Fake and counterfeit products put us all at risk. We are all business people and innovators, and we would hate to see our hard work undone by fraudsters who are out to exploit our vision and our creativity. Perhaps even more so, we are all customers and consumers, and we would hate to find ourselves using substandard products. Or, worse, to find ourselves and our loved ones put at risk.
Yes, we'd hate to see all of these things. However, in the real world, they are very genuine concerns.
With this in mind, we've put together a selection of key anti-counterfeiting techniques, strategies and solutions that you can use to keep your business and products out of the hands of fraudsters. By following these best practices and adopting brand protection solutions and technology, you can ensure that your business and consumers stay safe and that counterfeiters do not benefit from their crimes.
Businesses have now moved way beyond the traditional model of single-direction transactions and a largely restricted approach to customer service. Even in the early days of e-commerce, it was enough for many businesses to deploy an online shop, market this online shop traditionally, and provide direct support in the form of email responses and inbound telephone calls. If you continue to stick to this model, you will not only fall behind your competitors — you will find it impossible to combat counterfeiters and fraudsters.
Think about where fraudsters do business. Often, this business is done via social media channels or third-party hosted commerce sites. Think also about where your customers voice their concerns and discuss their problems — often on social media channels too, or on customer review sites. If you are not an active participant in these channels — joining in the conversation, addressing concerns, and generally remaining vigilant of fraudulent products — you may not notice counterfeiting activities until it is too late.
This active approach relies upon complete engagement across all levels of your team. Through training and education and the proper management of your teams, you can foster an environment in which every member of your team takes ownership of the problems you face as a company — and remains vigilant of matters like counterfeiting.
You can extend your anti-counterfeiting strategies beyond the boundaries of your company and your teams. In fact, if you are to optimise your business's fight against fraudsters, this is something you need to do. If your customers are engaged with what you provide, then they do not want to connect with fraudulent products. They believe in what you offer, and they trust what you do. With this in mind, they will not be tempted by the lower prices offered by many counterfeiters.
And if they are not engaged? If they are not enamoured with what you represent as a company? Well, then they won't trouble themselves by searching out your superior quality; they will just go for a cheaper option.
To truly engage, you need to focus on the user experience at every turn. What can you do better for your users? How can you understand what your audience wants and then deliver this to them? All of this comes from developing a better relationship with your customers through data. This ability is at the very heart of what we set out to create with engage™.
Aside from remaining vigilant about your customers' activity in the market, you need to stay on top of other external changes, too. Principally, you will need to stay on top of changes regarding anti-counterfeiting best practices and regulations. Governments and lawmakers understand the harm that fraudsters can cause to the health of the economy and society as a whole. As such, they seek to draft new regulations and best practices that keep businesses and consumers safe.
For example, in 2019, the European Union introduced a range of mandatory safety features as a part of its Falsified Medicines Directive. These measures keep consumers and businesses safe from fraudulent products, and organisations that operate in the field of healthcare could need to be aware of this. Similarly, in 2020, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a report on fraud in e-commerce, including several best practices designed to help businesses. Any companies in this field would need to be aware of the resources available to them.
This requires a proactive attitude and methodical approach to staying on top of the latest developments. However, this does not need to take up too many of your resources — you can simply devote some time each week to analysing changes.
We have touched upon safety features above, but these safety features are not limited to pharmaceuticals and other products that can cause a severe health risk if they are misused. In fact, security features are deployed on a wide range of different products, ranging from high-value items such as vintage bottles of wine and designer clothing to leading-edge pieces of technology. To an extent, they tend to be successful in fighting counterfeiting and fraud, but you need to be smart and sophisticated if you are to make these methods work for you.
Why is this? Because fraudsters are smart and sophisticated, too. They are skilled at what they do, and they quickly work out how to craft their own versions of security features and measures. Then, they deploy them on their fraudulent products until it is difficult to tell fake from genuine once again.
Combining overt security measures with their covert counterparts is an effective means of protecting your products. In a basic sense, overt security measures are ones that are immediately visible to the naked eye. Covert features, as you might imagine, are a little more difficult to spot.
Overt security measures include:
Covert security measures include:
Combining these two forms of security provides a more robust solution all around. We have developed the engage™ platform and app to help businesses achieve this important combination. For example, you will be able to deploy overt security measures such as QR codes that consumers can scan using their smartphones. This will connect them to a centralised database where they can verify the item's status — adding the covert element of security.
The brand protection solutions you put in place need to be unified and based in a secure cloud architecture. The unified element means that data is brought together and accessible from remote locations across the globe — this way, even your distributed teams can register and verify products in real time, ensuring that no products are allowed to slip through the net.
The cloud-based element facilitates this, and it also helps your data and your anti-counterfeiting solution to remain secure. If you are working with high volumes of data as you forge connections with customers and verify your products on a centralised database, you are also bound by the data protection legislation that applies in your jurisdiction. With the right cloud-based solution, your efforts remain flexible and agile without sacrificing security.
When we crafted the engage™ app and platform, we made sure that both of these elements were key to the functionality of the solution. Combatting fraudsters and counterfeiters is about gaining peace of mind — not putting peace of mind in jeopardy with solutions that lack security.
Michigan State University's Center for Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection drafted an interesting document that outlined anti-counterfeit strategies for brand owners. Some of what this document covers has already been touched upon in the above points, but the document's authors also identified the need for systematic recognition of brand protection methods and challenges from the top down.
This includes the provision of support for brand protection teams delivered by senior levels of management. Additionally, it includes the drafting of intellectual property protection programs and policies that form part of the organisation's very identity. This makes it easier for employees at all levels to take ownership of the issues at hand, as they can draw upon crystal-clear guidance when they implement brand protection measures of their own.
How will you know which of your strategies are proving to be successful? How do you define progress in the fight against counterfeiting? The best anti-counterfeiting solutions are results-driven, so there needs to be an end goal — or a series of incremental improvements — in mind.
You can define success, to a degree, according to customer engagement. The more engaged your customers are, the less impact that counterfeited products have on your business. Qualitative feedback from customers and quantitative values such as returning customer numbers and long-term value can help you understand this.
However, you still need other metrics to gain a fuller picture of success in this area. If you have been losing revenue to counterfeited products, you can assess how your revenue improves once measures have been implemented. If you are deploying brand protection technology like the engage™ app, you can examine user interaction data to see how many customers are scanning your products in search of verification.
Today's counterfeiters are deploying modern solutions and techniques to defraud businesses. As such, your business needs to respond in kind, with digital solutions and brand protection software that work alongside more traditional methods and best practices.
Reach out to our team today and request a free, no-obligation demo of the engage™ app and platform. Learn more about the power of this solution when you see it in action.