Main content

Upwork discovers it is a victim of customer journey hijacking - finds a cure in Namogoo

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy April 18, 2018
Ever heard of customer journey hijacking? You have now - and it is surprisingly common. But there is a solution.

Customer journey resized
Very occasionally I come across something that is so blindingly obvious it needs almost no explanation but still leaves you with a sense of incredulity. That was the case when I recently spoke with Namogoo, a business founded in 2014, that specializes in preventing brands from experiencing the impact of customer journey hijacking. If, like me, you are not aware of the problem then you should be.

In a nutshell, customer journey hijacking occurs when a person's device is 'hijacked' by a third party, often with the intention of presenting ads from which the hijacker can make money. It is a surprisingly common problem that is not restricted - as you might think - to digital retail. To make matters worse, you probably don't know it's happening.

According to Chemi Katz, CEO and co-founder Namogoo:

We call it digital malware and it usually occurs on between 15-25% of user sessions, regardless of device. Mostly it's visual and might, for instance, show a competitor's ads or an affiliate's ads. The idea is to trick you into doing something different to your original intentions.

It happens most often when you install what you think is free software but which carries additional software designed to hijack the browser. It's not illegal, it's unethical.

The problem isn't with the eCommerce site, it's with the device accessing the site.

Namogoo uses machine learning to anticipate what will happen in user sessions, adjusting its algorithm for known issues up to 1,000 times a day. It continuously protects against zero-day attacks. Namogoo doesn't make any changes to the device, it simply acts to block known hijacking code. Sounds simple - but it's not, and, in one sense, sounds too good to be true. But it is.

Namogoo benefits

Convincing me that this is a problem needing an answer is easy, but I was interested in speaking with Rich Pearson, SVP of Marketing at Upwork, the company at the leading edge of providing freelance gig labor through its marketplace. Pearson is focused on building a trusted brand:

It's really important, as more and more people are investigating how to work this way and to work with remote teams, to provide a trustworthy experience. Particularly as more and more large companies come on board.

We have 28 percent of the Fortune 500 globally hiring on Upwork over the last 12 months. So any type of glitch or issue in their experience and they're gonna bounce pretty quickly. Particularly when they have a kind of tried and true way of working traditionally.

Upwork is expanding very rapidly so when Namogoo approached the company there was an understandable degree of skepticism:

We were skeptical and particularly when Namogoo said that about 20 percent of our visitors may have been impacted. What was cool was the ability to just go in and test this. To actually see what was happening on our site.

In their demo, we saw an ad from our affiliate. Then, we saw a competitor hijacking our login link. That got our attention. We started with a 30 day proof of value pilot to verify the scale of the issue. I think across the company and across the team, there was a high degree of skepticism about how big this problem was.

After a 30 day pilot, we did an AB test and looked really closely at what was happening with the segment that Namogoo was protecting. We were able to meet with the team, and watch daily, and see what they were seeing. The end result was pretty eye-opening from our side. We saw nearly a 50 percent increase in registration conversion on the area that Namogoo was protecting.

One key metric for us is 'first job' post. We saw a 29 percent increase in that. The job post isn't how freelancers make money or how we make money. We make money when the freelancers make money, so we also saw a 25 percent increase in first payment rate. That's a freelancer actually getting paid, at which point we make money.

The rate of hijacking seems remarkably high, a fact that Pearson says is 'almost embarrassing' for a company that is service based and endeavoring to build trust. What is worrisome is that Upwork is not a traditional commerce site but it seems that anywhere there is a login, bad actors can hijack, albeit unbeknownst to the site owner. The good news is that Upwork has solved the problem with Namagoo:

This is money found and helps us in our quest to build trust. That's a no-brainer.

A grey colored placeholder image