seamlessly across online and offline platforms, where the required IT applications need to get aligned and functional across multiple retails channels. If there is a delay or an error in configuring and testing the applications, it can adversely impact time-to-market. This requires continuous testing for efficient performance and desired outcome across platforms.
  • Online security & Mobile POS Security: There is an increasing need to establish secure presence across the online platforms. This requires secure software development practices and testing practices that create a security testing framework and tools to make the web/mobile interface secure for the customers.

Moreover, the increasing number of POS applications, POS credit card enabled mobile apps, credit card reader devices, and NFC technology, demand thorough security checks for the core infrastructure. There is an additional need to conduct 24*7 application testing across all retail POS applications.

Independent software testing with effective implementation of Test Automation Center of Excellence (CoE) is the need of hour.

Considering there is a constant need to conduct tests across technology platforms and devices, automating tests for effective and consistent results is a much needed approach. The marketplace is flooded with licensed as well Open-Source test automation tools to accelerate time-to-market and ensure quality with cost-effectiveness. In addition, automating the tests further helps ensure performance of the applications that are expected to give recurring results across stores, e-portals, etc.

One of the leading home furnishing and décor retailers in US teamed up with Gallop’s Test Automation experts to reduce their overall testing efforts with improved quality to deliver enhanced customer experience. The retailer needed a mechanism to establish best QA practices to ensure superior experience for its end customers and most importantly sustain in the rapidly evolving retail scenario.

Gallop leveraged the right combination of tools, best practices, and test methodologies to meet business objectives of the client. Our reusable solution assets further helped to cut the engagement costs over a period of time. The client was able to reduce the testing budgets by 30% by leveraging Gallop’s Retail CoE expertise. Gallop takes precedence in providing Test Automation services and has built a dedicated Automation Center of Excellence (ACoE) that is backed by a decade of experience in executing test automation engagements for global clients.

At Gallop, we have been working with leading enterprises in North America and have served Fortune 500 enterprises & ISVs. Enterprises operating across industries have being leveraging Gallop’s Advisory and IP-led Independent Software testing services to gain higher ROI from their Quality Assurance initiatives.

Connect with us for a comprehensive Test Automation strategy that empowers you to not only reach faster to market, but also sustain profitably in the immensely demanding Retail sector

The opinions expressed in this blog are author's and don't necessarily represent Gallop's positions, strategies or opinions.

A Practical Approach to Establishing a Testing Center of Excellence(TCoE)

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Every organisation across the globe wishes to have a team that nurtures an environment of innovation, thereby helping it to thrive in the market and beat the competition. However, while earlier managing business processes and QA used to be on a per project basis, today, these have become a process of continuous planning, integration, and management. This has led to the development of an organizational model based on testing center of excellence (TCoE).

A TCoE is made up of testing processes, people, tools operating as a shared services function in order to provide testing services with optimal benefits across the test organization. TCoEs can accrue many benefits to an organization in terms of improved quality, lesser time to market and lower cost of ownership.

As per the World Quality Report 2015-16, “The increasing interest in agile and DevOps principles is reflected in the preference for a decentralized Testing Center of Excellence (TCOE) model for improved agility and efficiency. A total of 64% see decentralization as a fundamental element of their TCOE plans, bringing the cost savings of globally distributed delivery models. “

This pretty much confirms the popularity of, and re-establishes the need for establishing a TCoE for organizations that want comprehensive and in-depth validation of their processes and systems. A well-integrated TCoE also helps reduce redundancies, supports risk mitigation, and also control IT-related expenses.

So, how do we implement TCoE?

As per Forrester, “IT organizations looking to improve their testing practices often opt to centralize some or all test-related activities in a Testing Center of Excellence (COE).”

This brings us to the question – what is the most practical approach for establishing a TCoE? Some steps to follow are listed below:

  1. Get an approval and agreement from all stake holders of the organization stating the need to establish a TCoE, and ensure that the multiple teams have clarity regarding the changes that will result due to implementation of TCoE.
  2. Analyze the current business processes, gauge the improvements that need to be made, and define clear processes and templates for the SDLC and STLC workflows that need to be implemented to bring about the required changes. Additionally, also reach a consensus regarding the intervals at which checks will be conducted to see if the processes are being followed.
  3. Identify what needs to be tested across the board quickly, and share observations and metrics that help add required value.
  4. Implement required best practices using well researched and scenario-specific tools that will speed up the process and help teams focus on other important activities.
  5. Keep working on the improvements so as to generate better ROI and establish an atmosphere of quality across the board.

Best practices from around the industry

A TCoE, setup correctly, can help cross-functional teams collaborate together, reduce redundancies and streamline diverse testing processes, accelerating the software testing life cycle.

A well-integrated, holistic TCoE approach helps testing organizations achieve the desired growth and excellence. A proper TCoE framework, while applying quality management principles, must take into consideration all the aspects of a test organization, be it processes, tools, services, or people.

Some specific tasks that lead to a TCoE environment include conducting regular leadership meetings, allocating proper budgets, monitoring the effectiveness of processes, benchmarking performance of test organization for optimum ROIs, providing customized frameworks for enhancing productivity, and providing all types of testing functions spanning all business units.

A thorough assessment of the client organizations testing process helps define and implement modifications that result in quality improvements and improved ROI.

A few business benefits of working in a TCoE environment are:

  • Improved job satisfaction levels
  • Reduced project timelines with lesser delays
  • Reduced technology risk, and plans for the mitigation
  • More time to focus on important activities that add more value
  • Visibly significant savings in terms of annual expenses, at times to the tune of millions of dollars

Gallop’s TCoE framework consists of elements such as Executive Commitments, Quality Management, Drivers, a Jumpstart Kit, and a comprehensive package of Core Testing Services. These elements when integrated together help implement a full-fledged TCoE environment for your organization. Contact us today to discuss about implementing TCoE for your organization..

The opinions expressed in this blog are author's and don't necessarily represent Gallop's positions, strategies or opinions.