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作者: 来源: 日期:2016/11/24 8:53:33

China’s ecommerce sites try to sweep away ‘brushing’





April Chen was one of millions of hopeful buyers logging on to Alibaba’s shopping platforms on November 11, hoping to take advantage of some discounts on Singles Day, China’s biggest online shopping festival of the year.

1111日,数以百万计的购物者满怀希望地登录了阿里巴巴(Alibaba)的购物平台,希望能获益于中国一年之中最大的网购节日——“光棍节”(Singles Day)。阿普丽尔•陈(April Chen)就是这些购物者中的一员。广州电子翻译公司。


The Chongqing native had only intended to buy two items. But when she checked her account on Alibaba site Taobao later, she was in for a shock. In the space of less than a minute, at 11:05am, someone had placed orders for 80 items, everything from a Rmb91 ($13) skateboard, a Rmb1,200 ukulele to a Rmb18,900 oak bed frame. The orders had been placed, but not paid for.



Ms Chen had become a victim of “brushing”, an unwanted growth industry in China and a practice that companies such as Alibaba are trying to stamp out. With online sellers under tremendous pressure to rack up sales, especially on Singles Day, many resort to the time honoured practice of placing fake orders. Higher sales mean better placement on ecommerce websites, leading in turn to more sales.



Whoever hacked Ms Chen’s account left a clue for the mysterious behaviour — each order contained a note for the merchant, advertising a unique “promotion” service: “We are a professional Taobao promoter and we cordially invite you to come communicate with us, mutual help in improving shop ranking, order numbers and business development.”



Specialised companies — which appear to have victimised Ms Chen — offer the services of what are known in China as “water armies”, capable of making a lacklustre online shop appear a thriving business. Many use bots or, increasingly, hack users accounts and place fake orders. Before Singles Day, regulators had promised to crack down on the practice, but with little success.



If a company really wants to be successful with online sales, it needs to find a way to improve its on-deck search ranking [on ecommerce platforms],” said Mark Natkin of Marbridge Consulting in Beijing. “The difference between being at the top of a page of results and buried at the bottom is night and day. Brushing is a very tempting shortcut.”

北京迈博瑞咨询(Marbridge Consulting)的马克•纳特金(Mark Natkin)表示:“如果企业真的想在网上销售方面取得成功,就必须想办法提高(在电商平台上)在线搜索的排名。在搜索结果页面的顶端和埋在页面底部有着天壤之别。刷单是一条非常诱人的捷径。”


Partly due to the prevalence of brushing, the impressive numbers that New York listed Alibaba reports every Singles Day have invited scrutiny, including from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. On November 11, Alibaba reported up to $17.8bn in sales over the 24 hours, more than Brazil’s projected ecommerce sales for the entire year, and a 32 per cent increase from the previous year.



In May, Alibaba said the SEC had queried its reporting of Singles Day numbers. This year, Alibaba said it would hire accounting firm PwC to audit the Singles Day GMV (Gross Merchandise Value) to ensure it was free of fake orders.



But this is easier said than done. Alibaba and other ecommerce sites play a cat-and-mouse game with “brushers”, as they try to safeguard the reputation of their sales platforms. In order to evade algorithms designed to detect brushing, merchants will go as far as to place orders for each other’s products in what are known as “brushing pools”, and even send each other fake parcels, paying and then cancelling the orders. 



Alibaba has no tolerance for the practice of brushing on our platforms,” said Alibaba. “Our system swiftly blocked these orders to protect the affected user.”



One small business owner registered with Tmall told the FT that the common procedure for brushing is that merchants publish or give their brushing assignments to professional brushers; then the brusher places orders, makes payments and the merchants will fake an order dispatch online, or send an empty parcel.



Meanwhile, in a practice that has drawn fire from elsewhere in the industry, many sites like Alibaba and its competitors JD.com and eBay can take a relaxed view of what constitutes a “sale“, making brushing even easier. Some will even count ordering and not paying for a parcel in their sales totals in some cases.



Alibaba indicated that it was taking a more conservative approach to Singles Day sales than it takes to GMV — it said the $17.8bn final tally for the day referred to orders “settled through Alipay”, later confirming that this referred only to items that had been paid for.



This year, Alibaba has stopped publishing quarterly GMV figures — the unaudited measure was getting too much attention and inviting too much controversy, say analysts.