We look at how changing habits of shoppers, including the rise of commerce apps such as Wallapop, can be utilised in selling counterfeit products in ways that are difficult to track.
The counterfeit market is changing. It’s no longer limited to dodgy bootleg markets or even to e-commerce websites such as Alibaba or Amazon. Festival fashion traders are readily cashing in on the trend and counterfeit products are even being sold at yard sales. However, e-commerce platforms still pose the greatest risk to the global economy in their impregnable anonymity; traders frequently fly below the radar of global brands due to secure distribution channels, and individual prosecution is rarely financially viable.
As e-commerce continues to experience a boom, it also becomes increasingly difficult for online sales platforms to authenticate goods and trading standards officials to investigate complaints with the sheer number of trading users. As a result social networks are being exploited by counterfeiters, with Facebook’s buy & sell groups particularly flooded with fake designer goods. Other sales platforms should expect a rise in counterfeit sales, too, as major online marketplaces Alibaba and eBay make efforts to crack down on counterfeiting. Arguably amongst the most vulnerable are commerce apps such as Wallapop, Wish and The Hunt.
Digital means of counterfeiting are on the rise, and shopping apps are undoubtedly reaping the benefits of this. The Hunt, a social platform where users help others in finding budget matches for coveted outfits, in particular triggers alarm bells for international brand protection. Indeed, a quick search yields many results for cheaper ‘versions’ of popular designer goods such as recently-released Nike trainers. However, its partnerships with influential celebrities such as Tyra Banks and Kendall Jenner suggests a way in which the popularity of shopping sites can be utilised to protect luxury brand appeal.
Wallapop, a Spanish peer-to-peer marketplace app that as part of the no-content startup trend holds no inventory, has seen immense user growth since its debut in 2013. Its free sales platform and emphasis on user-to-user communication with limited company involvement means that it could be a potential goldmine for counterfeiters.
The problem with commerce apps is that transactions are almost impossible to track, as great numbers of traders exist over individual accounts. Of course these sites do prohibit the sale of counterfeit goods, and do enforce strict takedown policies, but the prevalence of counterfeit goods continues. The reality is that deleting a trader account on the grounds of violation of rules cannot be a definitive approach, as another account can easily be created. The nature of peer-to-peer one time purchases means that distribution channels cannot be authenticated and test purchases are not a viable option either. It is even more concerning considering that this peer-to-peer trend has already moved to meesaging platforms; there have been multiple reports of individuals selling counterfeits on whatsapp. Therefore, any effort by a brand to search for counterfeit products case-by-case is extremely time-consuming, and when coupled with the high likelihood of a repeat offence may in fact prove futile.
With this in mind it is more important than ever that in order to protect image and uniqueness brands must work to build a robust and technologically advanced anti-counterfeit strategy, and one that recognises online brand protection as a crucial matter of importance in appealing to the changing consumer.In short, Wallapop and its competitors are changing the face of ecommerce; it's smaller, personalised, better targeted and more agile. Traditional methods of brand protection simply cannot cover the volume of fake items available and the new, dynamic forms of selling.