5 Reasons Injected Ads Should Keep Chief Digital Officers Up at Night
- Tirtza Giles
- November 25, 2019
- 8 min read
Customer experience. Customer journey. Personalization. Retention. Revenue. Data.
As much as the role of the chief digital officer can vary from company to company, there are certain themes that are virtually universal within this position across organizations. While the details may vary, CDOs combine expertise in dealing with customers, digital solutions, and business objectives.
Those areas of focus make Customer Journey Hijacking (CJH) a matter of particular concern for CDOs. That’s because CJH uses digital technology to steal customers away from eCommerce websites – posing a serious obstacle to CDOs’ efforts to achieve their business goals.
CJH occurs when unauthorized ads are injected into consumers’ browsers as those consumers shop on eCommerce websites. These injected ads are typically designed to look like they are part of the online store the user is visiting. They are usually displayed by malware running discreetly on the end user’s device, although in some cases they are injected via WiFI hijacking instead.
While CJH makes success more difficult for eCommerce professionals across the board, in many organizations the goal of overcoming this hurdle falls under the CDO’s responsibilities – and with good reason. Specifically, here are five reasons CDOs should be worried about Customer Journey Hijacking:
1. CJH is about revenue.
The goal of CJH is to help unscrupulous affiliate marketers make as much money as possible, and ultimately the damage it does to retailers is all about their bottom line. The most obvious way this damage occurs is when shoppers are diverted from one eCommerce website to a competing site.
How frequently does this occur? According to data that we at Namogoo have gathered and analyzed, between 60% and 65% of injected ads are designed to show shoppers visiting a given online store similar products sold by a competing store. And in a survey of more than 1,300 online shoppers that we conducted, 58.34% of respondents said that if they were searching for a specific product on an eCommerce website when a pop-up appeared promoting the same product at a lower price in a competing store, they would be either “likely” or “very likely” to click that pop-up. Furthermore, 79.63% said that if they ended up buying from the second store in this scenario, that second store is the one they would be more likely to visit the next time they wanted a similar product.
Of course, stealing customers away in the short term isn’t the only way CJH can hurt a company’s sales revenue. That brings us to a second reason CJH should keep CDOs up at night.
2. It’s also about the customer experience.
While CDOs and the companies they serve have good reason to worry about the fact that most injected ads are designed to lead their customers straight into the arms of their competitors, it’s the ads that don’t promote competing products that may be the most troubling in terms of customer experience.
While blocking injected ads for retailers, we at Namogoo have found that:
- 10% of injected ads promote adult content.
- 15% to 20% promote online gambling or gaming.
- 5% to 10% mimic legitimate alerts (such as error messages) to trick shoppers into clicking.
Given the value that many CDOs place on building lasting customer relationships and a strong brand reputation, the realization that many shoppers could associate an online retailer with unsavory content should be particularly troubling.
Moreover, we have found that online shoppers are overwhelmingly unaware of the problem of CJH, and it threatens to do real damage to their perception of online retailers. In our survey of online shoppers, only 3.23% said that if they were visiting an online store when a pop-up promoting products from other stores appeared, that would indicate that the user has a bug on their own digital device. Meanwhile, 77.79% of respondents said that if they were visiting a retailer’s website when they saw pop-ups, banners, and ads from other sites, that would be either “likely” or “very likely” to negatively impact their perception of the retailer.
3. Not all customers are equal.
When CDOs consider the idea of customer lifetime value, the scope of the threat of Customer Journey Hijacking becomes clearer. While injected ads appear during 15% to 25% of all online shopping sessions, these ads disproportionately affect the most promising prospective customers. That’s because the most active online shoppers are the ones who are most likely to download free software that will discreetly install ad-injecting malware on their computer or other digital device.
How much more frequently does CJH target big online shoppers than other consumers? The difference is so great that we at Namogoo have found that shoppers who are exposed to injected ads actually convert at a higher rate than those whose devices do not have ad-injecting malware. Of course, once we block these “infected” users from viewing injected ads, their conversion rates rise even further.
Ultimately, the “infected” users we block from viewing injected ads have a conversion rate more than double that of “clean” users whose devices are not running ad-injecting malware in the first place.
The upshot for CDOs? The customers you should be most focused on – the ones with the greatest sales potential – are precisely the ones who are most likely to be exposed to injected ads.
4. You’re investing in the customer journey.
How much time, money, and planning does your company spend to get a customer to the point of opening their wallet to make a purchase?
When Customer Journey Hijacking steals away a shopper who is already at the very bottom of the funnel – a customer who is ready and willing to spend their money – that entire investment may well be lost as far as your company is concerned. Worse yet, your investment may actually result in the consumer making a purchase from a competitor instead.
The numbers show that the end of the customer journey is the place where injected ads are most likely to show up. Although these unauthorized ads “only” appear in 15% to 25% of all shopping sessions, they appear during 28.99% of visits to checkout pages and a whopping 40.43% of visits to order confirmation pages.
In other words, the closer you get to closing a sale, the greater the chance that the shopper will be targeted by injected ads designed to disrupt that sale.
5. CJH is on mobile too.
Like many CDOs, ad injectors realize the potential of mobile commerce. Although Customer Journey Hijacking is most prevalent on desktop or laptop computers, it also affects a significant portion of retailers’ mobile traffic.
According to data that we gathered from the retailers we work with, Q3 of this year saw ad injections affect 17.18% of mobile shopping sessions in Europe and 13.99% of mobile shopping sessions in the U.S. During the same period, ad injections affected 19.23% of desktop shopping sessions in Europe and 20.99% in the U.S.
How big of a problem is CJH on mobile devices?
On the one hand, more eCommerce purchases are made from computers than from smartphones – seeming to suggest that CJH could do more damage to desktop commerce than to mobile commerce. According to Statista, only 28.2% of eCommerce spending in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2019 came from mobile devices.
But on the other hand, mobile devices carry a larger portion of total eCommerce traffic than desktop and laptop computers do. During last year’s holiday shopping season (November 22 through December 24, 2018), we found that mobile devices accounted for 65.19% of eCommerce traffic in the U.S. and 71.56% of eCommerce traffic in Europe – even though mobile only accounted for 34.39% of online sales in the U.S. and 30.52% of online sales in Europe during the same period.
The bottom line: Before a customer uses their computer to buy a product from you, there’s a good chance they will research that product on their smartphone. If that smartphone is infected with ad-injecting malware that promotes a competitor’s products, you risk losing that purchase to the competitor as a result of Customer Journey Hijacking.
What can CDOs do about Customer Journey Hijacking?
Because CJH is a client-side phenomenon, it is largely hidden from retailers. It is also largely immune to retailers’ conventional cybersecurity measures, since these companies have no way to prevent their customers’ digital devices from getting infected with ad-injecting malware or falling victim to WiFi hijacking.
However, today it is possible for retailers to block injected ads in real time using AI-powered technology such as Namogoo’s Customer Hijacking Prevention (CHP) solution. By blocking CJH with Namogoo, a variety of retailers have seen their overall online conversion rates increase by between 2% and 5%. As a result, they have boosted their revenue per visitor by between 5% and 7%, reducing the revenue lost to CJH by 90%.
All told, by using our CHP solution, these companies have earned more than $650 million in sales revenue that would have otherwise slipped away.
If you’re a CDO, those are the kinds of numbers that could help you sleep at night.
How much does your company stand to gain by blocking injected ads? To evaluate the scope of your CJH problem, you can get a free website analysis today.