Holiday Season Brand Protection Strategy
Emerging threats • Online Counterfeiting • Seasonal Threats
With e-commerce spending during Black Friday and Singles’ Day growing each year, brand protection teams need to be aware of the latest emerging threats and infringement trends. Read this blog to learn how you can protect your brand and consumers online during the holiday season.
Counterfeiting, phishing, impersonation, and hashtag hijacking are just a handful of the online threats that brands face during the holiday season. And with an environment of fast-moving flash sales and large-scale discounting, it can be difficult to keep up with infringers.
Read this blog to learn:
- The shifts in online consumer behavior
- The holiday infringement trends, including counterfeiting, phishing, and review fraud
- How brands can protect consumers and key revenue streams
The shifts in online consumer behavior
In 2020, the US e-commerce market grew by over 30%, shooting past previous projections. In the same year, US holiday spending reached $100 billion by December.
In 2021 e-commerce growth has continued at lightning pace. In the US, e-commerce grew by 39.1% in Q1 2021. Comparatively, e-commerce grew by 13.8% in Q1 2020. In Q2 2021, nearly $1 of every $5 spent on retail purchases in the US was online.
In the EU, total e-commerce revenues hit US$425.2bn in 2020, an increase of US$71bn from 2019. And in 2021, the market is forecasted to grow by another 9.5%. Brick-and-mortar footfall has shown signs of strong recovery from the pandemic, but its growth rate still lags behind e-commerce at 4.8%.
Online buying behavior often differs during the holiday season with consumers snapping up time-limited deals on third party e-commerce sites or marketplaces, instead of seeking out specific brands’ websites.
In China, the annual Singles’ Day e-commerce shopping festival has fueled an explosion in livestream sales. On just the first day of the Alibaba Singles’ Day pre-sales event, Li Jiaqi, a top livestream salesman sold a staggering US$1.9 billion in products and attained nearly 250 million video views.
Deal aggregate websites often see a spike in traffic during the holiday season. These websites redirect to countless external sites, some of which are unfamiliar to the consumer and likely to have been set up only a few days prior. It is difficult for consumers to ascertain the legitimacy of these external sites, and they are at risk of inadvertently visiting scam sites
Holiday season infringement trends
COVID-19 caused widespread disruption to supply chains across the globe, impacting businesses’ ability to fulfill consumer demand. Infringers capitalized on this throughout the pandemic, with cases of falsified and substandard medical products were sold to consumers and, in some cases, even hospitals.
In 2021, similar activity has been observed in the run up to the holiday season, where supply from legitimate businesses is unable to meet demand and bad actors are seizing the opportunity to infiltrate marketplaces.
Delays at UK ports will result in toy shortages this Christmas, according to Gary Grant, CEO at UK toy retailer The Entertainer. Infringers are likely to jump at this opportunity to plug the supply gap with fake goods.
Counterfeits and other infringing listings
The holiday season is a hotbed for brand infringement. And with the pandemic fueling record e-commerce demand in 2020, infringers were keen to promote their counterfeits and other infringing products to as many consumers as possible.
For example, in the week of Thanksgiving (the run up to Black Friday), compared to a week 3 months back, Incopro’s technology detected the following increases in counterfeit and other infringing listings on popular marketplaces:
Phishing scams and impersonation
During the holiday season, social media platforms are inundated with both legitimate and illegitimate accounts promoting time-limited deals. Consumers may find it difficult to distinguish between the real and the fake, falling prey to impersonation accounts that redirect them to websites operating phishing schemes.
‘Thematic’ phishing scams pose a significant threat to brands and consumers during e-commerce festivals periods such as Black Friday and Singles’ Day. In one case, Facebook accounts masquerading as an FMCG brand’s official Facebook account were promoting fake giveaways and competitions in order to obtain consumers’ personal data.
After the holiday season, the number of anonymized consumer complaints for phishing scams received by the brand reduced swiftly – in January 2021 consumer complaints had dropped by almost 50% compared to December 2020.
Incopro’s analysts detected a large increase in phishing scams targeting a household appliances brand in the run up to Black Friday 2020, compared to 2019. After Black Friday, these websites quickly switched their focus to Christmas themed scams. New Year’s themed websites emerged then soon after.
