How eCommerce Merchants Can Prevent Promotion and Refund Abuse

Thor Magnussen

Dec 14, 2021

I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the 2021 holiday season, but before I jump right into everything, here is some background on me so you understand where I am coming from:

  • I am a former fraud manager who has been through the holiday strategy & prep process.
  • I am now in sales and listen to prospective clients’ concerns and determine how we can help.
  • I have been working with Accertify’s top retail clients for the past four holiday seasons.
  • I have 3 young kids, 2 of them have made specific lists for Santa (no pressure!).

When is the Peak? Did the Holiday Rush Already Start/Finish? 

Many of our retail clients have been running at or above peak holiday volumes throughout the pandemic. There was some eCommerce normalization after the vaccine rollout, but many consumers still prefer online shopping and buy online/pick up in-store.

In 2021 we have seen major shifts in shopper behavior and my family is a perfect example.

  1. More People Are Shopping Online 

My grandfather is not much of a shopper, nor is he tech-savvy, but he does have an iPhone that he has been using for the past 2 years. During the pandemic, he used the Walmart and Target apps to buy groceries for curbside pickup. This blew my mind! He is a perfect example of the pandemic eCommerce convert because he realizes how easy it is to shop for the things he needs. 

  • More People Are Shopping Early

Remember Christmas in October deals? My wife is almost done with “our” (#DadFail) holiday shopping. We normally start our holiday shopping on Thanksgiving night to look for the next morning’s deals and then finish the majority of it around December 15th.

Fun Fact: In reviewing ‘our’ shopping list, roughly 80% of the gifts my wife purchased were from Accertify clients. 

  • Fewer Discounts and Promotions

You have probably seen fewer discounts and promotions at your favorite retailers. This is because there is no need to provide deep discounts when inventories are as low as they are. Merchants are instead focusing on conserving inventory by preventing promotional abuse (i.e. refer a friend, influencer codes, and “new” account first purchase discount abuse). 

BOTs & Resellers are a parent’s worst enemy. The only thing worse than seeing that the #1 item on your child’s wish list is out of stock is seeing sellers in secondary markets with plenty of stock… but at 3x-5x or even 10x the price. 

No one wants to have to tell their child, “Sorry Timmy, Santa had supply chain issues.” This year more than ever, clients are asking us to help them protect their inventory by creating buy limits on “hot” items and categories.

Accertify Profile Builder

By deploying the Accertify Profile Builder, our retail clients can quickly enforce buy limits on anything from toilet paper (remember that!?) to PlayStation 5s. Even with clients enforcing buy limits, true demand will likely outweigh supply this year on some of those “must-have” gifts.  

The Year of the eGift Card

Another big change this year is that retailers are pushing price matching guarantees to get people to buy early without being concerned about missing out on future deals. 

As people optimistically check if that “hot” item comes back into stock in time for the holiday, many will be looking for a last-minute gift option…. Hello, eGift card! 

Typically, eGift cards are seen as very “risky” so less-advanced fraud solutions may cause merchants to review gift card transactions more often and cause higher reject rates. We recommend that merchants rely more heavily on internal and external community reputational consortium data to ensure faster and higher approvals. 

I see far too often that merchants feel they need to pay for a data validation service and hold-up orders for additional manual review. This can cost you in lost sales and poor customer experience. Always remember…most orders are good! 

The Tracking Info Says Delivered. So, Where is it?

Shipping companies have been and will continue to be slammed with higher package volume and fewer resources. So, mistakes will happen. 

As consumers, we need to exercise patience. As fraud professionals, we need to be ready for MNR (merchandise not received) claims.

Our retail clients expect to see a large increase in MNR refund claims for missing packages this year with the increases in:

  • Legitimate distribution mistakes (wrong address/lost package)
  • Porch pirates
  • Friendly fraud
  • Professional Refund Services

Many of our clients’ call centers are short on resources and are struggling to keep up with increased call volume for refund requests. 

Our award-winning machine learning models and community device data help clients automate their refund request processes so they can provide a seamless experience for good consumers while protecting their businesses from refund abuse. You heard about it if you attended our webinar, I’ve Not Received My Package—Genuine or Fraudulent Refund Claim presented by Stuart Mann and Andy Mortland. If you were not able to attend, you can watch it on-demand.

Promotions and refund abuse are two of the many challenges facing eCommerce merchants this holiday season. However, it is not all doom and gloom. You just need to be prepared and have solutions in place to help you quickly adjust to market conditions so you can protect your business and customer base.

Request a consultation to learn how we can help you control promotion abuse and refund abuse and implement processes that will help you maximize profits during the holiday season.