Luggage retailer Tumi is getting a bump in sales from solving a problem it didn’t even know it had.
In September, Charlie Cole, global chief e-commerce officer at Tumi parent Samsonite International S.A. and chief digital officer at Tumi, received a “cold call” email from browser security technology vendor Namogoo Technologies Ltd., about unauthorized pop-up and banner ads on Tumi.com. The pop-up ads were displaying non-Tumi luggage for sale at other retailers, Tumi products at lower prices on other retailers’ websites and counterfeit Tumi products for lower prices.
Tumi did not know this was happening, Cole says, and about 12%-13% of traffic to Tumi.com saw these unauthorized ads.
Shoppers who saw these ads have a browser infected with malware and likely don’t know it, says Chemi Katz, co-founder and CEO of Namogoo. A consumer’s browser can become infected with malware after she downloads software from the Internet, he says.
For example, a shopper may download a new browser toolbar, plug-in, free anti-virus software or a PDF viewer from a free software marketplace. Many times, an affiliate ad network is bundled with such software, which is likely why the software is free to consumers, Katz says.
Affiliate networks serve ads for their clients, including online retailers, and receive a commission for driving traffic and sales to their sites. Affiliate networks are not injecting these ads onto Tumi or other retailers’ sites, instead such ads are generated by a malware company that attaches itself to an affiliate network, says Ohad Hagai, vice president of marketing at Namogoo.
“It’s injected/malware companies that use this method to make money and piggyback on e-commerce,” Hagai says. “They are using banner space or create a place for the ads from white space and then populate [the space] with products that usually come from legitimate affiliate networks. Usually, there are many mediators or shell companies between the publisher, affiliate network and the (malware) company.”
The ads are a problem for online retailers because shoppers may click on them and the retailer loses the traffic and potential sale. The ads especially frightened Tumi because they advertised its products for a lower price, Cole says.
As a premium brand online, Tumi is sensitive to how its product is perceived in relation to price, he says. For example, if a pop-up ad showed a Tumi product for $20 less than the price on Tumi.com, even if the product was counterfeit, a consumer perceives that Tumi products on Tumi.com are more expensive, Cole says.
Once Namogoo identified the pop-up ads on Tumi, the retailer verified the problem on its end. The retailer has software that can anonymously record a web browsing experience to see how shoppers navigate the site. In these sessions, Tumi could see the unauthorized ads, Cole says.
Namogoo’s product is a line of code that the retailer places in its content delivery network. When a browser pings the server for the retailer’s web page, the code will evaluate if the browser has malware. If it does, the software blocks the unauthorized ads from displaying. It takes 20-150 milliseconds (less than a second) for the code to identify if a browser is infected, Katz says. The code did not adversely impact Tumi’s site performance, Cole says.
The retailer decided to test the software with an A/B test for 30 days, and the retailer placed the code on its Akamai content delivery network. Tumi found that among the 12%-13% of traffic that had an infected browser, the conversion rate increased 20% once Namogoo blocked the unauthorized ad, Cole says. After implementing the Namogoo service, Tumi.com’s overall conversion rate increased 2.5%, Cole says.
The Namogoo tool also didn’t require Tumi to use a separate interface. If a vendor requires a retailer to use the vendor’s analytics platform to confirm that its tool works, Cole says he is immediately suspicious of the service.
Tumi decided to implement the software and was able to launch it before its holiday code freeze at the end of October, Cole says. It took about two weeks to set up Namogoo and required minimal effort from Tumi, Cole says.
The retailer occasionally conducts A/B tests on the infected traffic to ensure the software is still working, and the percentage of infected traffic and the lift in conversion rate when unauthorized ads are blocked are consistent, he says.
While more revenue is an obvious benefit to blocking unauthorized ads, Cole says brand credibility for Tumi is also an important benefit. While it is harder to measure, Cole emphasizes that not having conflicting prices on its products or advertising sales when its products are not currently on sale helps its brand image.
Namogoo’s tool costs $50,000 a year to a few million dollars per year, depending on a retailer’s web traffic, Katz says. The vendor has about 20 e-commerce clients that represent about 40 brands. Cole decline to specify how much Tumi pays for the Namogoo software.