What Should Retailers Expect from the 2020 Holiday Season?
Published: 12/11/2020

What Should Retailers Expect from the 2020 Holiday Season?

  • Netacea, Agentless Bot Management

4 minutes read

The holiday period is vital for retailers, with trading figures from November to December able to make or break a business’ annual profit margin. But in a year where Covid-19 has turned the retail landscape on its head, what should retailers expect from shopping habits this holiday season?

A recent consumer survey by short term loans company Klarna, revealed that:

  • 56% plan to do more of their holiday shopping online this year
  • 48% are now buying items online that they used to buy in-store, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 24% are planning to shop earlier this year
  • 1/3 are hoping to find deals on Black Friday
  • Over 1/3 plan to spend less than last year

Consumers are all set to spend less in total but shop online more than previous years, making the 2020 holiday season the biggest to date for online retailers.

With sites set to be busier than ever, it’s essential that retailers ensure their sites remain online and customers receive a speedy experience; a delay of one second in page load time will cause a 7% decrease in conversion rates, while 9% of visitors won’t return to a site that has crashed.

In 2020 the winners and losers will be those whose sites stay up and deliver a great experience.

Retailers must look at what’s hiding within the surges of website traffic

As consumers flock to their favorite online stores in their thousands, it creates an ideal opportunity for bad bots to hide their malicious activity amidst the noise.

Bots should play a key part in any retailer’s strategy, and not all bots are bad. In fact, some must be encouraged, including search engine bots and third-party bots responsible for driving customers and generating sales. However, bad bots can skew analytics, harvest data and carry out a multitude of fraudulent activities.

On average, good and bad bot traffic can account for up to 40% of traffic to a retail website, consuming a significant amount of a website’s infrastructure and, if left unchecked, can quickly cause availability issues and your website to slow down.

It’s essential that site owners have visibility and gain control of their bot traffic during busy periods to protect their brand and ensure they maintain a good customer experience.

Why are bots a greater threat to online retail during the holiday season?

There are more good bots

There are expected to be an increased number of deals and discounts available to shoppers throughout the 2020 holiday season vs. previous years, as retailers seek to recover from a tough year. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be critical for many, and major sites will be working 24/7 to update the latest deals and pricing.

Search engine bots will be working in tandem with retailers to index and pre-load bots scraping content and prices, as marketing teams drive digital channels hard.

Expect a rise in competitor bots

It’s not just customers who are keen to understand your pricing. In the rush to offer the best deals, expect competitors to frequently scrape pricing, inventory and delivery data, particularly during the busy Black Friday and Cyber Monday discount period.

Following Black Friday 2019, the CISO at a multi-brand retailer stated:

“During Black Friday our site suffered a major outage, originally our team thought we had been DDoS’d but after asking Netacea to investigate it became clear we were the target of aggressive price scraping.”

There will be a rise in malicious attacks

As customers, competitors, and good bots surge eCommerce sites, standard security checks are often removed or limited to reduce customer friction, and in-house teams are focused on keeping the site online.

This flurry of traffic and decreased security measures make the holiday period an extremely appealing time for attackers to carry out malicious activity while hiding in plain sight.

Bot purchases will increase in 2020

Over the past few months, Netacea has observed an increase in “sneaker”, sniper bot activity. These bots are typically linked to limited-edition sneakers and ticketed events. Operators have also observed sniper bots targeting other goods, primarily the shortages of graphics cards and games consoles that made headline news throughout September and October.

Netacea’s holiday season 2020 bot predictions

  1. With retailers looking for bargains more than ever in 2020, Netacea expects to see an increase in sophisticated and aggressive price scraping around key sales days, as retailers compete to offer the best price.
  2. We expect carding and credential stuffing attacks to continue and they will ramp up in frequency and scale as hackers take advantage of the increase in traffic to hide their activity.
  3. Covid-19 will stretch supply chains and to counter this, we predict that retailers will use limited editions and collaborations to bolster profits. This shift in retailer behavior is likely to result in a rise in product sniping in new industries.

Do you have comprehensive visibility of your website, mobile app and api traffic?

When 40% of your website traffic consists of bots, it’s vital that you can accurately identify bot vs. genuine user activity to limit disruption to your website performance and ensure customers are always prioritized. Get started with Netacea Bot Management and take back control of your website traffic during the 2020 holiday period.

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