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Bot Friday: How Bots and Fake Users Impact Retailers on Black Friday

Black Friday is a big deal. The retail ‘holiday’ now encompasses nearly an entire week and generates revenue numbers equal to the GDP of a small country. For retailers, the holiday season is often a make-or-break quarter, and a good Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday can be key to success.

And while blockbuster deals can still get people out to the brick-and-mortar stores, Black Friday is increasingly an online affair: American consumers spent $8.9 billion online during Black Friday 2021, and $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday and are expected to surpass that in 2022.

But where money goes, cybercriminals typically follow, and cybercriminals and bad actors have found plenty of ways to take advantage of retailers’ investments in Black Friday through various forms of bots, web scrapers, and fraudulent traffic.

Last year, we discovered that bots and fake users made up 35.7% of all online shoppers on Black Friday. Among the forms of fake traffic we uncovered were malicious scrapers and crawlers, sophisticated botnets, fake accounts, click farms, proxy users, and illegitimate users committing eCommerce-related fraud.

As we approach the 2022 holiday shopping season, we’ve decided to analyze how bots and fake users affected eCommerce sites on previous Black Fridays, and used that information alongside current fake traffic rates to uncover the potential financial and operational impacts retailers can expect this coming Black Friday in our new report, How Bots and Fake Users Impact Sales on Black Friday 2022.

To build our report, we analyzed data from 233 million eCommerce site visits originating from all source types (direct, organic, paid), across a 6-month span (January – June 2022) and studied the validity of each site visit. From there, we were able to pull inferences from typical site traffic numbers, consumer spending patterns and media spending in the eCommerce space.

$368M Could be Lost to Fake Clicks on Retail Ads

Bots and fake users frequently click on advertisements they encounter online, either for purposes of ad fraud, to inflate marketing budgets, or simply to scrape a website for competitive users. This can be done on paid search platforms, advertisements on social media networks, and other forms of display and text ads.

The eCommerce industry is certainly not immune to these actions. Based on the standard rates of fraud that are encountered across retailer websites from paid sources, analyzed alongside the volume and frequency of advertising clicks during the holiday season, CHEQ predicts that retailers will lose about $368 million to fraudulent clicks this Black Friday alone.

Get the Full Story in Our New Report

Invalid traffic is a year-round platform, but Black Friday and the holiday shopping season is a period of increased activity among cybercriminals, and retailers should be prepared to deal with ad fraud, skewed metrics, and cart abandonment.

To learn more about fake traffic and how it can affect eCommerce websites this holiday season in the full Black Friday report, available here.