Authored by Rishabh Mehra, Managing Director of Digital Mall of Asia
E-commerce has been a huge hit in India. Thanks to the giants who brought this innovative concept to customers, offering them seamless shopping experiences. Online shopping has become a favorite pastime for many shoppers, majorly including the internet-savvy millennials. However, lately, e-commerce has attracted heavy public criticism mainly due to the selling of counterfeit products. Around 20 percent of the products sold on e-commerce platforms are found bogus, according to a recent survey. This large-scale counterfeiting can somehow be attributed to today’s ever-increasing e-commerce ecosystem.
As the customers turn dependent on e-commerce platforms, they give rise to a new challenge – the dark world of fake reviews. Most shoppers, for instance, put blind faith in customer reviews while doing their research on a product they are planning to buy. In doing so, they come across multiple product reviews that seem genuine and eventually get convinced by them. The product, however, turns out to be entirely different or of very poor quality, once received.
That said, we must also realize the after-effects of delivering phony goods, which can be devastating to both shoppers and brands. For instance, if a shopper orders a branded watch from an e-commerce website, which later appears to be a fake, imagine the impression it would make in his/her mind about the brand. Any brand would end up losing a customer in such a case.
Similarly, there can be possibilities of medicines purchased online and later found to be illicit and expired, or being tampered to give new manufacturing dates. In that case, nobody will be able to find out the genuineness of the product before consuming it. This could pose a major health risk. And till then, it will too late!
Witnessing the gravity of the situation, the government had to barge in to address this issue. In its recently released e-commerce policy draft, the administration came out with some anti-counterfeit measures that focussed on giving trademark owners (usually brands and resellers) the option to approve the sale of trademarked products only, listed on a vendor’s platform. There is also a possibility of price rise due to this move, however, eventually, all prices will come down if brands start getting adequate customer demands.
The proposal, if confirmed, will give brands the power to choose which products and vendors should be enlisted. This could, however, give rise to trade channel conflicts between brands and vendors. It is also assumed that brands could misuse this power and continue to offer heavy discounts, something that has been constantly protested by offline vendors.
Prohibiting large-scale counterfeiting will take some time though, but at the same time, we should also realize that eliminating it may not be possible. To overcome this problem, new-age companies are coming up with innovative business models of a virtual e-commerce ecosystem to disrupt India’s foreign-dominated e-commerce market. They are merging real estate and digital spaces intending to reshape the general outlook of retailers towards digital e-commerce while claiming to eliminate counterfeiting. Such platforms are focusing on building a mechanism that will enable shoppers to first check the product before making a payment, thus improving the overall trust and reliability of customers on online shopping. This has been a huge miss at present.
Besides, customers – from their end – must also pay attention by checking and comparing certain aspects of a product immediately after buying it. For instance, one must check the logo, model number of the product, the difference between the MRP on both sites, etc. A buyer should also read the return policy very carefully while checking whether it has a complete and clear mention of what steps to follow if a product is found spurious, and ask for a refund.
Another observation is about heavy discounts. Luxury products at throwaway prices easily pull us as they are hard to resist. One should be aware that the price variation cannot possibly be too much when it comes to branded products. Such products always come with standard discounts. So in case, the discount is heavy, there is nothing wrong in being suspicious about it.
E-commerce has gained mass attraction across India, and millennials are already addicted to it. However, it is our responsibility to be mindful when shopping online and thus look into a few product-related aspects to avoid counterfeiting. Hopefully, the innovative virtual e-commerce platforms eyeing the market will be able to stand out as major disruptors in this space and help customers get rid of fakes and phony goods for good