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Spikes in Online Shopping Could Be a Silver Lining for Retail

Blog Post06/08/2020
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Solutions must learn, and evolve, to stay a step ahead of clever fraudsters

It's safe to say that few — if any — industries aren’t feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but retailers may be feeling it the most.

Foot traffic at brick-and-mortar stores has been on a downward trend for years, as more and more consumers turn to online shopping. However, we’re in unprecedented waters right now.

According to estimations by investment firm Cowen and Company, total foot traffic to US retailers was down 97.6% for the week ending March 27, compared to the same time last year. With stay-at-home and shelter-in-place mandates across the country — and people avoiding public places on their own — shopping in retail businesses has ground to a halt.

Retailers are (mostly) well equipped for times like these

At the same time, however, online shopping has seen a dramatic increase. Before the crisis, most Americans (69%) had shopped online at some point, according to a Marist/NPR poll.

But one week after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic on March 11, ecommerce transactions climbed 23%. Since then, more state shelter-in-place mandates have been ordered, so those transactions are likely climbing.

The retail industry, fortunately, has been adapting for years, offering online shopping, free shipping and other options, such as shop online/pick up in store, to feed customers’ desire for digital shopping.

Steps to take for today — and for the future

It is time to do more. Holding onto customers now, and well after we recover, requires retailers to offer an intuitive, seamless shopping experience, that begins the moment you and ideally continues long after the purchase is made. Here are critical steps to help you meet that challenge:  

  • Gain the insight you need — culled from trustworthy sources
  • Don’t sacrifice security, but do ensure that customers can move through the shopping process without disruption
  • Authenticate with a strong, transparent, risk-aware layer of authentication — but don’t make is so stringent that it drives up false positives or requires lengthy manual reviews
  • Enable shoppers to move from one device to another seamlessly to keep them shopping and reduce cart abandonment
  • Make sure you can nurture long-term relationships by keeping track of consumers as they move, change phone numbers and email addresses and experience significant life events

To learn more about how to engage your online shoppers and keep them coming back, download our new eBook “The Best Customer Experience Starts with Data.”

The drastic uptick in online shopping does invite more fraud

While an increase in online shopping is a bit of a bright spot for retailers during this challenging time, it also has a downside: Criminals quickly began taking advantage of the situation.

A TransUnion survey on shopping patterns found that by March 24, 2020, 22% of Americans have already been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19. That comes on the heels of other important findings from a TransUnion report on global ecommerce in 2020, which found a 347% increase in account takeover and 391% rise in shipping fraud attempts globally against online retail customers from 2018 to 2019.

It’s paramount for retailers to take immediate steps to protect their customers’ data without hurting the customer experience. That’s why experts recommend these best practices that will serve you well now and in the future:

  • Identify suspicious behaviors before customers are impacted — so quickly that it doesn’t disrupt the customer experience
  • Offer a secure mobile experience with device-based authentication that ensures hassle-free shopping and helps you instantly identify and block suspicious devices
  • Don’t require customers to set up accounts or ask for data if you aren’t going to use it to help them in some way.
  • Gain the ability to spot unusual shopping behavior from customers’ accounts — and confirm large purchases with them

Read The Ecommerce Consumer Data Bill of Rights to know what customers expect from your business.

Ensure customers can put their trust in you

TransUnion is here to help. To learn how you can bolster your digital marketing strategy, offer customers a seamless online experience and mitigate fraud, visit

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