by Steve TALLANT
Friday, October 29, 2021

The most wonderful time of the year... for counterfeiters

It’s almost peak holiday shopping season and consumers are once again on the lookout for that perfect gift. However, this year is unlike any other with the events of the last 18-months putting stress on supply chains around the world.

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Huge demand plus limited supply creates a perfect environment for counterfeiters. This was certainly the case at the beginning of the pandemic, as the proliferation of fake COVID-19 test kits proved.

It’s well documented that the pandemic has pushed the already rapid growth of e-commerce to new heights. Coupled with marketplace shortages, we are seeing counterfeiters take advantage of these challenges. The potential result is unsuspecting consumers—using legitimate e-commerce platforms—can easily end up with counterfeit items.

Fake goods have long been a concern for manufacturers. It’s an issue that I wrote about before the pandemic. Manufacturers need to recognize that while their product has gone through rigorous testing and safety evaluation, counterfeiters are doing none of that. Counterfeiters simply don’t care that the fake toy they sell could end up causing serious injury… or worse!

An imperfect solution

Brands are attempting to thwart counterfeits and maintain consumer trust by deploying numerous layers of technology to protect their products. Holograms, QR codes and other physical packaging add-ons help, but they are also available to savvy counterfeiters! There’s an urgent need for immediate authentication that goes far beyond what analog packaging components can deliver.
Major e-commerce platforms are recognizing the huge issues with counterfeit goods on their sites. They are investing millions of dollars in people, processes and technology to address this problem. These initiatives certainly help, but the data shows that counterfeiters are staying one step ahead. And these programs—for the online platforms only—do not protect manufacturer’s products in brick-and-mortar stores. In an omnichannel world, brands need to be protected everywhere, not just in one outlet.

What can companies do to overcome these threats?

Incorporating a trusted digital layer of protection is a key step in addressing the counterfeit challenge.  Markem-Imaje offers two options for product authentication which can be performed immediately by a consumer using their smartphone. They deliver the capacity to “crowdsource” brand protection

  1. For packaged consumer products – Our digital e-Fingerprint® solution transforms a barcode (UPC/QR) on a product’s package into a connected digital bridge. If you have one million of the same UPC codes on the shelf, e-fingerprinting transforms each barcode into a unique digital identifier for that individual product. Using a smartphone, customers are able to instantly verify the authenticity of that specific item and receive relevant content about it—such as where the ingredients were sourced or how the product can be recycled, etc. This digital layer is completely non-replicable by counterfeiters.
    View how it works in this Systech demo video.
     
  2. For luxury, apparel and other high-end products – This solution embeds a near-field communication (NFC) tag directly into each product. When consumers scan this tag with their phone, they launch a digital product authentication experience that confirms item authenticity.  Because the chip is embedded in the product during the manufacturing process, it cannot be removed or altered. Again, a counterfeiter would never be able to replicate this experience.
    Learn more in this Blue Bite case study

The ultimate goal is to make product counterfeiting so difficult that criminals won’t event attempt to create fakes. This requires making brand protection a robust, multi-layered combination so strong that counterfeits never make it to market. And if the fakes do slip through, they are discovered before ever being used. 

More innovative, interconnected solutions to the growing counterfeit problem can better protect authentic and well-trusted brands. Not just during peak holiday season, but all year round.

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