Lessons on testing (and not testing) ecommerce stores

Lessons on testing (and not testing) ecommerce stores

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You’re ready for the big ecommerce store launch. Everything’s set up and raring to go. Just the final formality of firing the Shopify link over to a few test customers to take a look. Then sit back, put your feet up, and wait for the test transactions and kind words to start rolling in…

But they don't. Instead, panic sets in as you find out that your carefully created store doesn't work.

I’d love to tell you this is a dramatisation to warn you of the perils of not testing your store properly. Unfortunately, the story, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are very much non-fictitious.

In fact, it’s me. Yes, I'm the one who was completely and utterly humbled to realise I hadn’t tested my store properly.

When the correspondence arrived from my test customers, it wasn’t to congratulate me on a nice store or a seamless shopping experience. It was to tell me they hadn’t been able to place an order.

I scrambled to comb through my store, shipping, and tax settings. Everything looked fine. I checked my inventory levels. Perfect. The warehouses were set up correctly for fulfilment.

So why was a test customer in Sweden unable to buy anything from my store?

Test Markets

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve had ecommerce ventures in the past. In a way, that was my undoing on this occasion. Nothing stays the same forever, not even Shopify settings.

My Swedish test customer sent me some screenshots of their problematic non-purchases. It’s worth saying at this point that I’m using the Locksmith access control app, alongside Shopify discount codes, to vary my inventory based on my customers' country.

I’ve sold internationally before, so I was stumped as to why I was unable to sell in Sweden. Being super-busy with other things at the time, I decided a problem shared is a problem halved. Or, more precisely, a problem solved by Shopify Support is one less problem for me to solve. What else is one to do when your bandwidth is maxed out?

I was greeted by a fantastic associate who walked me through a new feature I’d never heard about — Shopify Markets. It seems you need to turn on the correct markets on new Shopify stores to sell in them. If you don’t, the checkout dropdown option only displays your default market. Crazy, right?

My understanding is that for existing stores, the legacy options remain as default. So if you’ve always sold worldwide, your settings would still be the same.

But if you’re starting a new installation like me, you need to activate all the markets in which you want to sell. You can do this in Settings > Markets.

Did you know about this feature? Have you been caught out? I’d be surprised if I’m the only one. I’m sharing it here in the hope that it might help others to avoid or solve this problem.

But sharing the cause of my problem is secondary to my main point, which is to test, test, test. I was complacent because I thought I knew exactly how Shopify worked. Thorough testing — with people in different regions — would have uncovered this problem before I was at the point of launching.

My ecommerce website testing checklist

This is the bit where you take advice from the guy who couldn’t make a sale to his test customer! Learn from my mistakes and know that I’ve learned my lesson: from now on I’ll be testing even the things I thought I knew. In addition, this Shopify guide is a good starting point to build from.

Don’t assume anything

Just because it worked last time doesn’t necessarily mean it will work this time. You always need to test everything before you go live, even the things you assume should work.

Click every link

Every. Single. Link. The one you don’t click will inevitably be the broken one. If there’s something on your site a potential customer can click, you need to ensure it directs to the right page and isn’t broken.

Check your visual assets

You're vying for people's trust. A low-res image or a video that doesn’t load will kill any momentum in the sales process. Eliminate anything that would make you wonder whether to spend your money or go to a more reputable business. Make a checklist of all your visual assets and work through it methodically to ensure they are up to scratch.

Get migration support

If you’re migrating your store, put the proper support in place to make sure you’re not serving any 404 error links to customers. There’s no point investing your money in a new shop build just to end up with broken links, lower rankings, and slower page speed. Here’s a checklist for migrating to Shopify.

Test your checkout

As I discovered, everything else is pointless if your customer can’t pay. Test every stage of your checkout before launch and continue to keep a keen eye on it. Most platforms have a test payment or bogus payment feature. Use it to go from beginning to end of your checkout process. Go all the way from add to cart to order confirmation so you are sure that everything works. And don’t forget to test this for different regions, browsers, and devices.

It’s worth following the lead of companies like Shopify that have a ‘red day’. The red day is a deadline for checkout modifications ahead of a major event, such as Black Friday, Boxing Day, or launch day.

Test your checkout. Put in place a red day. Stop any further edits to your checkout. Then test again. That should avoid anything breaking on the big day.

Check your policies

Review your policies to make sure everything you tell customers about how you do business remains accurate. Are deliveries now taking a bit longer? Have you had to stop selling in a particular region? Maybe you’ve changed your refund policy. Read through all your policies and ensure you’re willing to stand by what they say.

Do it yourself

All this testing can be painstaking to the point of being painful. But I’d still suggest you do it yourself. You can outsource it, but this is YOUR company and YOUR eyes. Nobody else is going to care about it as much as you do. Your customers will value your attention to detail, which will shine through after a thorough testing process.

Monitor customer behaviour

Once you’re satisfied with how your site operates and you’re confident everything is working correctly, you can monitor any changes. Using apps like LuckyOrange, Hotjar, or FullStory will show you where people are navigating away from your site. This helps to pinpoint where something is broken and gives insights for future improvements.

How do you test your store?

One last time for those at the back: test, test, test. Test links. Test your checkout. Test different regions. Test different devices. Test different browsers. Test everything. And test it yourself before anybody else does.

Lessons on testing (and not testing) ecommerce stores
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