Black Friday 2020: Online brand exploitation continues to grow as brick-and-mortar footfall declines
Online & Retail • Online Counterfeiting • Platform Accountability
In good news for brand owners, 2020 holiday spending reached an eye watering $100 billion by December in the US alone . However, e-commerce events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be targeted by copycats, impersonators and counterfeiters who exploit spikes in consumer demand.
These sales figures should be understood as part of a trend; e-commerce growth continues at rapid pace, with brick-and-mortar footfall decimated by the ongoing effects of COVID-19. In 2020, e-commerce tore up previous predictions and grew by 30% in the US. This is a new high for online sales, and a level not previously predicted until 2022.
In this piece, we detail our findings on brand exploitation during Black Friday 2020 and illustrate why a comprehensive Brand Protection strategy is needed to ensure your business can succeed as the world rapidly shifts online.
Brand exploiter behavior during Black Friday
Brand exploiters hide their fake products among genuine discounted goods and are therefore able to mask low pricing that would usually raise eyebrows. Even to the savviest of consumers, counterfeits become difficult to identify within a sea of constantly changing offers and flash-sales.
With 55% of consumers begin their online shopping searches on Amazon’s site  – brand owners are immediately put at a disadvantage by brand exploiters operating on marketplaces during sale events.
Black Friday 2020: Rampant brand exploitation on large e-commerce platforms
The holidays are a particularly prolific time for brand exploiters. With 2020’s record-high online shopping volumes, counterfeit listings and sales are spiking. For example, in the week of Thanksgiving / run up to Black Friday / Cyber Monday 2020, compared to a week 3 months back, Incopro’s technology detected:
- 443% growth of high-risk listings on Amazon for a consumer electronics brand
- 155% growth of high-risk listings on eBay for a watch/jewelry retailer
- 121% increase in high-risk listings on Amazon for a luxury brand
- 51% increase in high-risk listings on Amazon for a streetwear brand
Percentage growth of infringement on Amazon & eBay in the run up to December
|19th-26th August||19th-26th November||Growth||Platform|
Why platforms need to do more
Many platforms have measures in place to facilitate the removal of brand exploiters. However, these tools offer varied results and do not provide enough coverage to make a lasting impact.
Amazon – Brand Registry not providing peace of mind to brands
The platform’s Brand Protection program “Brand Registry” is characterized by slow and inadequate responses to brand exploitation. Inconsistencies in the processing time for similar or identical violations also create a headache for brand owners. This means cases often need to be escalated – this additional step is burdensome and far more inconsistent than the initial reporting process.
Furthermore, Amazon often prevents brand owners from reporting violations if the rate of successful enforcement is deemed too low, and subsequently demand that a test purchase is conducted as evidence.
eBay – Inconsistent responses to enforcement and declining compliance
eBay too suffers from inconsistent and slow responses to enforcement. It has also recently shown a decline in overall compliance. Practices towards similar or identical reported listings vary enormously across territories. And to add further frustration, explanations for notice rejections are frequently inconsistent, incorrect, or missing altogether, requiring multiple follow-ups.
Such issues extend to notices regarding breaches of the platform’s own policy, which covers soon-to-expire and expired products or products missing expiry dates, particularly in relation to medication, foodstuffs, and other consumable goods.
What can brands do?
It is essential that brands monitor brand exploitation trends in the run-up to Black Friday. For each high-priority platform, you should have a comprehensive strategy in place. Our proposed strategy for Amazon during the holiday season is as follows:
- Monitor the buy box on your listings closely (up to 82% of all Amazon sales go through the buy box )
- Proactively defend your brand on Amazon by signing up to Brand Registry and ‘gate’ high-priority ASINs (the ASIN is the unique offer identifier on Amazon – it poses difficulty to brand owners because Amazon requires all listings for a single product to be located on the same ASIN page)
- Monitor non-gated authorized ASINs and look for duplicates
Amazon’s Brand Registry offers tools to help brands manage their presence on the marketplace and to remove infringing products, including:
- Bulk enforcement of counterfeit ASINs
- Merging duplicate ASINs
ASIN gating refers to the practice of ‘locking’ authorized ASINs so that only a select list of verified sellers can operate on it. Brands should be aware that it is only available to those enrolled in the Brand Registry. It is a paid service and is reserved for a select number of your listings.
A comprehensive year-round strategy
Earlier, we mentioned that growth in e-commerce is not isolated to sales event but is part of a long-term trend that has been accelerated by COVID-19. In a post-pandemic world, you’ll need a comprehensive strategy that protects your consumers and revenue streams online.
Noting the limitations of platforms tools, collaboration with platforms is still core to building this strategy. Where your consumers shop and who they purchase from are important considerations when choosing the platforms that you prioritize and develop robust relationships with.
Once you’ve decided the key platforms in which to focus your efforts, you should seek to engage with them directly or through a trusted partner. The following approach should be considered as part of your relationship building exercise:
- Identify relevant contacts within the platforms’ support and legal teams
- Educate the platforms about the risks posed by counterfeit products to the consumer and platform reputation
- Share the best practices of what other platforms are doing
- Consider cultural and business context
- Engage in their own language if possible and interact with the relevant representatives where the platform has local websites
As alluded to, there is only so much you can achieve without a technology solution. A critical component of a comprehensive strategy is sophisticated Brand Protection technology that works in tandem with platform tools but also:
- Collects more data on the individuals exploiting your brand
- Prioritizes high-risk listings that your consumers are most likely to find
- Makes the connection between brand exploiters operating across multiple channels and regions
Brand Protection technology is critical
Talisman, Incopro’s Brand Protection platform, is a complete tool that ensures that businesses have all the data they need related to brand exploitation, including the risk posed by infringing listings and a view of the networks of criminals targeting their brands. Once gathered, Talisman provides the means for seamless enforcement against brand exploiters.
Find out how Incopro helps businesses across industries achieve extraordinary results with a personalized technology demo below.
 Cyber Monday Sales Hit $10.8 Billion: Black Friday Weekend By The Numbers (Forbes, Dec 2020): https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleykohan/2020/12/01/cyber-monday-sales-hit-108-billion-black-friday-weekend-by-the-numbers/?sh=334a97de6eb0
 US Ecommerce Growth Jumps to More than 30%, Accelerating Online Shopping Shift by Nearly 2 Years (eMarketer, Oct 2020): https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-ecommerce-growth-jumps-more-than-30-accelerating-online-shopping-shift-by-nearly-2-years
 More shoppers are starting their online search on Amazon (CNBC, Sep 2016): https://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/27/amazon-is-the-first-place-most-online-shoppers-visit.html
 Unlock Amazon’s Buy Box with the power of data (eConsultancy, Oct 2016): https://econsultancy.com/unlock-amazon-s-buy-box-with-the-power-of-data/
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