Product Managers Look For New Ways To Detect Counterfeits

Finding counterfeits is half the battle
Finding counterfeits is half the battle
Image Credit: cce

Just imagine if you were a product manager who was responsible for a very popular product. Perhaps this is a fashion product or a high tech product that everyone wants. Yes, your sales would probably be exploding; however, something else would be exploding at the same time – counterfeiting of your product. Other manufactures would see how successful your product was and then they would go ahead and start to make copies of it and sell it for less. As a product manager part of your job would be to put a stop to this kind of thievery. However, you first have to find the counterfeits that are being sold. How can you go about doing this?

How To Find Counterfeits

So just exactly how do product managers expect front line workers to detect counterfeits? If a designer handbag has to be checked to see if it is authentic, a worker can grab a custom camera with a microscope lens. The shape of a bulky battery pack, it can pop onto an iPhone or iPod. Once this is done, the worker opens an app and selects a brand from a list. The app will then guide the worker through taking photos of different parts of the bag, such as specific areas of the fabric and logo, as they press the camera against the material.

More and more the role of spotting counterfeits is being filled by artificial-intelligence algorithms that have studied every angle of tens of thousands of bags, shoes and other items that are often knocked off. Companies are developing machine-learning tools to help protect shoppers. While developing algorithms product managers will spend years collecting authentic and fake items to teach the algorithm how to tell the difference between the two, down to details that most humans would have a hard time spotting. The lens on the camera magnifies the fabric of a handbag at least 100 times, making features in the material that are invisible to the eye become clear in the resulting images. Depending on the bag, the AI can check 500 to 1,500 features, such as color, stitching and the pattern of pores in leather. A result will pop up in the app anywhere from 60 seconds to an hour, depending on the brand. The power of this approach is that with each use, the algorithm becomes a little smarter.

Machine learning is a technique that works by viewing hundreds or thousands of examples, in this case both real and fake bags, and learning to spot what delineates the two. The technology is already used in manufacturing processes to find defects and could be used in a similar way to find counterfeits. Unlike humans, it is able to examine thousands of examples of properly made products and consider billions of data points to find problems with counterfeit goods. Currently the process is expensive and time-consuming, not least because it involves the process of collecting real and fake items. In the future, product managers could use advanced AI techniques to speed up the process and bring costs down.

Next Steps In Catching Counterfeits

Eventually, this kind of technology could be adapted to be used with other products such as verifying industrial goods, electronics, food, medicine and more. Product managers need to understand that there is a lot to catch. The counterfeit market is currently worth over US$500 billion and makes up approximately 3.3% of total world trade.

Product managers at Amazon also have to deal with counterfeit goods. At Amazon, more than half of physical merchandise sales last year were from third-party sellers. Amazon product managers have released Project Zero, an AI-driven anticounterfeiting program for brands that aims to automatically remove bogus goods from their site. Brands provide Amazon with logos, trademarks and other data, which the AI then uses to look for suspected counterfeits among their billions of product listings. Amazon tries to strictly prohibit the sale of counterfeit products, and they invest heavily to ensure their policy is followed.

Other online marketplaces have anticounterfeiting measures in place. which is a website set up to let Goodwill stores in the U.S. and Canada sell their most lucrative donations online, includes certificates with each handbag. The scans allow 80 Goodwill locations that use the site to list handbags for more money. Another shop now sells its goods curbside. Their product managers scan about 60 bags a month and find a fake about once every four months. The reason that this is done because it’s a huge confidence booster for customers – it can put them at ease.

What All Of This Means For You

Having a very popular product is the dream of every product manager. However, with success comes some additional challenges. If we are in charge of a popular product, then we also have to realize that there is a very good chance that counterfeit versions of our product may soon start to be created. These counterfeits may not be as safe, reliable, or healthy as our product is and customers who get confused and purchase a counterfeit version may start to think that our product is not a good product. This means that product managers have to take the time to detect counterfeits so that we can put a stop to them.

In order to detect counterfeit goods, sophisticated cameras and apps can be used to find fakes. Artificial Intelligence is being used to inspect products and make thousands of comparisons to valid products in order to spot counterfeits. Building the AI models to do this is currently very expensive, but there are hopes that costs will come down over time. Existing techniques can be expanded to be used with other goods. Amazon product managers are working very hard to prevent third party retailers from selling counterfeit goods on their site. Other vendors are also scanning their goods looking for counterfeits in order to make their customers feel more comfortable.

When a customer purchases a product, they have expectations that they are buying a genuine product. However, the sea of counterfeit products that are out there makes it very hard for both sellers and buyers to be certain that they are dealing with the real thing. Product managers have to develop the tools and techniques that can be used to determine what products are real. If we can convince our customers that they are dealing with real and not counterfeit products, then we have a better chance of having happy, satisfied customers.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What action should a product manager take if they discover a counterfeit version of their product?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

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