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Protect your brand and reputation online

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The exponential growth of the Internet retail world is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, in 2015 e-commerce sales were up 11 per cent year-on-year, equating to an approximate £114bn expenditure, according to reports based on the “IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index“. By any standard, that is a lot of money, and with so much activity, inevitably there will be other people trying to exploit it. So it’s imperative that businesses investing in online channels understand the importance of protecting both themselves, and their brand. 

Brand impersonation runs rampant online, and no industry is immune. From pirated music and films, to travel scams, fake pharmaceuticals, car parts, apparel and accessories, anything and everything can be exploited. Brandjackers can leverage content and imagery, use URLs that appear authentic and employ other techniques that aim to siphon away traffic from its intended destination. In these ways, imposters can easily hijack a brand, and the businesses being duped are losing both customers and profits.

If we think about how customers use the Internet to find a particular product, the vast majority of online sales begin with search, not brand websites or on official mobile apps. Some 81 per cent of consumers research online before making big purchases. Over 40 per cent of consumers consider mobile an important resource for a purchase decision. Most find brand websites through search engines, email, social media and mobile or online ads, rather than by typing a specific URL directly into their browser. 

As search continues to be the centrepiece of consumer activity across mobile, online and social media, it is crucial to ensure every brand protection strategy addresses the risk of lost traffic which can affect the success of a company’s digital marketing investments. In fact, with the prolific growth of the Internet, the need for the most robust and effective brand protection strategy has never been greater. A strategy that can protect the negative effects that occur when someone else exploits a brand for their own gain.

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Firstly, businesses need to keep brandjackers and counterfeiters from intercepting online traffic by having pirate and fraudulent websites taken down. These can have a sizable impact on an organisation’s revenue, so taking proactive measures that will ensure that potential customers are not duped into visiting a fraudulent website or buying a counterfeit product purporting to be genuine is vital. This goes beyond the brands themselves and it is important every partner including affiliates, resellers, franchisees and even employees are also compliant with the guidelines of the brand. 

Another element of protecting a brand online is for businesses to maximise the value of their domain portfolios in light of the developments in the Internet name space. To date, the launch of the new generic top-level domains (gTLD) has seen more than 750 new gTLDs added to the root zone. An exponential increase compared to the two dozen original gTLDs, however, the expansion of the domain environment does not necessarily mean an increased domain budget. 

Companies should maximise the value of their existing portfolio through portfolio rightsizing and domain utilisation. This means reviewing a portfolio at least once a year to identify registration gaps, and check for out-of-policy registrations, underutilised domains and legacy domains that may be unnecessarily eating into the organisation’s budget.

There is no doubt that ecommerce opens up a world of opportunity to businesses – particularly those with a focus on penetrating global markets. While every organisation has a comprehensive sales strategy, it is equally important to develop, implement and maintain an online brand protection strategy in order to ensure that these opportunities can be capitalised on without any negative impact on your brand.

Simon Whitehouse is senior director EMEA of MarkMonitor.

Years ago, Benjamin Franklin said: “It takes many, many good deeds to build a reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” This statement is now more true than ever – so here’s how to keep your digital reputation in check.

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