Secret Scrooges: Holiday Shoppers, Beware Rogue Online Retailers

Secret Scrooges: Holiday Shoppers, Beware Rogue Online Retailers

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner, the U.S. holiday shopping season is set to officially kick off in just a few days and many consumers will be looking online to find the best deals for gifts on their shopping lists. But the hunt for holiday shopping deals can have a “bah humbug” side: about one in five bargain-hunting, online shoppers in the U.S. and Europe has mistakenly shopped counterfeit goods online. Nielsen collaborated with MarkMonitor– an online brand protection company–on their new MarkMonitor Shopping Report, released today, and found that many consumers shopping for knock-offs may only be looking for the best deals on legitimate products.

An analysis of anonymized panelists’ search terms and referral traffic to rogue websites shows that for every shopper searching for counterfeit goods on the web, 20 more were merely bargain hunters looking up the best deals, using terms like “discount” and “clearance.” As consumers surf for bargains, counterfeit goods sold at steep discounts may not be as easily distinguishable from end-of-season sales across the web. And if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many websites selling counterfeit goods can look legitimate – even using official product images.

In fact, consumers visiting sites that sell counterfeit goods are demographically similar to those visiting trusted online retailers, further demonstrating that consumers may not be able to distinguish between legitimate and black-market, online retailers. An anonymized demographic analysis of Nielsen’s permissioned panel showed that online shoppers who browse rogue sites are nearly identical to visitors to more mainstream retailers.

Demographic profile of visitors to retail websites

Nielsen’s representative panels showed similar behavior in six European markets examined, although there were some differences comparing each market. Italian and French online shoppers were three times more likely than their Swiss and German counterparts to visit counterfeit sites. In the U.S., shoppers searching for counterfeit goods are more likely to use brand names, whereas bargain hunters search for product categories. However, there was one notable exception. Both U.S. and European online shoppers looked for brand name footwear, although many were steered towards sites selling counterfeit goods.

“These findings really challenge the common assumption that consumers who purchase counterfeit goods are distinctly different than those consumers buying genuine goods,” said Eric Solomon, senior vice president, global digital audience measurement, Nielsen. “With Cyber Monday right around the corner, consumers across all segments must be vigilant when shopping online.”

Consumers have more choices in online shopping than ever before, from daily-deal sites to trusted online retailers, including rogue sites.  Interestingly, consumers visiting rogue sites were among the most engaged online shoppers, browsing more than twice as many shopping sites compared to those who visited legitimate retailers only. The competition for holiday shopping lists has never been more fierce, so consumers might want to check the site twice to see which online retailers are naughty and nice…

Download the full MarkMonitor Shopping Report here.