When an unheard-of brand suddenly comes out of nowhere with countless different products in online stores, more often than not the things they sell are bought in bulk via portals like Alibaba.com. The products are made in and shipped from places like China, India and other low-cost production countries. Around the world, each of these products are sold by hundreds if not thousands of stores — both individually hosted and on sites like Ebay and Amazon. While prices are still comparably low at the time they’re served to the European and North American markets, prices are usually double what respective producers charged.
Because products are very rarely discovered alongside the lowest price available, people usually end up paying too much. If they have a bit of time on their hands, they may search for the same product online. As it goes with generic products though, they may appear under different names and leave very few similarities. In many cases, suppliers will give shop owners complete text and image packages for use in product titles and descriptions, but as text length, style and languages differ from store to store, only the laziest of sellers will use those prepared texts.
For product catalogues therefore, there’s only one thing that cannot be replaced or adjusted nearly as quickly and easily: the images.
In case you were unfamiliar with the technology: Google, amongst others, offers a reverse image search. All you have to do is enter the URL of a photo or upload it to the site and it scours the web for similar or identical images. As it turns out, this serves as a good basis for price comparisons.
So when my good friend Aleks showed me a piece of luggage that seemed quite low-priced and nice enough to use, I decided to have a quick look what I could find.
The product as found online originally.
With the downloaded product photo ready, I opened up Google Images and eagerly clicked on the image icon at the right of the search bar.
I uploaded the photo and lo and behold, numerous sites selling the same bag under different branding appeared all at once.
I clicked through the results and found prices ranging from $105 to as low as $35 — the former on a European site, the latter on the mini version of Alibaba: Aliexpress.