Night-time online shopping boom puts software under extra pressure

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Bugfinder's technical director Martin Mudge.

A few weeks ago, John Lewis released its second Annual Retail Report. The report was notable in that it documented, for the first time, the fact that over 50% of traffic to johnlewis.com now comes from mobile devices, rather than desktops or laptops.

However, the most interesting detail in the report was not the switch to mobile among John Lewis’s customers, but a new trend that has resulted from it.

This trend is the growing phenomenon of night-time shopping – traffic to johnlewis.com between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. has shot up 31% in the last year.

The increase in nocturnal online purchasing is being put down to the fact that consumers are sitting in bed with their Smartphones and tablets, in a way they wouldn’t with their laptops. Commenting on the traffic data, John Lewis Managing Director Andy Street reflected on the ‘degree to which customers are always on’ and no longer making purchasing decisions solely within daylight hours.

The trend is being backed up in data elsewhere. Recent research by online shopping platform Give As You Live into transaction data has unearthed patterns that chime with John Lewis’s – 30% of Britons shop online between midnight and 4 a.m., with the early hours of Saturday morning being the most popular for night-time purchasing.

Reflecting on the findings, Steff Lewis of Give As You Live asserted that online retailers need to ensure there is ‘enough support for their customers outside the usual 9 to 5 working day’.

With the Christmas shopping season getting underway, out of hours support is something that John Lewis (and many other brands) are likely to be bolstering. In an increasingly competitive ecommerce market, a poor user experience for the growing number of customers choosing to shop while most of us sleep could result in lost sales and a corresponding hit to revenue.

As such, digital agencies developing ecommerce websites and apps for clients also need to consider the risks of their products failing to function for nocturnal shoppers.

A poor online experience can alienate customers at the best of times, but lost sales through buggy software becomes an even bigger threat in the middle of the night – as Lewis remarked, the majority of late night shoppers surveyed were shopping ‘because they couldn’t sleep, meaning that they are less patient and more prone to browsing’. The result of a faulty checkout at 1 a.m. is highly likely to be lost sales, as customers navigate away to other sites to carry on shopping elsewhere.

Finding a flexible software testing partner is a good way for agencies to ensure that their clients’ software releases and updates maximise conversions, thereby retaining those clients’ business.

The fact that night-time shopping has grown out of increased use of mobile devices means that such a partner needs to be able to offer very broad device coverage, in order to ensure that software will function for a majority of customers, regardless of the mobile devices they use to shop online.

At BugFinders, we achieve such coverage by maintaining a worldwide community of thousands of professional software testers. When the agencies we partner with come to us with an ecommerce site to test, we deploy hundreds of testers simultaneously, enabling comprehensive testing to take place across hundreds of unique Smartphones and tablets in a matter of days.

In addition, our innovative approach to software testing ensures effective results. Our testers are paid per bug they find, and compete against one another to find the most valuable bugs. This produces extraordinary thoroughness in finding a piece of software’s most critical defects.

As a result, our partners can go to their clients with software that functions as it should do on a wide variety of mobile devices, eliminating the risk of a disrupted customer experience for impatient night-time shoppers.

With the rise of ‘always on’ shopping, mobile is continuing to change the way consumers shop online, a fact of which brands will be keenly aware. In order to continue to meet clients’ expectations, digital agencies also need to take this change into account.

Martin Mudge is technical director of BugFinders.

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