One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers today is unauthorized sellers. They can erode profit margins as well as consumer trust in your brand. Luckily, methods for combating these illicit sellers are emerging as E-commerce professionals delve deeper into the underworld of “Unauthorized Sales” Three of these top strategies discussed below.
Identify Problem Sellers
Unauthorized sellers are masters in hiding their identities. They use false names, P.0. Boxes, change store names, file under shell companies, and a mired of other tactics to hide their real identities. Whether your hire an e-enforcement team, or tackle it yourself its important to start by tracking unusually high-volume sales. It is important to determine the geographic location these sales are coming from, what sku’s are being utilized, what are the unauthorized sellers’ modus operandi – are they obscuring product SKUS, selling below Minimum Advertised Pricing (“MAP”), failing to honor your company’s customer service standards? Many companies utilize (MAP) services to provide them with this information.
Investigate the Supply Chain
A crucial step in catching rogue sellers is determining where they are obtaining your company’s products in the first place. In the past, many companies tried tracking illicit sales using special bar codes or invisible marks to track packages. Unfortunately, criminals stayed up to date with those technologies and they quickly became obsolete. Tracking product source is a job best left for experienced e-commerce investigators. They will use their years’ of expertise and experience, proprietary databases, access to law enforcement information and other proprietary tools to root out the people selling your products to unauthorized resellers.
Identify The Unauthorized Sellers
Unauthorized Sellers that are selling under MAP pricing, know that they are going to be crosswise with your company. For this reason they take every precaution to obscure their identity. This is an area that MAP data providers and most internal teams don’t typically have the resources to tackle. Professional e-enforcement companies have proprietary databases of Unauthorized sellers that have “unmasked” their true identities including real name, address, company name registered with Amazon and eBay, telephone numbers, social security numbers and how to reach them. If they are not in the database, their team of professional e-commerce investigators, many of which are ex-law enforcement have the ability to hunt them down with a high degree of success.
Send A Clear Message
Once your company has identified unauthorized sellers and their product sources, it is time to send a clear message that their illegitimate sales tactics will not be tolerated. Electronically delivered Cease and Desist letters are a key starting point. Many online sales platforms, such as EBay, have messaging systems that will allow your enforcement professionals to send those letters quickly and easily. They may also provide owner verification applications that allow you to quickly flag and remove products offered by unscrupulous sellers. Professional e-enforcement teams have the ability to automate this process to send out thousands of notices with a push of a button. This can significantly change the costs and burdens placed on your internal teams and your attorney.
Finally, consistent messaging is crucial. Every unauthorized seller must receive notice that their illicit tactics will not be tolerated. If they do not respond to the first round of Cease and Desist letters, then a graduated communication process should be implemented. Most unauthorized sellers have been trained that you do not have any “enforcement teeth” that your notifications are not enforceable. This is where working with your legal team to provide strategies that make “trademark infringement” against your product due to material differences enforceable will make all the difference in the world.
A Final Reminder
Keep these tips in mind as implement your new enforcement plan:
- Enforce Your Company’s Rights Consistently. Selectively targeting rogue sellers without consistent enforcement follow-up will only send a message that your all talk and no action.
- Commit to a “zero to low tolerance” mindset.. Anything less will leave you vulnerable to escalating issues and expose your company to serious losses and damage to consumer perception of your brand.
- Call in the Calvary. Don’t be afraid to hire outside professionals to combat this problem. E-Enforcement teams and qualified legal counsel have the expertise and experience to make this problem go away quickly and for good.
For more information, contact the E-Enforce™ team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (800) 892-0450. You can follow us at e-enforceCIS@twitter.com, Ecommerce Enforcement Group On Linkedin and E-Enforce.com.