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more than online investigation alone

Boots on the Ground

Businesses that experience royalty and licensing infringement or counterfeits have come to understand that online brand protection is not the end-all to threats. Online marketplace research has its advantages, but doesn’t give enough insights to know the full extent of threats in the physical retail channel. If you’re in this place, I’m sure you have been in a situation where you have done a lot of take-downs and yet the challenge is not reduced. The question is, “ Are you missing something?”  The answer is probably yes.


The key thing is to get the right evidence to successfully monitor suspicious activities in the supply-chain. It is essential to bring visibility to your data from physical products to help unlock hidden insights in the supply-chain and make it actionable.


For example, in consumer electronics, we discovered almost 52% more models in retail stores than on retailer’s websites, when comparing agent’s research reports with online investigation alone! The fact is many retailers simply don’t go to the effort to list online every product they sell. And, the percentage of unlisted products increases in emerging markets, countries like India, Indonesia, the Philippines, etc. where internet usage is less prevalent. So, it’s possible that online scrapes are only telling you half of the story. 


When running a global brand enforcement campaign, it is important to include an on-demand field investigation (aka boots on the ground) for precisely this reason. What you really need is a platform that manages your worldwide field investigations AND your online  research, to enhance your targeting, and to ensure that you deploy your limited resources efficiently, all while securing the chain of evidence.  Such a tool can be a powerful boost to your supply-chain integrity strategy.


Global evidence at your fingertips:

Without physical evidence, there is a chance of ending up with a lot of false positives, simply because what is online is not always the real information or complete picture. Real evidence strengthens your position when it comes to royalty recovery or brand enforcement.


As an example, one of our clients was concerned about a trend they were seeing online: the proliferation of an unlicensed vendor using their brand. We coordinated and launched a field investigation for them in over 200 retail stores, located in 55 different cities, in six different countries. It turns out that we saw *NO* evidence of these products in stores or available for purchase. It was all just smoke and mirrors. But that same investigation discovered 730 products that weren’t on our client’s radar. If our client had trusted the online investigation alone, they would have wasted valuable resources chasing a ghost. Similar trends apply in counterfeit auto parts, consumer electronics license infringement, and personal hygiene gray-market products.


Deeper insights from people in the local market:

Field agents can also add deeper insights through engagements with retail sales people. By aggregating these insights from different stores, you can quickly understand the scale of vulnerability.  Using an on-demand platform, a trained field agent can collect geo-tagged photographic evidence in-situ, with the added advantage of potential in-store testing or sample purchases. Another of our clients asked us to perform in-store testing on some questionable goods. After testing over 600 units in 70 different stores, we identified 150% more infringement than trademark monitoring alone indicated.  And, they never would have known, without our agents in the field. Field agents in the market have better knowledge of locations to target within their own country and cities, too. They know where pirates hide in their neighborhoods and can direct you to them. This knowledge can be aggregated to enrich the data and reports.


It’s also easier to map distribution scale from the geographical insights of where the products are located in the distribution channel. In the absence of actual unit sales data, it’s important to have some information of a SKU’s footprint in the marketplace. If data on the same infringing product is identified in multiple countries and a wide variety of retailers, you can get an idea that the infringement isn’t just limited to one area. In addition, there may be location specific data that isn’t available to you, if you or your representative aren’t physically in the store. For example, during one campaign, we determined that QR codes posted on sales tags in different countries led to, not just language specific information, but different product data altogether. Put another way, the information that was being used to sell to customers was completely different, depending on where the point of sale was located. Different logos, different brands, different specifications, EVERYTHING! And, again, our client wouldn’t have known, if they had relied on online investigations alone. This level of deep insight helps in classifying risks and identifying the correct strategies and priorities.


Scaling teams while saving costs:

“Ah, but I can’t afford to employ people everywhere all the time!  It’s too expensive,” I hear you say. Well, that’s where AllVirtuous on-demand field agents and global teams can help. We’ve already covered more than 50 countries, on every continent, covering 560 different retailers in 170 different cities. Crowdsourcing trained field agents through us could cost you an estimated 10 times LESS than building a similar team on your own. Save the cost of long airplane flights and foreign hotels. Save the effort of trip planning and local logistics. Spend that time and money better tending to the targets that our field evidence identifies. You personally can only be in one place at a time, while our on-demand field agents can be everywhere at once, with  teams literally in Russia and Brazil at the same time. Because field teams don’t need to travel, they can also be ready to address short term events like seasonal sales or specific cultural traditions. Need more field visibility in December during Christmas sales, but then scale way back in January?  That’s hard for an employer to do, but easy for on-demand field agents using the AllVirtuous mobile app. We collect the data and keep it all organized and dashboarded for your convenience.


AllVirtuous offers you Intelligence as a Service (IaaS) with global on-demand teams, conducting investigations that you direct and generating data and evidence that helps you focus on high-level actionable targets. Contact us today to learn more! 

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