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11 ways to detect Aliexpress’ hidden links
Brand Protection
6 mins

11 ways to detect Aliexpress’ hidden links

Table of Contents:

    AliExpress is one of the largest online marketplaces that’s favored by both customers and businesses alike for sourcing quality and affordable goods. But the platform is not without its challenges. One of the main concerns faced by brands is Aliexpress’ hidden links. These elusive links, which are used by sellers to discreetly offer branded items, can be a maze for the average shopper. They not only pose a threat to brand integrity but also to consumer trust. So whether you’re a vigilant shopper, a concerned brand owner, or curious about the world of counterfeit sales, this article will guide you through understanding and detecting AliExpress’ hidden links. 

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    What are AliExpress hidden links?

    AliExpress hidden links are a method used by some sellers on the AliExpress platform to sell branded products without openly listing them. This practice is often used to work around restrictions on selling certain branded items or to sell replicas without drawing the attention of brand owners. These links are not straightforward and typically require specific instructions from the seller to the buyer to identify the actual product being sold.

    How do they work?

    The functioning of AliExpress’ hidden links is, by design, shrouded in secrecy. Usually, a seller will list an innocuous or generic product at a particular price point. The image and description of the listed product will not reveal its true nature, and the listing will often appear vague. Interested buyers, who are often informed through private channels or social media groups, use these links to purchase the actual item, which is usually a branded product or a replica. The seller and buyer understand that the transaction is for a different item than what is listed, and will communicate privately to discuss the item that will actually be shipped. This indirect method helps bypass AliExpress’ regular monitoring and product listing policies.

    Why do sellers use hidden links?

    Sellers resort to hidden links primarily to avoid legal issues and platform restrictions. Selling branded goods, especially replicas or unauthorized products, can lead to legal action from brand owners and penalties from the platform, including listings being removed or accounts being suspended. Hidden links provide a workaround for these challenges, so sellers can continue offering such products discreetly.

    Products sold through hidden links

    The range of products sold through AliExpress’ hidden links can be vast, but they mostly include branded clothing, accessories, electronics, and luxury items. These are products that typically have high demand but are either restricted on the platform or counterfeit versions that cannot be openly sold. The allure of getting a branded product at a significantly lower price drives the hidden link market, despite the risks associated with authenticity and legality.

    Scope of the problem

    The issue of counterfeit sales through AliExpress’ hidden links extends beyond simple policy violations. The result can have significant direct and indirect impacts on both brands and consumers. It also poses a wider threat to the integrity of online marketplaces and the overall digital economy. 

    For brands, the prolific sale of counterfeits via hidden links can directly undercut legitimate revenue streams. By offering similar or identical products at lower prices, these sellers will direct some consumers away from the original brand. The problem is made worse when consumers unknowingly purchase these counterfeits, as it can lead to a negative experience that they might unfairly associate with the genuine brand. This misrepresentation damages brand reputation, as the quality and reliability of counterfeit products are often inferior to the genuine items.

    On top of this, when a market is flooded with counterfeits, it can dilute the brand’s exclusivity and perceived value. For example, when counterfeit versions of a designer bag become popular, the average person will begin to assume more people are carrying a fake version of that bag than the expensive legitimate article. This devaluation can lead to a long-term decline in customer willingness to pay premium prices for authentic products.

    Wider implications 

    The indirect consequences of counterfeit sales are perhaps even more damaging in the long run. Consumer trust is the cornerstone of brand loyalty, and when it’s compromised, it’s very hard to rebuild. Customers who inadvertently buy counterfeit products through hidden links might lose faith in the brand, even if the brand itself is not at fault.

    This loss of trust extends to the marketplace as well. Platforms like AliExpress risk their reputation as consumers begin to associate them with the risk of, or potential for, buying counterfeit goods. As trust diminishes, so does consumer engagement and loyalty to the platform as a whole as well as the brand affected.

    There is also a broader impact on consumer behavior. The prevalence of counterfeit products can lead to general wariness among consumers, making them hesitant to purchase genuine products online. This could be because of the devaluation of the brand, or because they no longer trust that items they purchase online will be legitimate. This hesitation can slow online market growth and innovation, as consumers may revert to shopping in traditional retail stores to ensure product authenticity.

