Brands and government agencies have been pushing hard on online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and others to better police their platforms from fake products.
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But a recent survey finds that especially young people are okay with buying fake or counterfeit products. According to the survey by the EU’s Intellectual Property Office among Europeans aged 15 to 24 (Gen Z), 37% of young people bought one or several fake products intentionally in the past 12 months.
The counterfeit products that Gen Z most commonly bought intentionally are clothes and accessories (17%), footwear (14%), electronic devices (13%), and hygiene, cosmetics, personal care and perfumes (12%).
Out of all Gen Z shoppers, 30% expressed zero lack of concern about purchasing authentic versus counterfeit goods, with females exhibiting a higher level of indifference at 36% compared to males at 26%.
“Counterfeits have definitely become more acceptable for young shoppers,” said Bella Hales, junior talent researcher at London and Los Angeles-based social creative agency The Fifth to FT.com in a story published this week.
Part of the problem is that Gen Z shoppers perceive luxury goods as overpriced. “Designer used to mean quality, and now a lot of cost-cutting has meant you’ll buy an expensive bag and it will have threads or defects,” said one user on TikTok (as reported by FT.com)
And another said: “I’m glad they [knock-offs] are getting that good bc [because] these brands dropped their quality below sea level and their prices skyrocketed.”
“The economics behind it is quite simple, it’s people moving to cheaper alternatives,” Chris Beer, data journalist at audience research company GWI said to Ft.com. The research company surveyed 2,110 Gen Zers across 12 countries and found that 20% said inflation had a big effect on their finances.
“Consumers, particularly younger ones, are turning away from conspicuous consumption. They’re still interested in gaining status, but are looking to achieve it through thrift and frugality instead.”
With major marketplaces trying to keep duplicates and fakes off their platforms, it appears sellers have moved to TikTok. FT reports that the hashtag #dupes has tallied up 2.1 billion views, while #Reps (short for replicas) has 1.9 billion.
Not all videos on TikTok are selling fake products. Many “influencers” are showing viewers where and how to find them to save money.
Gen Z on eBay, Etsy, Amazon?
But just because the major online marketplaces have better controls to identify duplicates, can shoppers still find them?
It does appear to be more difficult as sometimes products will surface with the term ‘dupes’ that appear to be close copies, but they are not being sold under the brand name.
Still, the increasing interest of Gen Z in buying counterfeit products remains a cause for concern for brands.
A few luxury brands are proactively pursuing collaborations with leading marketplaces to move inventory. This week, eBay launched a new platform, “Certified by Brand,” to facilitate luxury brands in selling authentic goods on their platform.
However, the number of brands participating in this initiative is currently limited.
For the near future, eBay’s primary focus is on its Authenticity Guarantee program to increase sales and attract more buyers interested in authentic high-end products. Products sold under the Authenticity Guarantee will be checked for authenticity before they are forwarded to the buyer.
And when it comes to Etsy, it seems from the comments made by sellers on internet forums, Etsy has intensified its efforts to eliminate fake products.
In February, the company was criticized for having too many counterfeit items on its platform. While it didn’t address the issue head-on publicly, anecdotally, it appears they are removing more items from their platform now than before.
All the while, Amazon continues to ramp up its enforcement of fake products. In April, the company launched another new way to bring together brands, manufacturers, and distributors to fight counterfeits.
The recently established Anti-Counterfeiting Exchange (ACX) goes beyond Amazon by attempting to identify products and prevent access to goods intended for sale on other channels as well.
However, at the end of the day, TikTok seems to be at the center of this dispute. Unless the social media platform takes proactive measures to clamp down on users who promote counterfeit products, it could become another avenue for regulators to limit the company’s access to Gen Z users.
Should that happen, street vendors will see a bump in sales!
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