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Bots are purchasing limited edition products to re-sell at a higher price

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Monaco Ducks, Limited Edition

The hype and demand around sneaker drops and limited edition products is showing no signs of slowing down. Research from Ypulse, a New York-based authority on Gen Z and Millennials, shows 2 out of 5 in this age demographic have bought a limited edition product.

What began as a streetwear and sneaker activation tactic to generate hype, other industries are executing similar marketing and sales strategies, releasing special edition or limited items to garner customers’ attention.

But these drops come at a cost. Limited releases are often pared with elevated prices, costing more than ‘regular’ collections. They are also more difficult to acquire, with bots scraping websites to bulk buy.

To secure the latest drops, some buyers have enlisted the help of AIO bots that are specifically designed to purchase limited edition stock. These bots are not illegal. In fact, bots are used to crawl many of the websites we use every day. However, these bots are mainly used in order to resell them at a much higher price which has caused a lot of controversy among the sneaker and streetwear community.

Using bots to acquire limited edition products

Although many companies such as Adidas and Nike will assess their sites to help block and protect against these bots in the interests of their customers, they can still get through on occasion.

"These types of bots are a sore subject for many sneaker fans who fail to purchase sought-after products. These bots can cause issues for brands as well as customers such as a reduction in brand loyalty and a loss in revenue,” Josh Herbert, Director of Captain Creps, a sneaker news and release date news site, told FashionUnited.

"When customers lose sneakers to bots they are less likely to try again in the future or become unhappy with the brand for allowing these bots to swoop in. This results in lower revenue for the companies and ultimately can end up painting them in a bad light. It is unclear what more is being done at the moment to combat this issue, but big brands have assured that they are aware of the problem and doing their best to stop this from happening."

"Reselling sneakers isn't necessarily an issue in itself, but when people take advantage and use bots to purchase large chunks of stock it gives the market a bad name."

If a designer releases a limited edition item online, invested in online marketing and generated enough anticipation and hype to guarantee a sell-out, when a few bots acquire the majority of stock, real-life customers are at a disadvantage. As sneaker and retail bots are not yet illegal, stopping them is difficult as the software is constantly updated and proxy servers can act as the middle person between the bot and website.

While the designer’s website will still make the sales, the brand will fail to make long term relationships with customers, as bots are software, and come at the expense of human shoppers, says Kasada, a platform that aims to detect and deter bots.

Companies like the Australian-founded Kasada offer anti-bot solutions and protection, securing sales from bonafide individuals, as well as preventing reputational damage and potential website crashes.

Still, the bot industry is booming, with DIY videos on YouTube explaining how they can be generated.