Clean marketplaces - How to protect your brand and boost online sales

Learn how to secure a clean marketplace environment for brands and consumers by establishing strong measures and cooperation against the dangerous implications of grey markets, counterfeits, look-alikes and other non-compliant sales.

Our Managing Director, Oliver, presented globaleyez’s online brand protection solutions at Tamebay Live, one of the biggest industry-wide events of e-Commerce. This annual conference draws over 1,000 participants from every segment of the industry to learn about new trends and widen their network.

Presenters of the three-day event held between 25-27 January included high-ranking representatives from companies like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba.

Many parties in the e-Commerce industry still aren’t fully aware of the risks presented by grey markets, look-alike products, fakes, and much more. We came to Tamebay Live to raise awareness of the issues and introduce our solutions to major players in the industry.

- Oliver, Managing Director at globaleyez

Online marketplaces and platform economy

Global e-Commerce is on the rise and with it surge its biggest facilitators, online marketplaces. Online shopping is becoming more widely accepted across the globe, aided by the COVID-19 pandemic and the government restrictions introduced worldwide.

But presenting products on an online marketplace brings its own challenges for brands and sellers. While you have quite a lot of control over how your products are displayed in a physical store, you have much less say in how they appear on an online marketplace.

Image: A carefully designed store displaying a luxury brand’s products and image
Image: Products presented in an untidy store with dirty shopfronts

These are two examples of stores which show that the presentation of products actually matters a lot. In physical retail, brands pay a lot of attention to how their products are presented as you can see on the left image. They create the best sales environment possible that reflects the values of the brand and its products and gives consumers a great shopping experience. Because in the end, one thing counts above all: the flawless reputation of the brand.

Online, however, the reality is different. On marketplaces, not only branded products are represented in the listings, but also dubious offers from unknown sellers. Ultimately, this creates a sales atmosphere similar to the example on the right.

This raises a fundamental question for brands: why do you take so much care to present your branded products in physical retail, but allow a sales environment online that looks like a bad, dirty retail store where you would never offer your products?

This is why it’s crucial to present your products flawlessly in an online marketplace.

e-Commerce by the numbers

e-Commerce sales have skyrocketed and there’s no indication that they’re going to slow down in the near future.

In fact, from a “mere” $1.3 billion in 2014 they’re currently at $4.89 billion projected to reach $6.3 billion by 2024.

Bar chart of retail eCommerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2024 (in billion U.S. dollars). Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/379046/worldwide-retail-e-commerce-sales/
Bar chart of retail eCommerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2024 (in billion U.S. dollars). Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/379046/worldwide-retail-e-commerce-sales/

Online marketplaces are amongst the biggest drivers of that figure. Indeed, marketplace sales are responsible for 62% of all online retail sales.

Not all platforms have equal success: over 95% of all marketplace sales go to the top 100 online marketplaces in the world, amounting to $2.78 trillion in customer spending.

Illustration of eCommerce numbers. Source: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/infographic-top-online-marketplaces/
Illustration of eCommerce numbers. Source: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/infographic-top-online-marketplaces/

Chart of Amazon's net sales and net income from 1997 through 2020. Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/4298/amazons-long-term-growth/
Chart of Amazon's net sales and net income from 1997 through 2020. Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/4298/amazons-long-term-growth/

The biggest and most well-known of all marketplaces is probably Amazon.

With 300 million active users, 197 million visits per month, and an annual net sales of $386.06 billion in 2020, Amazon is among the top marketplaces in the world.

But not all products on the platform are actually sold by Amazon.

In fact, more than 2.5 million third-party sellers are active on Amazon (data from 2020), amounting to around 53% of all listings on the platform.

That fact in itself is already a cause of confusion for customers. After all, different sellers have different terms for shipping and returns, etc.

But what if some of those sellers aren’t even authorized to sell the products they list? And what if some of those products are fake?

And here’s the million-dollar question: how does that affect the online marketplace presentation of your products and ultimately, your bottom line?

Messy product listings

Let’s take a look at a random product on Amazon. We did a search for a well-known brand name product and here’s what we discovered.

Chart of a client product type on the first 3 pages on Amazon
Chart of a client product type on the first 3 pages on Amazon

The search results presented us with 8% of generic products (listings where the brand name was used to describe a non-branded product), 15.9% of brand-type products (listings describing a non-branded product as “brand-type”), and 20.5% of counterfeit products.

But thanks to SEO, marketplace algorithms and many other factors, these goods are displayed among the honest product listings with an equal chance of being spotted.

Brands and infringers on the same level

IP-infringing listings can be usually categorized as grey markets, counterfeits, look-alikes, non-compliance, or other. Let’s take a look at what these categories are.

Grey markets

Grey market listings are original branded products sold outside of your authorized distribution network. For example, sellers buy your product in a country with a lower price range, and then offer it in another country where the prices are higher.

These sellers typically choose a price that is lower than the authorized price in the selling country, but still higher than the price for which they actually acquired the goods. This gives them a nice profit and contributes to the erosion of price (and trust!) in your authorized distribution network.

And since the algorithms of several online marketplaces favour listings of the same product with lower prices (like Amazon with its Buy Box system, where savvy customers can pick sellers with the best deal), these sellers get an even bigger advantage when it comes to reaching potential customers.

Screenshot of a product on Amazon.de with all selling options displayed
Screenshot of a product on Amazon.de with all selling options displayed

In the above screenshot from Amazon.de, we “opened” the Buy Box to display the price differences. (By the way, the Buy Box featured the cheapest offer, the one going for 42.29 euros.) As you can see, there are marked differences in price going from 42.29 to 49.05 euros. This price erosion may very well be an indication of grey market sellers.

