What Online Retailers Can Learn From Amazon's Malvertising Lawsuit

Amazon recently filed a lawsuit against malicious advertisements misrepresenting the company via malvertising, a scheme where hackers use malicious code to override the advertising processes of websites. The malicious activity causes fraudulent ads to pop up on a user’s screen and direct them to other sites or to forms where personal information can be compromised.

Malware-driven advertisements have quickly emerged as a popular means of monetization for fraudsters, and online businesses are taking notice. These ads directly impact the flawless customer experience companies strive to deliver, while also damaging brand equity.

Malvertising in E-Commerce: Online Journey Hijacking
In fact, a new report found that 15% to 25% (up to 30% during peak seasons) of online shoppers encounter unauthorized, malware-driven ads, becoming victims of what’s known as online journey hijacking.

This newly identified phenomenon occurs when a user’s e-commerce experience is interrupted by injected content like product and banner ads, pop-ups and other invasive promotions.



This is a pesky problem for consumers and an even larger one for retailers, as 40% to 70% of the unauthorized ads feature competitor promotions , driving hard-earned website traffic elsewhere to complete an intended purchase.

We analyzed hundreds of millions of website sessions across different verticals to provide insights on where and how brands are affected.

Where is Online Journey Hijacking Most Prevalent?
Online journey hijacking occurs worldwide. Since the injected ads manifest due to digital malware on users’ devices and browsers, there’s not a specific region that exclusively experiences the activity. Wherever there are online shoppers using devices that can be infected with malware, injected ads follow.

For example, in Q1 2018, slightly more desktop users in the U.S. were impacted by injected ads (21.22% ) than in Europe (20.09 %). However, this narrative changed in Q2 2018, as European desktop infection rates reached 22.56%, surpassing the U.S. infection rate of 19.11%.

As retailers consider the impact of injected ads, it’s helpful to understand how many prospective customers are being exposed to them. With so many resources devoted to optimizing the customer experience, it's less than ideal for 20%f site visitors to have the online journey deterred.

Understanding When the Customer Experience is Interrupted
These unwanted promotions show up wherever there is whitespace on a retail website via banner ads and pop-ups — or, in worst-case scenarios, appear in front of a website and cover prime site pages and product displays.

However, bad actors are strategic in maximizing the amount of traffic they can deter from making a purchase through the intended retailer, often waiting until a user has selected a product so that an ad for a competing offering can be displayed. This allows them to tailor the information that the ad shows to increase the chances of winning a shopper over maliciously.

For example, the most popular step in the online journey bad actors choose to target is the product page, as 31.56% of affected users experience malware ads while examining product details. The second most common step where unauthorized ads appear is the checkout page at 27.84%. With the two most pivotal pages that impact conversion rates highly affected, it’s important that retailers know where and when customers are being interrupted, as this could explain why their product pages and checkouts may have higher abandonment rates than usual.

Winning Back Control of The Customer Journey
Retailers must understand all issues that hurt conversion rates, derail the customer experience, or damage brand equity. Hopefully this new lawsuit from Amazon sheds a light on the serious problem that malware-driven advertisements have become – so all online businesses can be fully aware and take action to better control the online journey for their customers.

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