Attitudes to buying fakes on online marketplaces: Part 2 – addressing the issue

Ed Seaford

Last week, we looked at the changing face of retail and the explosion of counterfeit products online. Today, we take a look at how the industry is trying to counter the problem.

Changing attitudes to counterfeits

Inter-generational change shows that we now have a more relaxed attitude to buying counterfeits over genuine products; it’s a huge problem for the brand owners and retailers that fall victim as a result.

The proliferation of fakes on consumer and wholesale and retail marketplaces means that there are plenty of counterfeit products for consumers to choose from.

How do we address the problem and why are some brands more successful than others?

It may appear easier said than done, but one of the ways to stop consumers buying counterfeits on online marketplaces is (simply) to limit their access to them. Brands that implement robust online anti-counterfeit programs experience impressive downward trends in terms of volumes of counterfeits.

Some IP lawyers and brand managers complain that such marketplace enforcement programs are a bit of a ‘Whac-a-mole’, but that’s a naïve perspective. IP lawyers with limited time are likely only to invest periodic attention to their counterfeit problem; while they might take down a few thousand one month, they may not re-visit the problem until several months later when they’re back to the same level of counterfeits as before.

This can be frustrating, and it can feel like a losing battle − but there is hope. The key elements to success are:

  • Taking a long term view of the problem
  • Being consistent
  • Ensuring that US and Chinese trademarks are in order
  • Partnering with a company that works closely with marketplaces to address the issue

The graph below is an example of a clothing brand that NetNames worked with for a year to reduce the number of counterfeit listings across one specific marketplace. The client had over 9,000 potential counterfeit listings at the start of the program, which represented more than 100,000 counterfeit products. As shown below, the availability of counterfeits was reduced by 91% in 12 months, making a big impact on the counterfeiters. Counterfeit levels have maintained at a low number since.

attitudes 2 marketplaces 2

The problem with doing nothing

The easiest way to make the issue worse is to do nothing. In our experience, counterfeiters are some 95% more likely to target brands with no anti-counterfeit program than those that have one.

Counterfeiters, like a normal business, don’t want disruption to their revenue streams. They target multiple brands and will quickly drop one if it’s causing them too much trouble.

Working with different marketplaces, and through our strong relationships with them, NetNames will often get repeat offenders suspended. This not only addresses the immediate problem, it actually takes their entire store offline, which counterfeiters obviously want to avoid.

We also target the big sellers, or high-value targets, who advertise the most stock, have sold the most stock or who are most prominent on our clients’ brands. We often investigate and cross-reference users across different marketplaces and conduct bulk takedowns that can result in the removal of thousands of listings at a time.

Taking the fight to counterfeiter is not just about taking the fakes down, it’s also about letting them know that our clients’ brands are not going to idly sit back whilst these criminals benefit from their goodwill.

In summary

If brands are to counter consumer attitudes to buying fakes over the real thing, they need to limit their access to counterfeits. They can achieve this by implementing robust and consistent brand protection programs that target fakes on online marketplaces and also the big sellers who move the most products.

This is a war brands can win; they just need to get started, be consistent and engage a strong partner in this area.