Most businesses that approach us at TrackStreet are interested initially in our AI-based resale policy enforcement tools, and they hope that deploying these tools will help them protect their brands.
And while we believe that automated software that lets manufacturers monitor and enforce their reseller pricing policies is a necessary tool for any brand owner, it alone is insufficient to protect brands against the many threats they face in the marketplace.
To deal successfully and cost-effectively with all of these threats (which we’ll discuss below), a manufacturer should look not simply for a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) monitoring service but a more comprehensive brand protection agency.
What is a Brand Protection Agency?
Whereas many online price-monitoring companies offer a very limited set of services to allow manufacturers to catch violations of their resale price policies, a brand protection agency offers a far broader set of services that can help brand owners address many of the other types of threats their brands face online all the time.
Here are some of the services you should demand from a brand protection agency.
5 Services a Strong Brand Protection Agency Will Offer
1. Resale price monitoring and enforcement
This is the most familiar service that brand protection agencies offer manufacturers, but you will need to vet each of these services to make sure you sign up only with the best.
That means, for example, that you’ll want more than just alerts about violations of your MAP pricing. You’ll also want robust reporting and data analysis of your products’ pricing all across the Internet, so you can identify trends among your resellers’ behavior over time, discover marketplaces that are particularly vulnerable to gray-market sellers, and even identify sales opportunities with new retailers and to deepen relationships with your existing partners.
Also, you’ll want to make sure the company's price monitoring and enforcement platform can help you craft your warning letters and other correspondence to violators, and can also help automate the enforcement process wherever legally feasible.
2. Authorized dealer management
In the Internet era, it has become easier than ever for rogue retailers, who have no official relationship with the manufacturer, to acquire the company’s products and then resell them online in ways that violate the manufacturer’s guidelines and create lousy buying experiencing for customers. These rogue sellers can cause real harm to a brand’s value in the marketplace.
That’s why the right brand protection agency will also provide your company a streamlined system for developing an Authorized Dealer Program, in which you can restrict which retailers your internal sales team and your wholesalers are allowed to sell to. This will help you cut down on rogue sellers’ ability to acquire your inventory in the first place.
TrackStreet’s brand protection platform, for example, includes a Dealer Portal that helps our manufacturer customers managing their authorized retail and distribution partners, streamline the process of getting new dealers set up in their system, monitoring wholesale and retail sales, and even providing authorized partners with trust badges to place on their own sites and verify that they are, in fact, legitimate representatives of the manufacturer’s brand.
3. Product review tracking
Brands are also significantly affected (for better or worse) by what customers publish online about them. More than three in four shoppers read online product reviews as part of their buying process, and most place high levels of trust in those reviews.
Negative customers review and low-star ratings for your company’s products by the buy button can undermine sales and tarnish your brand over time.
Which is why you should also expect your brand protection agency to offer automated review tracking. Such a service should scan the Internet at all times for reviews of your products, generate detailed reports, and allow you to set customizable alerts for specific content—such as reviews containing the word “broken” or “late”—so your team can respond to the customer promptly to make things right.
4. Help identifying counterfeiters and IP theft of your products
With the right brand protection platform, your company will be able to monitor the Internet at all times not only for violations of your reseller pricing guidelines but also illegal uses of your brand’s intellectual property and possibly even counterfeit versions of your products.
Using such a platform’s review tracking solution, for example, you can automate the monitoring of customer reviews, comments, and other content published about your brand that mentions phrases like “knockoff,” “fake,” “scam,” “cheated,” or “counterfeit.” Often a customer’s complaint will be the first chance you have to discover someone is producing fakes of your product and selling them as the real thing.
The right brand protection agency will also scour the Internet for usage of your brand’s intellectual property—trademarks, product names, keywords, etc.—and check that usage against your authorized dealers and distributors list, to locate and inform you of any possible illegal use of your brand’s IP.
5. Access to a real team of brand protection experts
Finally, the right brand protection agency won’t be simply an automated platform. It will be a company built and operated by a team of brand protection experts who are always there to help guide you and your team through any of the common and sometimes sticky legal issues facing your brand.
That means the right partner won’t simply sign you up, take your money, and turn you loose to figure out how to operate their software platform. They’ll be available, anytime, to answer your questions, provide expert guidance on the challenges your team is facing, and help you grow your brand safely every step of the way.
Yes, online price monitoring is a mission-critical service for any manufacturer or brand owner that works through a resale channel to bring its products to market. But that service should be just one element in a larger strategy to safeguard your brand. Which is why you be looking for a brand protection agency.