Are you confident the Apple AirPods you’re buying online are a legitimate Apple product? As more people transition to shopping online, they are also highly concerned with the possibility of purchasing counterfeit items from third party sellers, which appears to be a persistent and prevalent problem – Amazon blocked 10 billion listings of counterfeit products earlier this year. 

More than 60% of consumers say they are concerned about accidentally purchasing fake or counterfeit goods online, as CivicScience learned in a recent survey of more than 2,340 U.S. adults. Twenty-percent say they are very concerned. This high level of concern is undoubtedly affecting ecommerce and purchasing behaviors, especially during the holiday season, which other studies have also found.

Far more people are concerned about purchasing fakes than those who knowingly have. More than one-quarter of respondents are aware they have purchased counterfeit goods in the past – the majority say they were unaware they were buying fakes, but more than one-third of these buyers admit to knowingly having purchased a counterfeit product. 

Online Shoppers and Counterfeit Purchases

People may unknowingly or knowingly purchase counterfeit items, such as fake designer handbags or Nike sneakers. And the pandemic and evolving supply chain issues have only increased the amount of counterfeit goods on the market, ranging from N95 face masks to electronics and semiconductor chips. Not knowing what to look for can make it nearly impossible to distinguish a real from a fake. 

Survey results show that 42% of people who primarily shop online have purchased counterfeit items in the past, compared to just 28% of people who mainly shop in stores. The majority of online shoppers who purchased fake items say they did so unknowingly. Yet 16% of online shoppers overall admit to having intentionally purchased fake items.

Brand Matters

Price dictates concern when it comes to buying counterfeit items and online shopping behavior. People who value brand over price are more likely to be concerned about the purchase of fake goods, compared to those who value price over brand. The most extreme brand loyalists are more than twice as likely to be highly concerned about purchasing counterfeit items online.

The Age Factor

Gen Z and Millennials are both more likely to shop online and be concerned about purchasing counterfeit items than older adults. Nearly one-quarter of Millennials say they are very concerned about this possibility. 

VR/AR Connection

The survey also revealed a correlation between users of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and the purchase of counterfeit products. More than half of those who own or intend to own a VR product say they have previously purchased (knowingly or unknowingly) a counterfeit item. These early adopters are more likely to also own other new electronic/digital devices, possibly making them more likely to run into illegitimate products online.

Online shopping inevitably comes with the possibility of purchasing counterfeit goods, posing a problem for both sellers and buyers. With the supply chain still in flux and with a consumer population that is both aware and concerned about the possibility of purchasing counterfeit items, it’s an issue that will continue to impact and define the ecommerce landscape.