    10 ways to detect AliExpress hidden links

    The good news is brands can find infringements and hidden links by combining a range of methods that effectively monitor and identify counterfeit sales on platforms like AliExpress.

    1. Keyword monitoring: Perform routine searches on the AliExpress platform using brand names, product names, and common misspellings. This can help identify listings that may be using subtle variations to avoid detection.
    2. Set up Google Alerts: Use Google Alerts or similar services for the brand name and related keywords. Sometimes, hidden links are discussed on forums or social media, which can lead back to specific AliExpress listings.
    3. Social media and forums: Keep an eye on platforms like Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media forums. Sellers often use these channels to promote hidden links. There are event TikTok trends like #reptok dedicated to this practice. Look for groups or posts that discuss buying branded items at significantly lower prices.
    4. Hashtags and keywords: Monitor specific hashtags and keywords related to your brand on social media platforms. This can lead to posts or groups promoting counterfeit goods through hidden links.
    5. Engaging with customers: Regularly engage with online communities of customers who are fans of your brand. These communities can be invaluable sources of information about counterfeit products.
    6. Reviewing customer feedback: Pay attention to customer complaints and feedback, especially those mentioning poor quality or discrepancies in products bought online. These can be indicators of counterfeit sales.
    7. Reverse image search: Use reverse image search tools to find images of your products on AliExpress. Counterfeiters often use original product images to mislead buyers.
    8. Ecommerce aggregator sites: Check ecommerce aggregator sites that list products from various platforms, including AliExpress. These sites can sometimes inadvertently aid in finding hidden link listings.
    9. Industry groups and forums: Join industry forums or groups where brands share information about counterfeit activities. Collective efforts often yield better results in identifying and combating infringements.
    10. Hiring mystery shoppers: Employ mystery shoppers to join hidden link communities and purchase products from suspicious listings to confirm their authenticity.
    11. Analyzing product reviews: Examine reviews of products that resemble your brand’s products on AliExpress. Counterfeit sellers may use hidden links without using the brand’s trademark, or they blur or remove the logo that would normally be on the product. However, some buyers may post pictures of the item they received, which can serve as evidence as they may show the brand logo.

    How to takedown AliExpress hidden links automatically

    Sellers using AliExpress hidden links go to great lengths to stay under the radar by avoiding trademark names and altering or removing logos from images. In that sense, Red Points Marketplace Solution, with its employment of AI technology has emerged to provide impressive solutions for automatic detection and prompt takedown of these listings.

    AI-driven image and logo recognition tools are at the forefront of this battle against counterfeits. These tools use sophisticated algorithms to scan images across AliExpress listings, comparing them against a database of known brand logos and product images. This technology is capable of recognizing even subtly altered logos or product designs, which human oversight might miss.

    For instance, if a brand uploads its official product images and logos to Red Points’ platform, the AI tool can continuously scan marketplace listings for these visual elements. When a match is detected, the tool flags it for review. This process is very efficient and can cover thousands of listings in a short time.

    Image fingerprinting takes this a step further. It creates a unique digital “fingerprint” of each image. This technology doesn’t just look for exact matches – it can even detect variations of the image. Therefore, even if a counterfeiter has altered an image to try and avoid detection, the fingerprinting technology can still recognize it based on its core characteristics.

    Automated takedown processes

    Once the Red Points platform identifies a potentially infringing listing, the next step is the takedown process. The software detects infringements and also automates the process of notifying AliExpress and requesting the removal of the infringing listings. The technology operates within the legal framework of intellectual property rights and ecommerce platform policies to ensure a high success rate in takedown requests.

    Our Marketplace solution is designed to learn and adapt continuously. As counterfeiters evolve their tactics, our AI technology also improves its detection mechanisms to ensure that they remain effective. 

    What’s next 

    The prevalence of AliExpress hidden links poses a significant threat to brand integrity and consumer trust. So brands and intellectual property owners must stay vigilant and take proactive measures to prevent fakes. Embracing advanced AI tools for brand protection is not just a strategy, but a necessity in the fight against counterfeits. Take the first step towards safeguarding your brand by requesting a demo of Red Points’ innovative solutions today.

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