OpSec Connect: The evolution of e-commerce amid COVID-19
In the second webinar of the OpSec Connect™ event series, OpSec’s Nancy Merritt, Senior Manager of Global Relationships, and Lenny Xue, Manager of the Shanghai OBP Team discussed the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the e-commerce market, and the resulting security concerns around the buying and selling of goods via social media and live streaming.
The changing internet landscape amidst COVID-19
The internet landscape has been fundamentally altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, during an average internet minute, there have been 194,444 total tweets, compared to 87,500 in 2019. Short form video content continues to grow in popularity due to the rise of TikTok. Each person now has an average of 7.6 social media accounts, and there are roughly 3 billion regular social media users. US adult social network users now spend 7 more minutes per day on social network platforms than in 2019.
A poll taken during the webinar revealed that, 73% of webinar attendees responded ‘yes’ during a real-time poll when asked if their social media and online shopping habits had increased during the lockdown period. With such major shifts towards greater social media use e-commerce has made huge strides forward.
For the first time, global online marketplaces account for 50% of online retail sales in 2020, and social media has a massive role to play in this as more users turn to platforms like Facebook Marketplace. With many people across the globe forced into lockdown by the pandemic, those who had not previously contemplated buying goods online have now started shopping online. US e-commerce spending is up 36% compared to 2019.
The market for e-commerce through social media platforms is rife for further growth and opportunity. This unfortunately leads to further opportunities for piracy, illegal content and infringement online, and brand/IP protection businesses need to be mindful of this growth. It is crucial to be aware of the potentially nefarious activity that could result from an increased number of well-intentioned consumers entering the e-commerce market as well as the increased hours that users are spending online shopping.
E-commerce in China – The rise of live stream shopping
Due to the global pandemic, the rising e-commerce figures haven’t just been isolated to the US, and Lenny followed on the conversation with the changes recently experienced in e-commerce trends in China. Traditionally, luxury brands have avoided involvement in online retailing due to the nature of their business, preferring to offer high-end, in-store experiences for their customers, but the economic situation led to 150 luxury brands launching a flagship store in Tmall, a Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer online retail.
Through the use of social media video platforms, live stream shopping is growing in popularity in China. The origins of this trend are primarily based on the rise of live streaming in the gaming industry, such as e-sports, where users would watch other gamers play video games in order to find out tips and tricks for navigating the gameplay themselves. From this, live video has entered the e-commerce world via platforms such as Taobao, TikTok, Little Red Book, WeChat and Weibo.
Through these platforms, influencers and celebrities will promote a product during video streaming, but unlike the TV shopping of old, the advances in technology allow for some key benefits. Viewers are able to ask the promoter or other viewers their opinions on the product – items which are usually heavily discounted. However, as Lenny pointed out during the event, numerous security issues have arisen from this new trend.
Challenges and security concerns
Many live streaming platforms still don’t possess strong regulation policies when it comes to IP protection and potential infringement. Due to the relatively new concept of live stream shopping, monitoring and enforcement is time consuming, and in many cases high numbers of orders can be placed in a short amount of time, making it difficult to track infringing products.
Lenny explained how some users are selling counterfeit goods by posting listings on popular e-commerce platforms such as Little Red Book and Taobao and then directing consumers to the seller’s personal WeChat account to complete the transaction. Using this private messaging platform makes it harder for IP enforcers to track counterfeit sellers. Enforcers are increasingly searching for any key information that counterfeit sellers share on social media channels such as phone numbers that can help with investigations.
Before the event wrapped up Nancy and Lenny answered a few questions from the webinar viewers, including:
- Pharmaceutical goods being sold on live streaming platforms,
- New technologies and solutions needed to monitor IP infringement and counterfeiting
- Future trends that will emerge in e-commerce once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.
To discover more you can find the on-demand recording here.