Taobao Brand Protection: Suspicious Merchants

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Understanding Taobao’s Merchant Reputation System

The world’s largest ecommerce platform, third most visited website in China and fourth most popular mobile app. As a domestic platform, Taobao displays in Chinese only, therefore many brand owners struggle to understand the nuances of the Taobao merchant rating system. However, Taobao provides by far the most comprehensive set of tools for evaluating a merchant’s trustworthiness and transaction record of any major ecommerce platform. This guide will run through the merchant profile data included on every product listing page on Taobao – a section which should be analyses by a brand protection team before taking any anti-counterfeiting action on Taobao.

Click here for a full how-to guide on reporting IPR infringements to Alibaba.

Taobao Merchant Profile

On the right-hand side of every product listing, Taobao displays a small box which contains the merchant profile summary. The summary is split into four sections, from top to bottom: the gold medal banner; merchant, reputation and contact details; breakdown ratings; and links to the merchant storefront.

Gold Medal Banner

The easiest indication on the reliability of a particular merchant is the gold medal icon in the top banner of the merchant profile. This icon aggregates the other metrics and is regularly updated, which can indicate a recent change in behaviour. A gold medal merchant reported for intellectual property infringement will have the medal removed. Merchant’s with a consistent track record of maintaining gold medal status will have the orange label stating the length of time, adding a layer or trustworthiness.

The number under the gold medal icon displays the length of time the Taobao store has been active. As with all ecommerce platforms, newer stores should be viewed with suspicion. New stores have no reputation to lose.

Left: A gold medal merchant
Right: A non-gold merchant

Merchant, Reputation & Contact Details

Atop of the section is the store name (redacted in the images). Clicking the store name will open the merchant storefront. Taobao merchants also have a nickname listed, under “掌柜” – which also links to the merchant storefront (and is also redacted). Again skipping over the merchant rating system to “联系” which provides a link to contact the merchant directly via Aliwangwang. The final piece of data before going back to the rating system is “资质” which shows the merchant guarantee and other information such as whether the merchant store is connected to Alipay. Generally, the higher the number in the guarantee, the less likely the merchant is to be an IP abuser.

Taobao’s famous merchant reputation rating system. The system operates somewhat like a sports league table, but is visualised like a mobile game. The ranking is based on buyer feedback, using a simple tally system, applying negative grading. If a buyer gives a positive rating, the merchant gains one point. If instead a buyer gives a negative rating, the merchant loses one point. The last option is a neutral rating, which has no impact on the score. Rather than displaying the actual figure, or the range the rating falls within, Taobao uses playful icons to visualise the ranking system. As positive ratings go up, the merchant climbs the icon rating system. There are four icons, from lowest to highest: red heart; blue diamond; blue crown; and gold crown. So, the lowest rank is a single heart, as the merchant moves up the ladder they will obtain more hearts, until reaching the maximum of five hearts. The next layer up is the blue diamond, starting from a single diamond working up to a maximum of five, and so on through the blue crown and then gold crown. To achieve five gold crowns the merchant rating must be plus 10 million!

Breakdown Ratings

In the next section, Taobao provides three breakdown figures, which are part of the decision whether to award a gold medal to a merchant. From left to right the ratings are for: accuracy of product description; service; and shipping. The arrows next to the rating shows whether the merchant is above or below the market average, comparing the merchant to similar merchants selling items in the same categories.

Brand Protection Intelligence

With knowledge to identify suspicious Taobao merchants, brand owners can take a long-term approach to monitoring suspicious merchants across the platform. Applying this approach develops brand protection intelligence, which can be used to generate efficiencies within the brand enforcement strategy. Brand protection is a support function to facilitate the extraction of value from brand assets, which supports a commercial strategy. Brand protection intelligence determines the capabilities of a brand owner in tackling brand abuse enabled illicit activity. Developing brand protection intelligence enables a proactive approach to protecting brand assets.

For more information about Taobao and the Alibaba Group see the full 2019 guide to BAT – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencet.