Christmas Shopping & Online Brand Protection: What Brands Need To Know

Online Christmas shopping: Bigger sales, bigger risks

The holiday season marks a lucrative period for brands, and purchases made during this time of year often represent a substantial portion of business’ annual revenue. Consumers spent a total of $204.5 billion during the 2021 holiday season  in the months of October, November, and December, which made up 32% of total online yearly sales. 

The pandemic caused a massive shift towards eCommerce, in fact, in December 2021, consumers spent a record-breaking $188 billion on online holiday shopping. This increase in eCommerce activity has remained post-pandemic and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This uptick in online shopping hasn’t gone unnoticed by cybercriminals, who view online marketplaces as their playground. 

This makes online brand protection critical during this time of year. “The festive season is an expensive time for many of us. It’s natural for shoppers to get caught up in the excitement of Black Friday deals, and rush into making a quick purchase online to bag a bargain,” says Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud at the UK’s National Cyber Security Center. “Unfortunately, Christmas will come early for criminals who see this as an ideal opportunity to take advantage of us with the tempting promise of bogus cheap deals.”

The shopping spirit of the holiday period means increased fraud, counterfeits, and cybercriminals exploiting consumers. In 2020 alone, legitimate brands lost a stunning 1.4 billion Euros in revenue to counterfeit toy and game scammers. Brands must embrace strategies and solutions that provide robust and immediate protection, which track large networks of cybercriminals  and threats across multiple online venues. 

Want to see what threats your business is facing this holiday season?

Christmas Counterfeits: A risk not just to budget, but to health too

A Europol-backed coalition of European anti-fraud, intellectual property, and police and customs authorities seized some 5 million toys, with an estimated value of €16 million, between October 2019 and January 2021. 

The British Toy and Hobby Association found that  40% of counterfeit toys purchased on third party marketplaces either contain restricted components or don’t meet safety standards. This means that they are a significant risk to the health and lives of children.

Those findings were also backed up by a 2021 investigation into counterfeit toys seized by the US Customs and Border Patrol. “What we found is [that] counterfeit and knockoff toys pose a serious danger to children,” said Hannah Rhodes, a Consumer Watchdog Advocate at the Public Interest Network. 

“There can be toys that are not going through safety standards for things that we know are big safety hazards, like toxic chemicals or small parts that children that are under the age of three can choke on.”

While these safety issues are true year round, it is more of a severe problem during the holidays. Consumers engage in mass shopping, and are often in too much of a hurry to read safety precautions and check they are purchasing a safe product.

What threats do brands need to look out for?

Every year new scams, technologies and methods emerge. Some of the popular holiday shopping scams include 

Lookalike websites 

This online shopping fraud sees cybercriminals hook consumers by using fake websites, which are made to look almost exactly like your brand’s real, legitimate site. Oftentimes, cybercriminals use your brand’s logos, colors, and branding so that unsuspecting consumers think they are dealing with your company. Customers make purchases on these sites, yet sometimes the items that they pay for never arrive and often their credentials are stolen. Many times the goal is just to get increased grey market sales, but that can also lead to brand reputation issues, when the product performance falls short.

Social media scams

In this holiday season scam, cybercriminals leverage highly-targeted ads from unfamiliar retailers towards consumers. They promise competitive pricing on trendy gifts, purporting to offer authentic items. Shoppers end up being tricked into buying a low-quality (or counterfeit) item, taking traffic away from legitimate offers. These scams are commonplace on social media and online marketplaces. 

Paid ad scams

Cybercriminals often use fraudulent paid ads and fraud networks targeting your company and lure your customers. This could come in the shape of a Facebook ad that claims to be coming from your brand and is placed directly in your consumers’ news feeds, or as Google Ads or Bing’s. Customers will struggle to tell the difference between this and an authentic offer from your brand and you will lose revenues and ultimately your invaluable reputation.

Unclaimed Items

One of the hottest scams has cybercriminals using social posts, pages and ads to encourage you to buy Amazon pallets of purportedly "unclaimed Amazon products". Customers click on the ad and get taken to malware.

What steps can you take to protect your business these holidays?

The good news is that there are a number of steps brands can take in order to protect themselves from online fraud and reap the benefits of the uptick in sales during the holiday season. Your brand should offer clear guidelines to your marketing teams and shoppers, providing them with the tools they need in order to quickly identify fake products or ads. An online brand protection platform can also serve as a valuable tool in a brand’s arsenal for combating fakes and protecting their bottom lines and brand reputations.

Retail brand protection technology can monitor a wide range of online platforms, detecting hidden connections and clusters that reveal extensive scam networks. These solutions scan social media and paid ads in order to discover scammers that are using your brand name for their fraudulent purposes.

Proactive detection is key here - the faster that you can utilize immediate legal action in order to take down counterfeit threats, the better. So when looking for a brand protection technology, look for one utilizing AI and constantly monitoring the web, paid ads and social media. This will enable a fast and timely response sparing you the issues mentioned above.

Speedy takedowns by professional IP experts - preferably ones with vast experience in removing online scams relating to domain squatting or social account names. Look for experts who are also experienced in removing content-based claims. Quick, efficient takedown will help minimize the potential damage to your revenue and brand reputation. These immediate takedowns should include clustering capabilities, so that the threat is handled across all platforms.

BrandShield offers you all of these services, and more. To learn more about how we can help safeguard your business’ revenue and brand reputation  to make this holiday season a jolly one:

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