It goes without saying that bad bots are rampant in the eCommerce industry. Bots with malicious intent scrape pricing information and other important content (like images, product reviews, product catalogs etc.). Malicious bots, which are created by attackers, not only pollute the website analytics, but also engage in cart abandonment that directly impacts business outcomes.
The Shopping Cart Abandonment Problem
Competitor bots are programmed to add hundreds of products to carts, only to abandon all of them at a later time. Such abandoned carts, which don’t bring any business value, are called phantom carts.
Any eCommerce portal that works on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis happens to be the ideal target for these type of bots, as computers are insanely faster than humans when it comes to clicking.
That being said, let’s dive deep into the effects of phantom carts:
- Product unavailability. During flash sales, “auto-add-to-cart” (originally created for acceptance testing purposes, but highly misused) bots add widely targeted products to carts as soon as the sale opens, thereby lowering the inventory level and making all those products unavailable for genuine users. This will frustrate even the loyal customers and will force them to try the competitor portals.
- Significant reduction in conversion rate. Cart abandonment rate (CAR) indicates the percentage of visitors who added products to their shopping cart but did not complete the checkout process. For instance, if the CAR is 80%, it means that 80 out of every 100 users have not made any purchase. A spike in this metric will cause the business owners to believe that their current pricing and marketing strategy is not working out, so they have to invest more money and effort in order to increase the conversion rate.
- Zero revenue accrued. Genuine users will not be able to purchase as long as bots continue to withhold specific products in the phantom carts they create thus resulting in an imbalance between the conversion rate and the cost of acquiring a customer(paid promotions). In other words, if you invest $4000 on acquiring 100 customers and if the conversion rate is 2%, it means that 98 customers have withdrawn from making a purchase. Will this bring any return on the investment you make to accrue customers through paid promotions? No.
- Reduction in CTR of Ads: The carts that are generated by bots create histories, cookies that mislead advertisers and publishers to show targeted ads on the wrong pages. This leads to much lesser revenues for eCommerce websites due to fake traffic leads.
In early 2016, Nike launched its SNKRS app to curb the usage of sneaker bots that made their stocks sell faster than it’s ideally possible. But this doesn’t stop the attackers from creating more intelligent bots, does it?
Protecting your eCommerce business
eCommerce portals require an intelligent and dynamic bot-prevention solution that can dynamically adapt itself to the widening bot threat landscape and at the same time coexist with your WAF / CDN infrastructure. Conventional bot prevention techniques usually opted have been proven to be ineffective (see why).
The time and money spent on acquiring customers to your eCommerce website should give genuine leads and greater conversion rates, and investing on such a robust bot prevention solution will help stop those pesky bots from hampering the shopping experience of your customers.