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How Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria Impacted eCommerce

posted on: Mon Sep 25 2017

By, Josh Johnston, Manager of AI Science at Kount

Storms In The Data

Kount protects e-commerce transactions from all over the world to help merchants stop fraud while recognizing good customers. Our analysts and artificial intelligence experts pore over hundreds of data points from each transaction to find patterns and optimize algorithms. Due to the nature of business, we are often measuring in dollars and cents. But the data can also tell a human story.

We’ve all seen the photos of the devastation from this year’s hurricanes, and our thoughts are with the displaced and vulnerable. These stories are local, and we were curious how the disruption could be measured by changes in purchases. After all, there’s a person behind each transaction, and Kount’s web and mobile device data collection provides good information on where they are. The scale of the devastation and number of people impacted is remarkable.

Florida Orders

On September 11, Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys while much of the rest of the state was evacuating. Kount saw e-commerce transactions steadily dropping in the days before landfall, hitting bottom on the 11th at 70% below average. This chart shows the total transactions Kount processed from devices in Florida for each day in September so far.

Florida Orders

The reduction in e-commerce activity was more pronounced before the hurricane than after, whether because the damage was less than some forecasts predicted, people anticipated being back home to receive packages, or they needed supplies to repair and replenish. This data is for the entire state, including the north and panhandle, which emphasizes how widespread the impact was. Fortunately, Florida bounced back quickly with normalcy returning to much of the state.

Puerto Rico Orders

Puerto Rico’s damage has been more severe due to its isolation, vulnerable infrastructure, and less robust economy.

Puerto Rico Orders

Hurricane Irma’s impact was more visible for Puerto Rico than for Florida despite only being a glancing blow to the island. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria’s eye crossed Puerto Rico from south to north, knocking out power and most telecommunications.

Maria’s effect is even more clear using a geographic visualization of orders protected by Kount. This animated gif shows where devices placed orders with Kount’s merchants during Sep 20-23 and during the same period a week earlier. Puerto Rico and the island nation of Dominica, which was also pummeled by Maria, go almost completely dark as e-commerce comes to a halt.

Puerto Rico

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in the news a lot these days and the coverage isn’t always positive. But just as Kount uses AI to stop criminals from using stolen identities to commit fraud online, others have already used AI to improve storm forecasting and the future holds promise for faster and more effective disaster response.We encourage you to give to help those affected by the storms, which thanks to the mechanism of e-commerce, you can even do online.

Learn more about Artificial Intelligence in our eBook "Two Heads Are Better Than One".

Artificial Intelligence + Human Insight