eCommerce Bots Shook Up Holiday Shopping

Brittany Blackman
Dec 22, 2022

The rapid growth of eCommerce is both impressive and alarming. The more eCommerce explodes as new technologies are introduced, the fewer eyes we have on all the activity behind the scenes of our favorite shopping platforms. Technology is shaking things up just in time for the holidays, and this time, it’s bots. 

196.7 million Americans – a new record – shopped online and offline from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. According to the National Retail Federation’s survey of shoppers, 17 million more people joined the shopping festivities compared to 2021. The NRF estimates that roughly 123 million shopped in stores, representing a 17% rise in foot traffic. Foot traffic increase isn’t too remarkable considering the pandemic’s effect on in-store shopping from 2020 to 2021. However, eCommerce is still growing exponentially, with an influx of pesky bots clogging digital traffic. 

Though the growth has been promising for eCommerce’s bottom line, experts are now inferring that some of this impressive growth can be attributed to some digital, non-human helpers. 

Cybersecurity firm CHEQ’s analysis of 1.6 million visits to various retailers’ websites found that a fourth of Black Friday shoppers were likely bots. Furthermore, CHEQ’s study of 765,000 visits on Cyber Monday alone showed that 1 in 5 visits was actually from bot traffic. That is a slight improvement from last year, though: CHEQ estimated 1 in 3 Black Friday shopping visits was fake in 2021.

CHEQ’s research is supported by other firms’ analyses of eCommerce traffic. A September report from Okta found that 23% of promotional signup attempts were fraudulent — up from 15% last year. Many of these fake signups were for rewards programs. Okta also saw an increase in bot traffic during the week of Thanksgiving, especially for retail, food and beverage, and financial services categories.

The issue is that bot traffic cuts into actual revenue and wholly falsifies crucial data points like clickthrough rates, inventory, time spent on site, and which items people really want to buy. This affects future marketing strategies, retention plans, and other analytical factors. 

For the holiday shopping season, Adobe Digital Insights expects consumers to spend $210 billion, just past the $205 billion spent during the 2021 season and the $188 billion spent during the 2020 holidays. With the steady year-over-year increase in eCommerce spending, it’s safe to say that unless widespread preventative measures are taken, the bots will continue to tamper with precious data – and money. 

More From SUMO Heavy:

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Robot Illustration by John Suder [Midjourney V4]

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