GM Thought of the Week: Project Zero Launched as Amazon Begins to Tackle Counterfeit Problem
Last week, Amazon launched its new initiative, ‘Project Zero’ in an attempt to combat counterfeiting with the target of eventually eradicating counterfeit sales on its platform to zero.
The, ‘Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018’ found that the value of total counterfeiting globally hit $1.2 trillion in 2017 and is expected to hit a staggering $1.8 trillion by 2020. It also estimated that the losses suffered due to online ‘fakes’ was over $300 billion in 2017.
As part of Project Zero, Amazon will hand the control back to brands and sellers to automatically remove listings they deem to be counterfeit – previously the onus was on the brands or customers to report the problem to Amazon who would then intervene. It will also implement powerful algorithms that will continually scan and remove any suspected listings.
One of the core features of Project Zero is product serialisation which will allow brands to place a unique code on their products during manufacturing so that when an order is placed Amazon can scan the code and either deny or approve the order.
It is hoped this new feature along with others will appease brands, especially those who products are copied and sold alongside the legitimate ones on the platform. Indeed some have pulled products and walked away from the platform in recent times, for example Swatch and Birkenstock, as both were not satisfied with Amazon’s actions in combating the sale of bogus items.
However, such measures will take time to have an effect. The initiative is at the moment restricted to a select number of brands and is invite only (however there is a waitlist in place); so will not achieve its goal overnight. The serialisation service will also come at a cost to brands; something they will need to compare against the potential loss due to counterfeit products. Imitators will also begin to attempt to trick the algorithms by making such listings harder to spot as fakes.
Overall the measure, whilst benefiting the consumer and Amazon itself by freeing up the time it takes to police its platform, will do little in regard to the wider problem of counterfeiting on a global scale. A problem which is growing exponentially. This is due to the plethora of e commerce platforms now available to counterfeiters and the increasing ease of copying products due to technological advances which are both increasing the supply of such goods to meet the growing demand for them. However, brands will certainly welcome the move by Amazon in that it is at least acknowledging the issue and beginning to fight back.