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Consumers turn a blind eye on the ill effects of fake sunglasses

Posted by Elise Trecul on Thursday, Aug 15, 2019

While designer sunglasses brands innovate in design and technology, counterfeiters see copying these styles as an opportunity to make a quick buck. Providing consumers with a safe and comfortable product is irrelevant to their growth.

Unfortunately, falling into the counterfeit trap means putting our eyesight at a serious risk of irreversible damage from UV rays. For brands, it means a loss in sales and tarnishing of the brand’s image in the eyes of the consumer, to name but a few major impacts.

Red Points’ research takes a closer look at how consumers view the fake sunglasses industry, as well as their online experience of this growing market. 

Summary

  •  Counterfeiters are capitalizing on the growing fake designer sunglasses industry
  •  Counterfeiters’ misleading online strategy
  • Health hazards of fake designer sunglasses are overlooked by consumers

Counterfeiters are capitalizing on the growing fake designer industry

The online eyewear business is booming. According to Trusted Business Insights, the global sunglasses market size was valued at USD 14.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow

The need to try them on is no longer important to consumers, as the ease of purchase and making returns outweigh the risks of buying such an item online. Shoppers can easily compare multiple websites and sellers that can provide them with what appears to be an authentic product. 

In our survey, affordability was in the top three factors that were considered when buying sunglasses. It seems obvious that consumers will always go for the cheapest option found if these sunglasses are seemingly identical in the comparison made.

The most important factor considered according to the survey participants, however, was style. And when style and affordability are of the biggest priorities for a purchase, consumers become easy bait for counterfeiters selling fake designer sunnies. They are subject to a product that may look similar to a pair they’ve seen on a brand’s costly advertising campaign, going as far as using images taken from the brand’s own website. However there is one major difference: these will not protect their eyesight. 

It would seem that sunglasses are perceived as solely a fashion accessory to most consumers. After all, they are the epitome of cool. But with fast fashion and low-quality manufacturing driving today’s consumers to buy more products at the lowest cost they can, non-polarized sunglasses become a serious health hazard. UV protection came in under style, durability, and affordability when respondents were asked to consider the factors that were most important to them when looking for sunglasses.

Counterfeiters’ misleading online strategy

Online shoppers are being forcefully led by counterfeiters to buy replica designer sunnies. More often than not, shoppers are searching with the initial intention to buy an authentic pair. The marketing tactics that counterfeiters use to achieve this are the same ones as the brands they are copying: using SEO to rank highly in searches, obtaining reviews of their products, the use of high-quality pictures and well-written descriptions. The big difference between both options lies in the accuracy of the information provided; Counterfeiters are blatantly lying to consumers and getting away with it too often.

Major designer brands are hit hard by fake sunglasses - the OECD identified a popular sunglasses brand as one of the most counterfeited in today’s market. However, it’s growing brands that are most affected. The risks they face in losing sales over fake versions of their products could be detrimental to their future, as they are still building their reputation and trying to attract a loyal audience.

There is no need for counterfeiters to be authentic in their strategy - all they want is a sale. Which is why using the brand’s own photos is commonplace. Buyers see the same product that they spotted on the brand’s well-designed website, for a price that is lower than what the brand offers online.

Respondents chose reviews as the best way to evaluate the trustworthiness of a product or seller. Word of mouth is by far the best way for a brand to get recognized. The digitized version of reviews and star ratings is the most authentic way for consumers to get first-hand information about a product they are looking to purchase. For counterfeiters, reviews become just another way to manipulate consumers into buying their product. 

Counterfeit sellers are recruiting fake reviewers in social media groups in order to climb to the top of their category searches. Consumers are not only led to believe the product they are seeing is authentic, but that the star ratings and comments are legitimate. Fake sunglasses are then delivered with faulty designs that are sometimes so close to the brand’s own selling price it dupes consumers into believing they’ve found a good deal.

The risks for brands is the tarnishing of their image and a loss of sales. Consumers that receive a pair of fake designer sunglasses when expecting an authentic pair could stop trusting a brand for fear of this situation happening again. 

