How to Outsmart “Grinch Bots” This Holiday Season
How to outsmart grinch bots this holiday season
The Christmas shopping season is almost here and it's going to be insane. Everything from PS5's to nap dresses and sneaker releases are expected to be scooped up by grinch bots that will be taken to the resale market for an insanely inflated price. Retailist recently talked to Niels Henrik Sodemann, co-founder and CEO of Queue-it, who has valuable tips for consumers looking to snag their most wanted items this season before the bots do.

By Niels Henrik Sodemann, Co-Founder & CEO, Queue-it 

Retailist: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Niels. Tell us a bit about your background, how did you first get involved in the commerce space?

Niels: When I started working in software development, I quickly became interested in system and website performance. I was involved in several projects where the clients I advised struggled mightily with online traffic peaks. In 2010, I knew I wanted to join forces with my co-founders, Camilla and Martin, and create our own SaaS company. We looked for an idea with global appeal, something that could scale and was based on this novel technology called cloud computing. As we brainstormed ideas, we noticed the news was filled with negative headlines of one retailer after another crashing during big campaigns like Black Friday. Many retailers were just moving online, and there were a lot of growing pains, especially adapting to handling surges in online demand. That’s when we hit on the idea of a virtual waiting room to help online retailers stay online and provide the user experience their customers deserve.

R: Tell us about the Queue-it brand and your mission.

N: Queue-it’s goal is to let organizations control online traffic and treat their visitors fairly so they can run sales and registrations confidently, no matter the demand. Queue-it helps in high-demand and limited-supply situations—like sneaker releases, Black Friday sales, NFT drops, ticket onsales, or government registrations—that can easily overwhelm websites or apps from even the world’s largest organizations. Queue-it’s mission is to give businesses control to capture sales, deliver a seamless user experience, and protect brand reputation while paving the way for a fairer online world for billions of visitors worldwide. 

R: What are some trends that you are currently seeing in this space?

N: Like everyone in the ecommerce space, we’re seeing our retail customers struggle with inventory challenges. Even larger retailers have been facing issues. Supply shortages mean sales for all sorts of items feel like exclusive sneaker drops and PS5 releases–along with all the challenges those sales entail. Handling surges in traffic, fairly allocating products, and delivering a reliable user experience are all vexing problems to solve well.

We’ve also really seen customer experience come to the fore as a battleground for retailers. When retailers can’t supply goods, they know they need to supply good CX. Customers don’t rank their experiences against industry and sector, they rank it against the best experience they’ve ever received – and this is the new bar brands must aspire towards. The challenging combination of increased online purchases with limited product inventories means more retailers are doubling down on improving their retail websites, the infrastructure behind them, and the experiences they give customers. I expect online retailers to continue making strategic investments in tools that help them offer the digital experiences their customers expect and deserve. 

R: How ‘much’ are retail products marked up? Why is this something that is avoidable for consumers?

N: When it comes to challenges consumers face, the most in-demand items are often being scooped up by grinch bots. This could be anything from sneakers to graphics cards to hot tubs–yes, hot tubs. Nothing is off the table. From there, resellers take those items to the secondary market for an insanely inflated price. We see markups on items reach as much as 500%, which is truly unfair.

Retailers may feel it doesn’t matter who buys the product if it all sells out anyway, but they’re mistaken. In the customer’s eyes, the fault lies with the retailer, not the grinch bot. Scalper bots aren’t valuable lifetime customers–they’re just in it to flip a few specific items. And when they leave, retailers miss critical data on who their real customers are.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to beating bad bots, but a virtual waiting room can play an important role for retailers with a bot problem. Just like an airport security checkpoint screens passengers before they can board their flights, a virtual waiting room acts as a checkpoint between a web page and the purchase path. With an advanced suite of bot and abuse mitigation tools, a virtual waiting room like Queue-it can weed out malicious traffic before they’re allowed to even proceed to the sale page.

R: Why is the upcoming holiday season so unique in comparison to the past few years?

N: I’ve looked at our internal data on nearly one hundred retailers worldwide, and noticed two important trends. First, their holiday season website traffic continues to rise compared even to last year. This tracks with overall increasing ecommerce penetration and permanent shifts in consumer behavior. Second, the 2021 traffic seems elevated over many more days. This means traffic spikes can hit retailers anywhere from early November to mid December. It’s important for businesses to prepare and be able to control their user experience successfully, no matter the demand. 

R: What are some best practices for consumers as we approach 2022?

N: Here are a couple recommendations when you are trying to get the coveted items that you’re looking for. To start, don’t fall into the trap of trying to trick or game systems.They’ve become sophisticated to help combat increasingly sophisticated bots and scripts from people who dedicate their full time and energy to botting. You’ll end up forfeiting the slim chance you did have of getting your hands on a product.

Second, for whatever hyped product you’re after, get as close to the producing or source brand as possible. The main brand that’s selling the item is going to be most interested in having a two-way relationship with its loyal customers and will very often have memberships, fan appreciation activities, or exclusive events for shoppers they know are their advocates. Interact with those offers and establish accounts/records with those brands and you could see yourself rewarded with some exclusive access and higher chances to get those hyped items. 

About the author

Niels Henrik Sodemann has been CEO co-founder of Queue-it since its inception in 2010. Prior to Queue-it, he had a track record of growing software companies from a small team to 100+ employee exit. Before his entry into the IT and website performance fields, Niels was a professional yachtsman, holding several championship titles. In his spare time, Niels is still a sportsman at heart and enjoys yachting, skiing, ice hockey and running.

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