Counterfeits

Counterfeit, or fake goods sport a brand’s logo but are, in fact, not the products of that brand. They either mimic the design of the original or are completely different. There are cases where brand logos are attached to types of products that the brand doesn’t even produce.

Counterfeits are either very cheap, or are offered at a slightly lower price than the original, trying to dupe buyers into thinking they’re getting the real deal. One thing is common, though: the quality is always inferior to that of the original, which often poses significant dangers to customers.

Look-alikes

Without sporting brand logos, look-alike products try to mimic the appearance of a branded product.

They can be designed to fully resemble a well-known product, or adapt a couple of signature elements in their look to convince customers they’re buying an original product.

Non-compliance

Cases falling into this category can widely differ from each other, but at their core they all have the same initiating act: a business partner of yours doesn’t comply with their contract.

For example, the inappropriate use of your brand imagery, wrong sizing, inaccurate pricing, or selling your product on a marketplace you didn’t approve of all fall into this wide category. Detecting these issues is particularly hard for brands with numerous business partners and a wide global distribution network.

Other

Fraudsters are inventive when it comes to forging new ways to infringe on brands’ IP-rights. We’ve discovered other issues like the violation of safety requirements, retail crime, missing imprints, and much more. These are all harmful and can have a significant impact on the affected brand’s image and bottom line.

Protecting your brand with a clean marketplace

We at globaleyez have developed a comprehensive set of online brand protection services that aim to quickly detect and eliminate IP-infringements on marketplaces and the internet in general.

Test purchase

Our test purchase is the best start to eliminating IP-infringing listings and gathering tangible proof of the product’s origins, and even for an eventual court case.

In order to take action against a potentially infringing listing, we need to know as much about the seller as possible. However, many marketplaces display little to no information about its sellers. Quite often, the only information readily available is the seller’s name. Or, in some cases, not even that.

Screenshot from nl.aliexpress.com
Screenshot from nl.aliexpress.com

Chinese marketplaces like AliExpress allow sellers to only feature a “nickname” like the one in the screenshot above. This is really not helpful when trying to determine the origins of a product.

This is why globaleyez’s test purchase service is indispensable. When sending a product, sellers have to fill out a shipping label that usually features important information, like the seller’s name and address. This, along with details of payment, is often a good start for our investigations to uncover contact data, manufacturer, and the rest of the information we need to identify a seller and the origins of the product.

In addition, the packaging itself can often tell us even more about the originality of the product.

We buy in over 50 countries both on- and offline, in B2C and B2B environments. We provide access to our test purchase database so you can always know where your orders are, and legally admissible documentation to help you win back what you lost in court.

Marketplace monitoring

globaleyez can monitor over 150 marketplaces worldwide. Our software tool, traxster runs keyword-based searches to detect potentially infringing product listings. Thanks to extensive filters, we can narrow or broaden search results according to your exact needs.

Exportable data sets provide you with comprehensive statistics about bestselling products, seller rankings according to turnover, highest selling locations and much more. We complete the service with expert advice on possible next steps.

Image monitoring

Fraudsters often use stolen brand imagery or their own copycat images to go along with product listings. Our image monitoring service finds both original and copycat images, allowing us to take swift action against infringers.

infrimage offers various filters to narrow or broaden the search to a single domain or the entire internet. We provide you with comprehensive reports, data charts and actionable advice.

Marketplace sales tracking

Working with data from various marketplaces, our marketplace sales tracking service allows us to determine most popular products, sellers, locations, turnover and more. Our extensive sales data sets separate big fish from small timers, highlighting sellers we need to take action against.

And as an added bonus, you can see how well your products are doing on various markets.

Cooperation with platforms

We cooperate with many major and minor platforms across the entire global e-Commerce landscape (e.g. Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, Facebook, Tokopedia, and many, many more) to provide our clients with the fastest and highest quality service possible.

Thanks to our work together, some of these platforms have taken proactive steps to discourage IP-infringements. Some even give us back-end access to delete infringing listings faster. Others offer notice-and-takedown services to enable the swift removal of such content.

Instant results

Our experience shows that when left unchecked, IP-infringing listings can multiply and cause serious harm to a brand’s bottom line and reputation. However, after putting a comprehensive online brand protection program in place, results come in fast.

Chart of case of image monitoring we set up for a client
Chart of case of image monitoring we set up for a client

For example, take a look at a case of image monitoring we set up for a client. Once we’ve found and determined which infringers to take action against, we launched a series of escalating measures (a friendly cease-and-desist letter, followed by a takedown notice, followed by legal communication) to delete the content.

30% of infringing images were taken down after the first measure. 24% disappeared after the second and 38% after the third. Altogether, 92% of infringing content was taken down within two weeks of launching the service.

Brand protection measures have a clear effect on turnover as well: in another case, a client’s monthly turnover on an online marketplace rose by 400% after we removed fraudulent listings of their products.

Conclusion

These numbers clearly show the value of a clean marketplace. A compliant and clean sales environment ensures that customers don’t get hijacked by fraudulent listings and can only reach authorized sellers on the marketplace.

All in all, a clean marketplace strengthens your brand’s authorized distribution network, elevates your reputation, builds trust and recognition among customers, and improves your bottom line.

If you want a clean marketplace for your products, or have any other concern regarding online brand protection, reach out to us and let us know about the issues you’re facing.

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