 

Counterfeiters are targeting consumers with their pricing techniques

On the other hand, if what they receive is of acceptable quality for the price they have paid, deciding to stick to buying replica designer sunglasses might seem like a better option to them. When asked: What was your experience of the fake sunglasses? To those who had bought fake sunglasses online, three-quarters of respondents were satisfied to some extent with their purchase. And what is making the biggest difference is the price that consumers are ready to pay for their new shades.

Over 20% of survey respondents said they would pay between 50 - 74% of the original retail price. The discount doesn’t have to be major in order to convince consumers to choose fakes. There is no consideration for the quality of materials, as long as they look good. This represents a great loss in sales for legitimate sunglasses brands, as the difference in price between real and fake can be as little as 5%.

 

Alarming consumer overconfidence in recognizing fakes

Regarding consumer knowledge of the counterfeit industry, surprising results were found in the market research. Only 19% had little or no confidence at all in identifying a fake sunglasses listing online. The majority were confident that they could identify fake listings. However, when we asked them to view images of both fake and authentic sunglasses, their confidence dropped. An estimated 40 to 50% of respondents downgraded their confidence levels after seeing how difficult it was to differentiate the fakes from the authentic pairs of sunglasses.

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It may seem obvious to consumers when searching online, but counterfeiters are being more strategic in how they find their way to consumers’ wallets. Social media and instant messaging apps have also enabled them to sell to a wider audience. A worrying 50% of respondents had bought fake designer sunglasses online. There is also a possibility that this percentage is higher. Fakes are getting harder to spot to the untrained eye, so we could easily suppose that some respondents own a pair of fake sunglasses without even realizing it.

 

Health hazards of fake designer sunglasses are overlooked by consumers

One of the biggest issues that counterfeit products have brought on the consumers’ doorstep is the damage that they have on their health. The issue becomes a little more complex for eyewear, as it's one of their most important senses that’s being put at risk when consumers choose to buy fake sunglasses.

We’ve come a long way since China’s Ai Tai smoky quartz lenses, dating back to around the 15th century. Or even Ray Ban’s intelligent product placement in the film Top Gun that lead to an increase of 50% in the Aviator model worn by Tom Cruise. Today, it’s not as easy for brands using a similar strategy. Consumers may see the product placements in their favorite series, but the reality is that they are not all searching for the original brand’s version afterwards.

The implication of consumers looking towards a cheaper, low-quality version is the long-term damage it can have on their eyesight. UVA and UVB rays are known to induce conditions such as cataracts, impairing vision as a result. The skin on eyelids is also susceptible to skin cancer if not protected by the right sunglasses.

It was revealed in our research that although 66% of respondents were aware that fake sunglasses can be harmful to their eyes, more than half of the respondents had bought a pair of fake sunglasses. We can therefore suppose that it is not a concern for consumers buying sunglasses online.

 

Conclusion

The bad news for brands and consumers both is that the growth of online counterfeit sunglasses doesn’t seem to be slowing. This trend is being fuelled by a number of factors, some which seem to be self-contradicting. The number of consumers who are aware of the potential harm of fake sunglasses, and who still choose to purchase them is startling. This, compounded with consumers clear overconfidence in their own ability to identify a fake product, puts them at real health risks. 

Fake reviews are such a major problem online, that they are no longer the go-to, reliable source for checking the authenticity of an item. Fortunately, there are now multiple websites for consumers to check for fake reviews, such as fakespot.com, but the issue will continue to plague the sunglasses market.

Brands can capitalize on the fact that the most important factor that they provide with their high-quality designer sunglasses besides style, is protection against harmful UV damage. Getting involved in informing consumers about the risks involved in relying on low-quality lenses on fake designer sunglasses. This could help steer consumers in a more health-conscious direction when choosing the right pair of sunglasses.

Brand Protection specialists Red Points' market research study on counterfeit sunglasses

About the author

Elise Trecul

Post Written by Elise Trecul

Elise is a content writer and researcher at Red Points, specializing in topics such as brand protection, IP infringement, ecommerce platforms, and their evolution in innovative online marketing strategies. She graduated with a B.A. in International Business with Languages in Dublin City University in 2009 and is currently studying a postgraduate in Digital Marketing.