eCommerce Bots aren’t a new threat in the eCommerce space. However, with more holiday shoppers going digital each year, 2022’s Black Friday brought to light the current battle retailers are fighting. Bots come in many forms with varying levels of sophistication. The threat they pose to retailers and their customers is multifaceted as well. Owners must be aware of what bot schemes exist and take preventative measures to prevent them from causing harm to themselves or their client base.
Potential Dangers of Bot Shoppers for Retailers
One of the most known negative results of bots in retail is their use in reselling items. The resale market has boomed over the past few years. When shoppers opt for used items – that often carries many benefits in terms of individuals saving money and environmental sustainability. However, bots aren’t being used to support a less commercial lifestyle for individuals. Shopper bots are used by resellers to buy out items at face value, preventing individuals from acquiring them and forcing them to opt for purchasing from the reseller at an inflated price point. For the original retailers, selling out of an item via bots vs individual consumers provides the revenue they are after, but at what cost? When consumers are forced to take extra steps and pay more for something they desire than its worth, that carries negative brand perception and can impact their loyalty to the brand over time.
In addition to resellers, sometimes industry competitors rely on bots to negatively impact other industry leaders. Shopper bots buy items, so how is that a malicious effort? It comes down to what those bots are buying. Many producers, especially those new to an industry, operate with a loss leader strategy. They intentionally price certain products lower than their value to appeal to new customers. While the strategy has its pros and cons, many organizations find it valuable in generating lifelong customers. However, shopper bots can target these underpriced products, buying large quantities from organizations simply to negatively impact profitability. If done so at a high volume without the producing company knowing, they can experience severe financial losses.
Cart stuffing is another common tactic used by eCommerce bots. Anyone who has shopped online knows the general process of adding items to a “cart” as they shop and then being able to adjust that cart, add or remove items, and complete their purchase. With many eCommerce platforms, items in a shoppers cart are marked as unavailable to other shoppers until that cart expires – usually within 24 hours. When online shoppers encounter an item that is sold out on a website, they often don’t wait for a restock. Instead, they search for other online retailers that carry the same item. When bots hoard items in shopping carts that will never result in a transaction, they encourage shoppers to purchase elsewhere, impacting a producer’s revenue.
One negative impact bots have on producers occurs without ever reaching their website. Advertising bots target leading producers, specifically their advertising budget. Many ad campaigns function on a pay-per-click structure, so the more often internet users click on an ad, the more it costs to keep that ad running. Sending large numbers of bots in to click non-stop on the ads. Each time it is clicked, a little more is withdrawn from the organization’s set ad budget within the platform. When budgets get low, it results in those ads appearing farther down on a search engine results page and a greater cost of marketing efforts without results.
How to Best Protect Against Malicious Bots
For the most part, bots and their use in eCommerce only benefit those with malicious intentions. So, most organizations want to avoid them wreaking havoc on things like inventory levels or brand loyalty. There are steps organizations can take to protect themselves and their customers from bots impacting the buyer experience.
Bots mostly create accounts or complete transactions using fake or automated email inboxes. Sifting through any customer databases for potential bots regularly is key for keeping marketing budgets in check. No company wants to pay for email marketing efforts to addresses that have no potential to result in a sale. That same attention to detail should be paid when it comes to website traffic and ad spend. While online advertising platforms – most notably GoogleAds – offer companies a huge opportunity to gain brand awareness and attract potential customers, they can be EXPENSIVE if not consistently managed and optimized. Pay close attention to ad clicks and/or website traffic. Knowing a baseline can help identify any suspicious spikes that might indicate a bot presence.
Investing in a partnership with a local team of IT and cybersecurity professionals is the most effective way to prevent eCommerce bots and other cybersecurity threats from impacting your business this holiday season or any time of the year. Especially for organizations without a fully staffed IT department, keeping an organization protected from cyber threats is a difficult task to take on – often near impossible. In cases where in-house IT expertise and resources are plentiful, partnering with an external team of IT experts is the best protection – be that from bots, spyware, or any other threat. The team at Kustura Technologies has remained the IT partner of choice in the Jacksonville and Gainesville areas for over two decades. To hear more about our cutting-edge technologies and proactive approach to cybersecurity and IT, we encourage you to reach out to the team today!