E-commerce firms need to be wary of bots. Source: Shutterstock

E-commerce firms need to be wary of bots. Source: Shutterstock

Bot attacks are a menace to e-commerce companies everywhere

BOT ATTACKS are taking businesses by storm, but in the e-commerce industry, they’re causing nightmares.

E-commerce companies big and small find themselves increasingly defending against bots — and the fight is about to get much tougher as bots grow in number, get smarter, and become more sophisticated and nuanced.

To better understand the problem, Tech Wire Asia spoke to Radware Director of Security Solutions David Hobbs who said that bots attacks are growing increasingly complex and are becoming a major concern for e-commerce companies.

Hobbs primarily serves customers in the US but was in Australia recently at the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit 2019 and pointed out that although the concern around bots attacks is shared across industries such as healthcare and financial services, they’re definitely a menace to e-commerce businesses.

An interesting fact that Hobbs shared was that bot attacks aren’t just used by hackers — they’re also used by unscrupulous competitors to gain an edge in an increasingly challenging landscape, with thinning margins and dwindling traffic.

Here are three of the most common bot attacks e-commerce companies deal with:

# 1 | Gift-card fraud

“Bots can create fake accounts, create new users, and continually apply gift card codes until they get one right.”

Companies such as Walmart, Target, and Best Buy recently made changes to their gift card programs in a bid to thwart attempts by bots to defraud the stores.

The companies also provided training to employees around spotting scans and warning potential victims, according to Reuters.

# 2 | Price scraping and inventory abuse

Competitors often use bots for two purposes — to scrape pricing data and collect intelligence (including keywords and other data) on other e-commerce sites in a bid to bolster their own prices and appear more competitive.

Although price scraping sounds like a bad thing, it doesn’t affect e-commerce companies as badly as inventory abuse where bot attacks are set up, especially during promotional seasons, to create fake user accounts, add items to shopping carts, and abandon them just so real users aren’t able to make a purchase.

# 3 | Marketing fraud

While marketing fraud could potentially be run by competitors, it is also often run by hackers looking to gain from pay-per-click advertising and affiliate marketing campaigns.

Bot attacks are used to drive up traffic to sites or attack real users who organically make a purchase but end up earning a commission for bot-powered affiliate players.

Either way, bot attacks can severely affect the marketing budget for e-commerce companies looking to optimize campaigns and attract real shoppers.

While each of these is a challenging issue by itself, Hobbs argues that a robust and well thought out bot management and defense strategy can protect e-commerce companies against all kinds of bot attacks.

In an age where Jack Ma sees e-commerce being disrupted by digital, businesses keen on staying focused on their core business and delighting customers with a great experience must dealing with bots effectively.

Failing to do so might just cause bring down the e-commerce company overall — as existing customers repeatedly see items of choice out of stock and new customers fail to discover the site as bots waste the marketing budget.