Synthetic Testing: The Ultimate Ecommerce Mystery Shopper

By Gav Winter, CEO of RapidSpike

The infamous mystery shopper was once a staple of the high-street – visiting bricks and mortar stores to assess customer experience. But, with such notable shift to online purchasing in recent years, why isn’t the concept considered a priority for internet retailers, too?

A digital ‘mystery shopper’ can provide crucial detail on website availability, performance data and security risks that would otherwise jeopardise revenue or reputation if not dealt with quickly – and this is where synthetic monitoring comes in.

Any website which exists to encourage its users to complete some form of transaction, be it a purchase, the booking of an ‘event’ or the entering of sensitive data, needs to ensure it’s at the very top of its game – and synthetic testing can quickly become the ultimate online mystery shopper.

As an example, stock market analyst Nasdaq previously predicted that 95% of all purchases will be online by 2040. One could argue, however, this has been accelerated by at least a decade because of the pandemic.

It’s therefore time to join the dots and acknowledge the part that website performance plays too.

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How does synthetic monitoring work and why should martech brands care?

Synthetic monitoring, in its most advanced form, uses the power of next-generation website testing technologies to proactively simulate the very varied and arguably unpredictable – almost limitless – behaviour of the internet and a human on a website, so that no stone is left unturned. 

It’s best to think of a website monitoring tool as a hybrid between the security guard, secret shopper, cleaner and keyholder. These specialists would regularly visit the store, and check on the experience, make sure everything is working as it should, that no one has their fingers in any of the tills, and fix anything that goes awry. 

In their place, this savvy digital profile leverages the intuitiveness of multiple automated processes to continually detect potential availability, performance, and security risks that would otherwise jeopardise revenue or reputation if left unaddressed. 

This form of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) continues to work in the background and acts as a ‘robotic private investigator’ for organisations – emulating human interactions and providing vital support. As a result, it’s not the customer telling a business that their website isn’t working correctly, it’s a bot doing so, which won’t impact on brand loyalty.

Should I use a synthetic monitoring tool for my website?

Online, there are an almost infinite number of scenarios where the business function might need help. And with the direct correlation between website speed and conversion now widely acknowledged – with every second saved over three seconds said to boost conversions by 7% – even marginal gains of 0.1% could represent millions of extra revenue or conversions.

Performant websites can also reap significant sustainability savings too. If a digital team mistakenly uploads an image that is 1MB too big, that might not seem bad at all. However, downloaded 1 million times, that’s 1 million megabytes of server, network, and user device time, plus electricity and transport time, which not only costs you and your customers money, but the planet too.

That’s why several industry brands are using automation to secure their business-critical, end-to-end processes and evidence sustainability commitments – by focusing more on the importance of having an intuitive website that is high-performing, reliable, and security-conscious. 

In short, technology that minimises disruptions identifies opportunities and risks before a human raises the issue has the power to make a big difference. 

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Who can use a synthetic monitoring tool?

The marginal gains that proactive monitoring tools can support will ultimately make websites faster, safer, and easier for everyone to use – and both technical and non-technical stakeholders will understand the importance of such metrics.

Given the impact even marginal gains could have on revenue and reputation, it’s important to look for a solution that can turn noisy website performance data into useful, visual, and commercially-focused insight – and will genuinely help to prioritise seemingly competing actions according to a brand’s KPIs.

In a world where every lost second can amount to potentially lost revenue, every gained second has a direct, and positive, impact on revenue. Finance directors, eCommerce managers, web agencies, operational and development teams can each make collective, business-critical decisions based on hard data – when previously their objectives may not have aligned.

Ultimately though, the most important stakeholder is the customer. Therefore, having a complete picture of website health and customer experience is key, alongside being agile enough to remain fast, compliant, secure, relevant, accessible, and engaging – with no opportunities missed.

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