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Fake Black Friday deals predicted to surge in 2019

Posted by Brogan Woodburn on Friday, Nov 22, 2019

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On Black Friday, crazy deals and impulsive buyers combine to move a huge number of infringing products. Red Points’ Black Friday research examines the underbelly of this retail holiday. 

Key Findings

  • More than half of all respondents shop impulsively by reacting to whichever sale is best
  • Black Friday sales make it harder to spot fakes by price
  • The shopping holiday is hugely popular—three-quarters of all respondents are planning to shop on Black Friday this year
  • It’s also popular for counterfeiters—25% of respondents have purchased a fake on Black Friday in the past


Deals, sales, and insane offers kickstart the holiday season and lift people out of their food comas. While in-store shoppers in 2018 declined from the year before, online sales on Black Friday in the U.S. brought in $6.2 billion—a growth of 23.6% year over year. Here are a few more statistics: 

Shoppers aren’t the only ones who are excited about the big discount day. Counterfeit sellers exploit the purchasing frenzy and hide their products among the crowd of discounted items. Through black hat SEO tactics, bad actors set their products on the digital shelf for deal-hungry eyes to see. Red Points’ Black Friday research explores how buyers come in contact with fakes during this hallowed retail tradition. 

 

Impulsivity puts buyers at risk

In this survey, participants were asked how they intend to shop on Black Friday: whether by actively looking for special offers, reacting to online promotional ads, or both. More than half said they would take a reactionary approach, and 15% said they would exclusively shop in this way.

We classify this type of consumer behavior as impulsive. Shoppers browse the internet for deals and may react to an ad on Instagram or click on a third-party site with Black Friday offers. Since they may not be looking for one particular item, they are more likely to visit a counterfeit seller if the deal is sweet enough. This group was also asked which type of offer they would prefer to visit: 

  • 35.3% said they would visit a third-party website
  • 27.2% said they would visit ads on social media. 
  • Only 8.4% said they would click on banner ads 

Compared to 2018, millennials (25-34-year-olds) are slightly less likely to shop through social media ads, but almost twice as likely to visit third party sites with special offers. Overall, it’s concerning that third-party sites are so popular. Counterfeiters operating rogue websites can imitate almost any aspect of a brand’s website, which would be harder for them to do on an e-commerce platform. 

Search engine results can match a shopper’s keyword intent but lead them to fake items. Once a shopper gets to the site, they will see glowing reviews and convincing photos. If a shopper had already made up their mind when they saw the original ad, there’s a good chance they would make the purchase. 

Impulsive buyers are prime targets for Black Friday fake deals. Counterfeiters don’t want someone to look under the hood and poke around the internet looking for third party reviews. On Black Friday, a huge number of people are just surfing the net looking for good deals. It’s almost like a stream stocked with fish. The counterfeit seller just has to create a piece of bait enticing enough. With official brands offering big discounts as well, counterfeit offers can fit right in. 

 

Millennials have a love-hate relationship with fakes

In some areas, millennials show the most awareness about the problem of Black Friday fake deals:

  • Only 7.8% don’t check a product’s authenticity
  • Over half are concerned about the problem of counterfeits on Black Friday, which grew from 40% in 2018

However, there are some concerning findings, as well: 

  • Millennials are the most likely group to shop on Black Friday
  • The age group is also more likely to react impulsively to promotional offers than others
  • 88% of millennials are satisfied to some degree with the fakes they have bought—the highest portion of any group
  • 36.4% purchased a fake, up from 18.5% in the 2018 survey
  • 14.6% were specifically looking for fakes, up from 8.9% last year
  • Millennials are the most likely to purchase from social media ads, compared to any other age group

With today’s fragmented ecommerce landscape, counterfeit sellers often use multiple touchpoints to win buyers. The final sales page extends its reach through social media, PPC ads, Google Shopping, and more. 

In Red Points’ Brand Intelligence Index, experts surveyed ranked social media in the top three trends that will continue to erode brand value in 2020. There are just so many channels for counterfeiters to take advantage of. Bad actors can use channels like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and TikTok simultaneously to promote the same items. 

When Black Friday comes around, it’s like a free-for-all. People see ads every few seconds. Who can tell if a deep discount comes from the real brand or a counterfeiter? When shoppers act impulsively, the seller with the best offer wins. Red Points’ research findings suggest that millennials are at risk of falling for Black Friday fake deals. 

 

Black Friday erases price as an indicator 

One of the unique things about Black Friday is that so many things are on sale. Usually, if a price is too good to be true, it probably is. When Black Friday rolls around, that’s no longer the case.

According to the survey, 31.4% of respondents use the price of the product to evaluate its trustworthiness. That answer was third in overall popularity, and it beat out using the seller’s information, photo quality, or shipping location.

But what do you do if everything is half off? At that point, the item’s price doesn’t really tell you anything about its trustworthiness. A pair of half-priced shoes could come from the real brand or an overseas imitator. With the sheer number of deals online, shoppers are less likely to dig into each listing for verification. Add to that the urgency to buy right away or risk losing out, and the conditions are set for fakes to thrive. 

Respondents also said they use written reviews and star ratings to evaluate products, but those can be faked as well. The best thing to do is to make sure you’re buying from the actual brand. If you see an alluring social media ad for a certain product, take an extra minute to look for that product on the brand’s main site or official e-commerce platform page. If the sales don’t match, that could indicate that you’re dealing with a fake.

 

Counterfeits satisfy many shoppers 

Another concerning result of the study is just how many people were satisfied with the counterfeits they purchased. 

  • 77.9% had some level of satisfaction overall
  • 38.7% were very satisfied 
  • 22% were unsatisfied to a degree 

Compared to other surveys we’ve done, this is a high percentage of satisfied shoppers. Also, millennials’ level of satisfaction almost doubled between last year and this year. This trend is not good news for brands. Counterfeit factories are always evolving, and counterfeiters are getting better at creating products that provide value in the eyes of shoppers.

Furthermore, it’s not as if all these shoppers were looking for fakes. In fact, only 13.8% of respondents who bought a fake were looking for a fake at the time of purchase, and 83.7% were looking for some form of authenticity, whether that was a brand’s specific product or a similar product that could have been off-brand (but not fake). 

Despite their intentions, many shoppers who weren’t looking for a fake bought one anyway. It could be that they were drawn in by the price, as even counterfeit sellers run Black Friday deals to win buyers. In a scenario where a product is discounted to 50% or even 25% of retail, that super low price wouldn’t seem as suspicious when the official brand was running a big sale too. 

We might assume that some of these shoppers would not have been satisfied with the quality if they had to pay full price for the counterfeit, or if they didn’t know they bought a fake. However, of the respondents who purchased a counterfeit, 36% didn’t know they bought a fake at the time of purchase. Yet, only 22% were unsatisfied. That shows there were a few people who bought a fake on accident and were still satisfied with the product. 

 

A preemptive approach

Fighting fakes on Black Friday necessitates a full-time strategic approach, both before and after the holiday. Today, brands can leverage technology to unearth fake sellers and control their turf in the ongoing battle. While awareness around the problem has grown, brands are still on the hook for educating their customers on the importance of shopping from authorized channels.

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About the author

Brogan Woodburn

Post Written by Brogan Woodburn

Brogan is a freelance writer with experience in the music and luxury retail markets. As a watch collector, he is always concerned with product authenticity. He graduated with a B.M. from Berklee College of Music in 2013.