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Are ecommerce retailers prepared for coordinated consumer action?

Artificial Intelligence ecommerce Supply Chain WhatIf

Security breaches are an almost daily occurence, but...

On an almost daily basis we hear about security breaches of ecommerce retailers, social networks and smartphone applications. There are also occasional outbreaks of union backed industrial action in fulfilment warehouses. But, how are ecommerce retailers exposing themselves to coordinated attacks from loosely connected people with a particular issue?

Let us imagine a scenario whereby online fashion retailer A offer free returns and fast standard delivery with a 45 day returns window.

Online fashion retailer A is accused of employing child labour in its supply chain. This cause multiple social media groups to form and the discussions are about how to prevent child labour once and for all.

One of these groups suggest that its followers (now in the region of 100,000 and growing fast) buy from online fashion retailer A, but return everything after 40 days for a full refund.

In addition the groups now start focusing their action on a single category.

  • How would such coordinated action affect online fashion retailer A?

Apart from the obvious shipping and returns costs there would also be a significant inventory shortfall over an extended period of time.

Other effects would incude:

  1. If online fashion retailer A is using AI it is likely to have a huge impact on algorithms suggesting additional items including any other such systems based on consumer date
  2. Re-ordering systems may default to buying more goods based on historical patterns
  3. Online fashion retailer A is likely to sell out of a number of categories for an extended period of time
  4. A's fulfilment warehouse may increase its capacilty based on a full month's worth of trading

No doubt there would be other effects as well.


This blog post represent a potential scenario of what free delivery and returns may lead to considering the ease by which various pressure groups can communicate actions over social networks.

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