How to Stop the Imposters in Your Online Store

June 13, 2019
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Imagine the following scenario: It’s Black Friday, and your store is bustling. Your 10 cashiers are doing their best to keep up with the pace of customers, but the line at each register keeps growing.

You watch as a customer approaches a cashier with a cart full of merchandise that she wants to buy. But instead of ringing up the sale, the cashier takes a good look at the items in her cart and tells her she can get better deals at the competing store across the street from yours.

Suddenly, you realize the man sitting at the cash register isn’t a cashier at all. He’s an imposter – and so is the “cashier” at the register next to his. While you weren’t watching, these two strangers walked into your store, impersonated your employees, and started redirecting your shoppers to competing stores.

Sound outrageous? In the world of eCommerce that kind of impersonation happens every day – except that usually the store owners don’t notice the impostors. In fact, during the fourth quarter of 2018, unauthorized ads appeared during 22% of all U.S. desktop users’ web sessions.

It happens more frequently during peak shopping periods like the holiday season – at times affecting more than 30% of user sessions. And the numbers show that your best customers are the most likely to be targeted by these saboteurs.

It’s called Customer Journey Hijacking, and here’s how it works:

1. Digital malware is secretly installed on a user’s device. Usually this happens when the user downloads a free computer program, mobile app, or browser extension (such as a PDF viewer or antivirus scanner) without realizing that software is bundled with ad injectors. In other cases, users become infected with malware when connecting over WiFi networks.

2. Once installed on the user’s device, the digital malware tracks their online behavior to build an individual profile of their interests, shopping habits, and other characteristics.

3. When the infected user visits an eCommerce website, the malware uses its profile of the user to display targeted product ads, banners, and pop-ups that are designed to blend in smoothly with the website. The malware can also create in-text redirects, in which a user who clicks a link is automatically (and usually invisibly) redirected to a different URL.

Watch this video to see how unauthorized ads appear to a user browsing an eCommerce site:

It’s not hard to see how this could damage the user experience, but the ultimate goal of the malware is to make money at your company’s expense.

How Does Customer Journey Hijacking Impact Businesses?

If you have an online store, then the most obvious and immediate effect of Customer Journey Hijacking is that it redirects customers away from your website (usually to your direct competitors), leading them to make a purchase elsewhere.

But that’s just the beginning of the problem.

Let’s say that today a customer is about to buy something from your website – but instead, an injected ad offers them a similar product at a lower price from your competitor. Having discovered and taken advantage of a better deal, where is this customer most likely to look the next time they want to make a similar purchase?

In our survey of more than 1,300 online shoppers, 58% of consumers said they would click a pop-up offering the same product at a lower price when browsing an online store. And 80% of the survey’s respondents said that if they ended up buying from a site that had lured them away, that’s exactly where they would return to buy a similar product next time. The upshot: Injected ads can poach your customers for the long term – hurting not just your conversion rate, but your customer lifetime value (CLV).

To make matters worse, when a user sees injected ads while viewing your website, they typically think these ads are coming from you directly. As a result, they can easily be redirected to your competitor without understanding that these ads are illegitimate and have targeted them from within their own browser. And even if the customer realizes the ad is out of place, they’re likely to think the bug is on your website – hurting their perception of your brand.

Namogoo’s survey of online shoppers found that 66% of consumers think that when a retailer’s website displays pop-ups, banners, and product ads from other websites, that’s a sign that the customer’s privacy is being compromised. And only 3% of consumers said that if they are browsing one site when a pop-up ad for a different site appears, the bug causing the problem is on the user’s computer.

How Can You Tell If Customer Journey Hijacking Is Impacting Your Company?

Of course, customers aren’t the only ones falling victim to Customer Journey Hijacking without their knowledge. Typically, the companies that lose business due to injected ads have little or no awareness of the problem.

Since these invasive injections run entirely on the user’s digital device, they stay hidden from the companies whose customers they target. In other words, after all the time and money a company has invested in crafting the ideal customer journey, the company doesn’t even realize that journey is being sabotaged.

The key to stopping these costly disruptions? Detect and block them right through the user’s browser.

To help brands keep imposters out of their online stores, Namogoo takes a data-driven approach to eliminating Customer Journey Hijacking. Using Machine Learning to analyze hundreds of millions of user-side web sessions every week, Namogoo Customer Hijacking Prevention identifies unauthorized injected ads and blocks them in real time during page rendering.

By preventing these invasive promotions from disrupting your customers and taking them to other websites, leading online brands worldwide are improving their conversion rates by between 2% and 5%. All told, this results in between 5% and 7% greater revenue per visitor.

How active are the imposters in your online store? And how much do you stand to gain by keeping them out? Namogoo’s technology allows you to see how many of your customers are impacted. You can view a clear snapshot of Customer Journey Hijacking within your store by getting a free website analysis.

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