Coronavirus increases online shopping, but buyers fear fakes

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing people to shop online much more often, but that is causing anxiety about exposure to low-quality knock-offs, says a US survey.

All told, more than two thirds (68 per cent) of US shoppers are concerned there will be more inauthentic or poor quality products online, but 58 per cent say they are now buying more online than usual, according to the poll by Red Points.

Some products have seen a spike in demand while others are suffering a slump, according to the findings, with cosmetics and personal care, food and beverage, household goods, baby products and clothing the top five categories.

Meanwhile, demand for office supplies has grown as more people are trying to work from home, and the same is happening with home schooling materials, according to the results of the survey, which was carried out in 1,000 US citizens aged 18 to 55 earlier this month.

“During this time, counterfeiters could jump on increased demand for vitamins, health products, games, electronics, headphones, and technology peripherals,” says Red Points in its write-up of the survey results.

“Children toys could also see a rise in counterfeits – that’s concerning because knockoffs rarely meet regulations,” it adds. Also worryingly, almost half of respondents (45 per cent) said there were unaware of the problem of counterfeiting on online retail platforms.

Other findings from the survey included that 59 per cent of US shoppers are making more snap purchasing decisions in light of the coronavirus pandemic, while 60 per cent indicated they would increase online shopping further if worried about catching the virus from visiting stores.

“One thing is certain: the internet is quickly becoming the only place for shoppers to get what they need, whether basic necessities or gadgets to pass the time,” says Red Points.

“Any bump in demand presents an opportunity for counterfeiters to ride the wave if legitimate sellers aren’t monitoring the marketplace for fakes.”

The company says some online retailers are stepping up, singling out Amazon for its recent announcement that it will hire 100,000 extra workers to meet rising demand during the pandemic, and actions to ban sellers of counterfeit or price-gouged goods.

“The big question is whether this short-term increase in online shopping will translate into long-term change,” says Red Points.

“If people who are new to online shopping have positive experiences, they may continue to incorporate more ecommerce purchases into their spending habits.”

Expect the opposite outcome of course if counterfeits and substandard goods end up on their doorsteps.

There’s also a stark warning as China shows signs of emerging from its epidemic.

“Unfortunately, many counterfeit suppliers are concentrated in China’s nimble factory network [and] China’s factory workers are already past the worst part of the virus. That means counterfeiters may be in a better position to jump on renewed demand before legitimate sellers can reopen production.

“In other words, brands that manufacture outside of China could be handicapped in the fight against counterfeits.”

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