By Kerry Coppinger, Senior Manager, Brand Marketing, at CHEQ
During the 2023 holiday season, consumers poured $222.1 billion into online shopping, providing a boost to ecommerce retailers amid economic uncertainties. However, this upswing also attracted unwanted attention: a surge in bots and fake users.
A recent analysis of around 400 million website visits revealed a startling fact: 22% of retail website traffic was fake. This is a significant leap from the 9.2% seen in 2022, highlighting a growing threat from bad actors in the ecommerce sector. Let’s examine the most common threats to retail businesses:
Cart Stuffing & Denial of Inventory:
- Cart stuffing is a deceptive tactic where bots add numerous items to shopping carts without intention of purchasing. This is typically done by malicious users and competitors who want to create an illusion of product scarcity and drive shoppers elsewhere. This can lead to inflated demand forecasts and a frustrating shopping experience when genuine users are denied inventory.
Brute-Force Bot Attacks:
- While bot-driven traffic can temporarily boost website visits, it often results in a decline in conversion rates. Understanding the difference between genuine and bot-generated interactions maintains the integrity of analytics and significantly reduces misguided decision making.
Price & Data Scraping:
- As other retailers look to stay competitive and drive the highest possible revenue for their business, they sometimes look toward harmful tactics like deploying scrapers and crawlers on sites similar to theirs. These tools can quickly and easily scrape pricing, product information, and inventory details – undermining and effectively stealing business from the competition.
What Can Retailers Do in 2024?
We’ve reviewed the most pressing issues caused by the rise in fake traffic, now let’s talk solutions. Malicious activity is on the rise in the retail space, with up to 40% of direct traffic being fake versus 18% in 2022. As these threats become more sophisticated, leaders can take a proactive approach in protecting their business and brand.
Implement Advanced Bot Detection:
- Leveraging bot detection can help retailers to identify and block malicious bots. Sophisticated machine learning and AI algorithms can distinguish between genuine user interactions and automated, malicious activities. By monitoring user behaviour, retailers can detect anomalies indicative of bot-driven activities, such as rapid, repetitive actions or deviations from typical browsing patterns. By accurately identifying and blocking malicious bots before they can wreak havoc, retailers can safeguard their platforms and preserve the integrity of their online ecosystem.
Enhance Inventory Management Systems:
- Strengthen inventory management systems to resist denial of inventory attacks. Real-time monitoring and analytics can help retailers detect unusual spikes in demand and respond swiftly to mitigate potential damage. With real-time monitoring and analytics, retailers can gain actionable insights into inventory levels, demand fluctuations, and purchasing patterns. This proactive approach enables them to detect unusual spikes in demand or suspicious inventory discrepancies promptly.
Optimize Analytics for Accuracy:
- Regularly audit and optimise web and business analytics tools to ensure the accuracy of data. Implement measures to filter out bot-generated traffic and obtain a better understanding of user behaviour. This process involves meticulously scrutinising data collection methods, validation processes, and reporting mechanisms to ensure the integrity and reliability of the insights derived. Implementing measures to filter out bot-generated traffic is paramount to obtain a clear and accurate understanding of genuine user behaviour.
Educate Staff and Customers:
- Stay vigilant by regularly updating and enhancing security protocols. Raise awareness among staff and customers about the potential threats posed by fake users. By building trust and transparency, retailers can cultivate a loyal customer base that actively contributes to the collective effort against the proliferation of fake users on the internet. Educated employees and informed customers are valuable allies in the fight against the Fake Web.
The rise in fake users presents a formidable challenge for retail leaders. By understanding the various threats, implementing advanced cybersecurity measures, and optimising operations, retailers can protect their platforms and foster a secure online shopping environment for loyal customers.
As retailers navigate the ever-evolving landscape of online commerce, it’s crucial to recognise that combating fake traffic requires a multi-faceted approach. Fostering a culture of security awareness and resilience can fortify a retailer’s defences against malicious actors.
Furthermore, retailers can leverage data analytics to gain insights into patterns of fraudulent activity and adjust their security measures accordingly. By monitoring key metrics such as website traffic, conversion rates, and inventory levels, retailers can detect anomalies that may indicate the presence of bots or fake users.
In addition to proactive monitoring, retailers should also have robust incident response plans in place to swiftly address security breaches if they occur. This includes protocols for isolating compromised systems, investigating the source of the attack, and implementing remediation measures to prevent future incidents.
Collaboration is another critical aspect of combating fake traffic in ecommerce. By sharing information and best practices with industry peers and cybersecurity experts, retailers can stay ahead of emerging threats and strengthen their collective defences.
While various strategies can help combat these threats, it’s valuable to partner with cybersecurity experts like CHEQ, who have a proven track record in mitigating risks associated with bots and fake users in the ecommerce space. Ultimately, the fight against fake traffic requires a combination of technology, education, and collaboration. By taking a proactive and multi-dimensional approach to cybersecurity, retailers can safeguard their online platforms and preserve the trust of their customers in an increasingly digital world.