Digital ads and hashtag hijacking
Infringers effectively operate as a primary competitor, undercutting price and hijacking hard-earned brand equity. Without a dedicated strategy to tackle infringers during the holiday season, brands often find themselves with inflated digital spend as they vie for the same advertising space.
Social media advertising and hashtag hijacking are tactics used by bad actors to promote counterfeit and other infringing products during the holiday season. Incopro’s brand protection experts note the increasing use of ‘#blackfriday’ and ‘#promoblackfriday’ in Instagram posts to promote counterfeit products such as watches during the four-week run-up to Black Friday.
Bad actors also commonly use holiday-themed hashtags to promote phishing scams to unsuspecting consumers. These scam posts sit alongside posts from genuine accounts within ‘trending categories’ on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, making it difficult for consumers to spot the danger.
97% of shoppers rely on online customer reviews to help make a purchase. In the UK, online reviews influence up to £23 billion of annual consumer spending.
Bad actors use fake reviews as a tactic to lend an air of legitimacy to infringing products. Fake reviews pose an issue on global e-commerce and social media platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Facebook – and even on dedicated review websites such as TripAdvisor.
Sellers manipulate star-rating systems and post positive reviews to push consumers towards purchases. Other popular practices include promising free gifts, vouchers or discounts to customers that leave positive or five-star reviews – this is often against of platforms’ seller policies.
Adapt your brand protection strategy for the holiday season
Build strong platform relationships
Platform collaboration should sit as a core tenet of your brand protection strategy. Consider which marketplace or social media platform your customers visit most often and the sellers they purchase your products from. With this data, you can begin to prioritize and develop robust relationships with the platforms that hold the greatest commercial significance.
You should then seek to engage with them directly or through a trusted partner to educate the platforms about the risks posed by counterfeit products to the consumer and platform’s own reputation.
Collaborate with marketing and e-commerce functions
Businesses that are unable to spot trends and threats in advance of the holiday season are unlikely to be able to tackle bad actors at scale; they will be reactive, rather than proactive in their enforcement efforts. They may quickly find themselves racing to the bottom in an attempt to keep up with infringers’ discounting and internal sales targets. Collaboration with your marketing and e-commerce teams is therefore essential to protecting price, profit margins, and brand equity.
Through collaboration, you can build an understanding of the platforms that will receive the highest volume of traffic through the holiday season. You can also build a plan of action to protect popular product lines, any new product launches, and promotions during the period.
Additionally, you may be able to identify potential online opportunities for your business such as gaps in your product portfolio, untapped demand in new markets, and emerging e-commerce platforms.
Harness advanced brand protection technology
Technology plays a critical role in supporting an effective, year-round online brand protection program. Your team will need to be able to operate at scale, with greater visibility of risks and the ability to automatically detect threats across all channels, extract key data, prioritize targets, and enforce – all at scale.
Incopro Brand Protection Consultant Tosshan Ramgolam states: “Listings taking part in e-commerce festivals such as Singles’ Day often feature banner images next to the price. You’ll need brand protection technology that can either collect this information from the page source or deploys optical character recognition in order to extract the text embedded in these banners. You can then use this data as an indicator for risk to monitor counterfeiting activity for brands.”
Advanced brand protection technology: network analysis
Your team will also need a solution to find, prioritize, and act against infringer networks that operate across multiple channels. With real time data, you can take down entire networks instead of individual accounts and can significantly impact infringers’ abilities to scale-up promotion in advance of the holiday season.
Brand protection technology equipped for a fast-paced environment
Talisman, Incopro’s brand protection platform, deploys advanced capabilities such as network analysis to identify and analyze the infringements that matter to you.
Use Talisman to monitor trends and see a complete picture across all key channels. Dive into your data on a granular level to see what your consumers see. Then prioritize the high-risk threats and take swift action – all within the platform.
Get visibility and control of your brand during the holiday season and beyond. Find out how Incopro helps businesses across industries achieve extraordinary results with a personalized technology demo below.
 Data sourced from Talisman, Incopro’s brand protection platform.
|1/10/2020 – 31/10/2020||4/11/2020-29/12/2020||Growth||Platform|
 Data sourced from Talisman, Incopro’s brand protection platform.
|19th-26th August||19th-26th November||Growth||Platform|
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