The Inside Scoop on Scalper Bots

Pandemic-driven supply chain issues, a rise in sneaker culture, marketing tactics... Whatever the reason, item scarcity has become more common online.  Cybercriminals and amateur botters alike have taken advantage of limited inventories to launch scalping attacks against e-commerce sites, using bots to snatch up hot products before real human users can hit "add to cart." They then resell the items at inflated profits on secondary markets.

Though it isn't illegal in most cases, scalping can hurt your e-commerce business. Here's why:

  • Scalper bots prevent real human customers from buying the products they want, so they leave your site disappointed and empty-handed. This leads to a negative brand association and motivates them to take their business to your competitors.
  • Scalper bots don't purchase companion items. You may sell all your PlayStation 5 consoles, but the video games will remain in your store. This lowers overall purchase value and leaves you with companion items that are now harder to sell.
  • Scalper bots tax your bandwidth and consume web resources, raising infrastructure costs.
  • Some scalper bots can scrape inventory off of inventory management systems before they’re even listed on the website, deterring potential customers from even attempting checkout.

Protecting Your Limited-Release Sales

HUMAN has a strong legacy of protecting our customers from scalping bot attacks without adding friction to the buyer journey.

Hibbett Sports

Hibbett Sports, a leading athletic-inspired fashion retailer, is known for offering high demand items such as the latest collectible sneakers. The company was concerned about inventory hoarding and scalping attacks as they brought their business online. The concern was well-placed, since bot activity accounts for up to 95% of traffic to websites and applications during hype sales. The retailer needed a way to prevent bot-driven fraud, without compromising its customer experience.

Hibbett Sports adopted HUMAN Bot Defender to get scalable bot protection, leveraging behavioral analytics, advanced machine learning techniques and predictive models to block sneaker bots during limited-release sales. “We have built a very strong feedback loop with the HUMAN team that allows us to have a tailored proactive approach to protecting our website and our customers from a constantly changing threat landscape,” said Ryan Besterwitch, Senior Director of E-commerce.

Hibbett Sports leverages HUMAN to ensure successful launches of their limited-edition products to real customers and deserving fans. As Ryan put it, “HUMAN has enabled Hibbett to create a fair chance for our loyal customers to acquire limited hot sneakers."

Top Five Global Retailer

Similarly, this top five global retailer and Fortune 50 company was under constant attack from malicious bot traffic and sophisticated operators of botnets. It experienced 20 million bot attempts within the first 30 minutes of a PlayStation 5 launch, a small fraction of what the site encounters on a regular basis.

It took less than a day for the first major attack to occur, carried out by generation-4 bots that mimicked human user behaviors. HUMAN Bot Defender identified the anomalous behaviors, mapped the attack and blocked the bots with over 99.996% accuracy. It’s no surprise that the brand considers Bot Defender to be a core part of its security and e-commerce solution stack.

Say Goodbye to Scalper Bots

Bots are now easier to acquire than ever. Scalpers can choose from a variety of bots, which they can rent, buy, or simply pay a bot holder to snag coveted items. There’s a resale market for the bots themselves, with prices ranging from the hundreds to thousands for the most effective bots. Selling scalper bots is big businesses in its own right.

And nowadays, scalping isn't just a cybercriminal's game. Legitimate customers often have to buy their own bots just to get access to the items they crave (check out this WSJ article if you're skeptical). Those using bots may be brand advocates and loyal customers, so a blanket solution won’t be effective for your business. Instead, a more nuanced response is required to accurately tackle those that are gaming the system on a grander scale.

HUMAN Bot Defender doesn't only block scalper bots, but ensures that real humans have access to the limited-edition products they want. This shift in mindset allows us to prioritize human users, protecting your e-commerce revenue while preserving user experience and brand reputation.