Entrepreneurs in China are resorting to fake orders or “brushing” as it is commonly called, to gain a stronghold in the world’s renowned e-commerce website Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA). This involves hiring people to fake as customers and place e-orders, which in turn inflates the sales figures of the vendors and gives a boost to their image on the e-commerce platform.
Normally, what happens in this practice is that it is the vendor himself who pays the cost price to the brushers for placing orders along with an incentive. Using this payment, the brushers place fake orders on the web portals and then, the vendor sends consignments to these brushers, which are usually empty boxes or other nominal stuff. In turn, the brushers leave positive reviews/comments for the said vendor on the portal.
Though brushing is strictly banned in the U.S. and China, the practice is very much prevalent, the vendors’ resort to this practice to gain a recognition in this field. According to a digital-marketing firm in China, it is the sales volume, which accounts for 25% of the factor influencing the position of a product in the search engine while the product relevance makes for only 10% and price only 5%.
Now, Alibaba face the risk of scrutiny by regulatory bodies. Also, the brushing reports casts doubt on the actual sales figure quoted by the giant in the year ended 2014 of 1.68 trillion yuan ($274 billion) from its two major platforms, Taobao and Tmall.
Alibaba’s CEO, Daniel Zhang, has been quoted saying that the company is employing various modern techniques to identify and separate the fake transactions from the real ones. It involves tracking of transaction patterns as in a number of orders coming from the same IP address or deliveries being made at the same address. They also maintain a list of vendors who have engaged in fake practices in the past.