The impact of bots on online retail

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On the face of things, the rise of retail bots could look like a boon for online businesses. After all, any sales made will translate into healthy profits being made. However, in truth the situation is more complex than it may first appear, and makes important reading for anyone keen to use web hosting for their business.

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What are retail bots?

Retail bots are applications that are used in order to find the lowest prices of products and to snap up the goods at the best price if desired. They can even find out which websites are the first to launch sales of the latest must-have item. These applications run day and night, searching thousands of e-commerce websites in order to find the cheapest prices – something that would be impossible for a human to achieve. Depending on their settings, the bots will either alert their user to the website where the requested product is available, or automatically make a purchase. Retail bots are used by individuals who genuinely want to be sure of getting their hands on a popular new product, but are also used by others with unscrupulous intentions, and this is where the problems can arise for businesses.

A tool for touts

Retail bots are being increasingly used by those who want to snap up all the available stock of a new item that they know will be in great demand. These people can then sell the items on at a vastly inflated price. You only need to think back to the scenario making the news in autumn 2020, where the Playstation 5 sold out almost instantly following its launch, only for it to be offered by resellers at double the original price, as seen https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55074383.

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A serious business

Such are the profits to be made that people will go to some considerable lengths to give their bots the advantage. It’s now common for bot users to exchange information about stockists and launch dates in private forums, enabling them to target websites even more effectively. Some users will even choose to find out where the targeted website’s server is located and rent a server for their bot application nearby, just so that they can shave off a precious few milliseconds of latency, and beat their rival bot users to the prize.

Businesses using web hosting providers such as names.co.uk web hosting should be mindful that although bots will make them money through sales if they are targeted, ultimately genuine customers will be disappointed if they cannot buy your products, and may start to shop elsewhere.

The answer then is to investigate new strategies, such as emailing loyal customers to give them the chance to reserve a product ahead of launch dates. Other options include limiting the number of a given product that can be bought by a single purchaser. It’s clear that it’s not a challenge that is going away, so think now about how you can beat the bots for the sake of your future business.

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