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Comment counts: Why minimising false positive declines is essential with millennial consumers

Retailers are damaging relationships with millennials above any other generation by wrongly rejecting too many of their purchases, writes Andy Freedman of fraud prevention platform Riskified.

Retailers are damaging relationships with millennials above any other generation by wrongly rejecting too many of their purchases, writes Andy Freedman of fraud prevention platform Riskified.

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99% of orders placed by millennial consumers via mobile are legitimate (Image: Shutterstock)

Retailers are often too risk-averse when reviewing millennials’ e-commerce orders for fraud. Research by Javelin Strategy shows over 25% of millennial cardholders had a purchase wrongly rejected due to a merchant’s fear of fraud in 2014.

It’s important for retailers to realise this has serious consequences: a staggering 75% of millennials either reduced or entirely stopped their patronage of a merchant after being falsely declined. And this is a market that despite demographically representing only a quarter of the US population, accounts for over 35% of total retail spend. It’s currently estimated millennials are spending over $200bn per year – and that number is expected to double by 2020.

It’s hard to understate therefore the potential effects that being too conservative when approving millennials’ orders has for retailers. The average value of a purchase from a repeat millennial customer is 1.5x the value of their first purchase, making the loss of repeat business very costly in the short term. Over the long term, the cost of losing the lifetime value of three out of every four falsely declined millennials is very high. Considering that the oldest millennials are just turning 35 years old, every single false decline potentially translates into decades of lost revenues.


Mobile and social win

The good news is that understanding how millennials shop online can help retailers accept more of their orders. For starters, a generation raised with ubiquitous technology is very comfortable using it to shop. Millennials place 50% more of their orders via mobile devices compared to consumers of other generations, and 99% of orders placed by millennial consumers via mobile are legitimate. Further underscoring the comfort millennials’ exhibit with technology is the fact that omnichannel sales channels such as ‘buy online, pickup in store’ are increasingly important to them.

Retailers must also consider the fact that millennials are constantly connected to their network of friends via social media. This can be a blessing for retailers who offer an exceptional customer experience to millennial customers. Riskified’s data shows that millennials are 7x more likely to arrive at a retailer’s site via a Facebook referral compared to non-millennials. Moreover, purchases made by millennial customers that arrived at a retailer’s site via Facebook are nearly 30x less likely to be fraudulent that non-millennials who do the same.

However, this propensity for social interaction cuts both ways. Millennial consumers are also more likely to share a negative shopping experience on social networks, and to believe what they read. Research shows that millennials trust user generated content 50% more than media from other sources. Ultimately, that means that retailers who falsely decline millennial customers may quickly find themselves the target of withering criticism online, leading to negative word of mouth that can hurt both brand reputation and ultimately, sales revenues.


Combatting fraud

The best way to prevent fraud without turning away good customers in the process is to collect as much data as possible and strive to understand who the consumer is behind every purchase. Retailers can enrich the information provided by the customer during checkout with data from online directories, white pages, and social networks.

Analysing the customer’s on-site browsing behavior will provide another layer of valuable information. For example, fraudsters are not likely to read your returns policy or use a promo code during checkout, since they are not actually paying for the purchase. Rather than searching for risk indicators or mismatches between data points, best practice is to take into account all the available data and try to construct a potential “good shopping story” and “fraud attempt story”. Given the information at hand, which interpretation of the data makes more sense?

Ultimately, the key to effectively combatting e-commerce fraud is familiarity with the characteristics of both fraudulent and legitimate shopping behaviour. By paying attention to millennial consumers’ shopping patterns retailers can minimise false positive declines and ensure a smooth shopping experience that will keep millennials coming back – and telling their friends about it – for life.

Andy Freedman is the CMO of Riskified, a fraud-prevention platform that takes on the burden of e-commerce risk management; approving and guaranteeing transactions retailers typically reject. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via

By The Current Daily

The Current Daily is the leading news site at the intersection of fashion, retail and innovation. Heavily embedded in the worlds of technology and sustainability, it tracks new launches around everything from artificial intelligence and augmented reality, to transparency and smart textiles. It keeps you abreast of the latest disruptions dominating the retail industry, and the startups you need to know about behind them.

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