Authored by: Kiran Thathal, Brand Protection Analyst | INCOPRO

Black Friday begins the unofficial US shopping season following Thanksgiving – the last major holiday before Christmas.

Many online retailers experience a period of heightened e-commerce sales activity with consumers hunting for bargains both online and on the high street. With new discounted deals promoted each day for the holiday shopping season, longer campaigns and enticing offers are promoted earlier for retailers to buy during a week-long period. Following the popularity of the high street deals, in 2005, a division of the National Retail Federation created the phrase “Cyber Monday” as an idea to provide online retailers with a catchy hook to match the brick-and-mortar shopping frenzy, reaching more consumers globally1.

Commercial Impact

There has been a remarkable shift in terms of size and scale with more countries outside of the US taking advantage of this incredibly popular deal ‘day’ including the UK – where Thanksgiving is not even celebrated! In 2016 the UK alone reported a 12.2 per cent rise, an estimated £6.45 billion, in retail spending on Black Friday compared to 20152.

As e-commerce and m-commerce continue to boom, retailers are able to target customers around the world with a phone in hand, ready to grab a deal. However, the inferior quality of items sold on marketplaces, social media, and mobile apps cause considerable reputational damage to the infringed brands.

INCOPRO reports, conducted on behalf of various retail brands, leading up to the infamous sales weekend, reveal a 32 per cent increase in commercial activity on social media, alone. In fact, the UK intellectual property office rated social media as the most problematic area for the sale of counterfeit goods, followed by auction sites and websites3. The number of marketplace listings rose 24 per cent, with 10 per cent identified as infringements against intellectual property rights.

Consumers approach with caution

Black Friday and Cyber Monday provide the perfect opportunity for infringers to flood the market with counterfeits. Infringers can heavily discount items without raising suspicion, taking advantage of consumers’ impulse buying habits.

By using the same marketing methods, counterfeiters are making it increasingly difficult for customers to tell which products are the genuine brands. Even when social media platforms don’t facilitate financial transactions for goods directly, counterfeiters use these sites to drive traffic to their domains where potential customers can then buy the product. Critically, counterfeiters will rarely use just one site to sell their products; instead, they will have multiple domains and accounts at their disposal, making it far more difficult to track the counterfeit seller back to the source and making them more resilient to take downs.

In order for brands to take a holistic approach, they must monitor marketplaces, app stores, website operations and social media in conjunction with one another to ensure they are not just cutting off one branch of a counterfeiter’s multi-branch operation.

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1. https://nrf.com/who-we-are/retail-communities/digital-retail/cyber-monday

2. https://www.imrg.org/media-and-comment/press-releases/imrg-black-friday-online-sales-performance-update/

3. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/642324/IP_Crime_Report_2016_-_2017.pdf

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