Both consumers and businesses alike are noticing a concerning truth: the Fake Web is everywhere. Whether it comes in the form of bots commenting on popular Instagram posts, fraudulent credit card activity, or profile takeovers and account hacks, Invalid Traffic (IVT) affects every corner of the internet. In fact, some studies suggest that more than 40% of the internet is made up of bots and fake users. As you can imagine, this issue interferes with virtually all online businesses to a degree, and eCommerce is particularly at risk. But specifically what potential problems should retailers be on the lookout for? Throughout this article we will cover 5 key ways the Fake Web impacts eCommerce sites to help raise awareness within this ever-growing sector.
- Lost Revenue Opportunities
Many online retailers choose to boost awareness and drive purchases through advertising. Each ad campaign is carefully constructed to bring in enough revenue to make the investment worthwhile. However, if bots and fake users click on those advertisements, they end up consuming valuable budget intended for potential customers. In many cases, the business not only loses the Cost Per Click (CPC) value, but also the potential revenue that click could have brought in if it were a valid human user. For example, if the average CPC for a particular ad is $1, and the ROI from new business for each click is $4, that advertiser is not just missing out on the $1 that the bot took away, but also the additional $4 of revenue a valid user would have brought to the business. Recent studies show that eCommerce businesses miss out on $2.34 billion in revenue each year due to these invalid clicks.
Unfortunately, the harm caused by IVT does not stop there. If the advertiser is remarketing using smart campaigns or creating look-a-like audiences from previous campaigns, the threat only grows. If bots and fake users interacted with the original campaign, and future campaigns are built of that audience, retailers could accidentally bring additional bots and fake users to their site. Since bots tend to rapidly click on ads, scan websites, and move around a site very quickly, they can appear to be very engaged. The ads will continue to skew toward these types of users because they are accidentally identified as high-intent customers, when in reality they are harmful and sometimes malicious bots.
- Incorrect Inventory Stocking
Retailers know the art of managing inventory and restocking as necessary. When shoppers show a high level of interest in certain products, it’s important that the eCommerce store is able to provide those products to shoppers in a timely manner in order to establish a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience. However, imagine an online store where almost half of the site visitors are bots and fake users. While they have no intention of paying for products, they appear to show intent by clicking around on the site, adding items to their cart, and sometimes even making a purchase on a fake or expired payment method. This can become majorly problematic for a retail business. They can end up restocking the wrong items, misunderstanding which items are most popular, and wasting valuable resources on fake customers. This also takes those resources away from real valid customers, who may want to purchase an item but can’t because of the amount of IVT present.
- Increased Cart Abandonment
In the eCommerce world, abandoned carts are one of the most common reasons a business loses out on potential revenue from customers. In fact, nearly 70% of all carts end up abandoned. There are many legitimate reasons someone might abandon a shopping cart. Maybe they found a similar item on another website, determined the price was too high, made another more critical purchase instead, or simply changed their mind. However, many times carts are abandoned by bots and fake users, not just by legitimate shoppers who decided not to go through with a purchase. Many malicious scrapers, automation tools, and other harmful bots may add items to a shopping cart in order to gain insights and information that they can later use to hinder success for that business. CHEQ’s eCommerce report found that $5.7 billion is lost each year due to bots abandoning carts. This is a concerning number that can skew information and cause a company to believe they have a bigger cart abandonment issue than they actually do. This can change business goals and objectives, and employees may waste valuable time trying to re-engage bots and fake users inadvertently who abandoned their carts. Since no business wants to draw fake users back to their site, this is a problematic issue.
- Customer Mistrust
Malicious scarpers are some of the biggest perpetrators of behind-the-scenes data scraping that quietly leads to customer mistrust. There are many types of scrapers and crawlers and some are innocuous and not intentionally malicious, although they are still not valid customers. But the most harmful types of scrapers are those that actively seek to undermine your business. Many of these automation tools quickly scan your website looking for a specific piece of information or data. For example, the price of new items on your site, any promotions or coupon codes you are running, the amount of inventory you have present, or the types of products you are offering. They can then use that information to present the same offerings on another website at slightly lower prices, slightly faster shipping rates, or slightly more varying options. In many cases these malicious sites might not even have the products they claim to offer, but they draw your customers in and take advantage of their product interests. If they are duplicating content from your website, this could cause your site to look less legitimate as well. This can sometimes push a business further down on search results pages, diminish your brand legitimacy, and raise questions from even your most loyal customers.
- Skewed Forecasting
In today’s world, nearly every business decision is made based on data. Whether a business decides to hire more employees, expand into a new market, launch a new product line, upgrade their website, or increase inventory – all of these decisions are driven by past data that can be used to predict the future with a certain level of accuracy. But when bots and fake users disrupt a website, all of these decisions are then made based on bad data. Retailers invest heavily in tools that help them understand the state of their business to help mitigate these risks. Business owners need to know if things are going according to plan, if it is a very successful or mediocre quarter, and which of their products have been the most profitable. So it makes sense that analytics tools are critical to this mission. However, even the most advanced Business Intelligence systems often don’t account for bots and fake users and unfortunately don’t know how to identify them.
The growing concern of the Fake Web within the eCommerce sector can be a daunting issue to tackle, and sometimes businesses can feel a level of embarrassment when they discover just how much invalid traffic may be on their site. However, there is no need to feel ashamed because the Fake Web is not an issue that just impacts vulnerable businesses – it impacts everyone. Whether you run a mom-and-pop shop, or one of the world’s most highly visited global websites, there is probably some level of IVT you are encountering. While it is not your fault, you can be the one to help fight against it. Today, Go-to-Market Security is the premier way that retailers are protecting their sites from bots and fake users. By filtering out this harmful traffic, and allowing valid customers to get the attention and resources they deserve, you can put your mind at ease and allow your business to flourish.
Author: Kerry Coppinger | Senior Manager, Brand Marketing @ CHEQ
CHEQ is the go-to-market team’s security suite, trusted by over 12,000 customers worldwide to protect their funnels, sites, and analytics from bots and fake users. Powered by award-winning cybersecurity technology, CHEQ offers the broadest suite of solutions for securing the entire funnel, from paid marketing to on-site conversion, data and analytics.