Sneaker authentication is crucial, especially for today’s growing secondary sneaker resale market.
GQ reported that the counterfeit sneaker market is worth $450 billion, and complaints of the fraudulent goods have even made it in front of a judge. The United States Department of Homeland Security ran an investigation on a Chinese company named Qing Fu Zeng between February 2012 and December 2016. The international company smuggled 22 shipping containers full of counterfeit Nike and Louis Vuitton sneakers by sea into the United States. According to the complaint, if the sneakers had been authentic, they would have been worth more than $472 million. There was a similar counterfeit ring bust back in 2018 in New York.
Sneaker authentication technology is on the rise for reasons like this.
Jerome Thompson, authentication manager at GOAT, told FN that one of GOAT’s co-founders launched the sneaker and apparel company in 2009 after accidentally buying a pair of fake Jordans from another marketplace. Like GOAT, other secondary sneaker marketplace platforms, including StockX and Stadium Goods, have built teams of authentication professionals to ensure they are selling the most authentic products to customers. StockX boasts a group of more than 300 authenticators across 11 authentication locations who have a 99.95 percent accuracy rate, according to FN.
“Candidates have to establish their bona fides before they’re even considered for our authentication team,” Stadium Goods Co-founder and CO-CEO Jed Stiller told FN. “Beyond that, we have training guides, an illustrated list of SKUs, and a ‘sneaker bible’ — all of which are updated constantly.”
Sneaker authenticators don’t only have to show their passion for sneakers; they have to be willing to learn and train to understand the entire process of authenticating sneakers. Candidates at StockX go through a month-long training and onboarding process where they get to work alongside seasoned authenticators before they work alone.
So, what is the technology that goes into being a sneaker authenticator?
GOAT’s rigorous hiring process includes months of training that culminates in a set of tests that potential authenticators must pass with 100 percent. Even after passing, newbie authenticators are only allowed to specialize in one SKU at a time before reaching expert status. The company’s sneaker authentication process mixes human expertise with machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. First, Sneakers go through a proprietary tech platform before being listed; then, human authenticators inspect the shoes down to touch and smell before giving them the official stamp of approval.
“As the first line of defense, our AI and machine learning can detect counterfeit products before they are even able to be listed on our platform,” Thompson told FN. “Our team is constantly mastering the authentication of new styles and SKUs, and our technology collects new data to improve and innovate on our authentication technology.”
Stadium Goods and StockX have similar authentication processes to this, and the platforms stay ahead of counterfeit products by not sharing what specifically they look for in the inspection process. These processes are constantly changing as the sneaker market grows.
While the sneaker industry is gaining more human authenticators, some experts think technology will eventually take over the authentication process. Entrupy, the creator of a luxury authentication solution using artificial intelligence and microscopic computer vision, is a big player in this discussion. The LVMH accelerator participant started authenticating luxury handbags, and in February, the company announced a digital sneaker authentication system.
With a 99.1 percent accuracy rating, Entrupy’s new system can determine if a pair of sneakers are authentic or counterfeit in roughly 60 seconds. The company’s process includes a physical box that captures various photographs of sneakers sent to an application. Users then answer a series of questions before Entrupy’s system analyzes all of the data and deems the sneakers authentic or not. There is still a margin of error, but if the company incidentally deems a pair of counterfeit sneakers synthetic, it will reimburse the buyer for the cost of the goods.
With this new system and instilling a strong sense of trust for customers, Entrupy is on a mission to become the top unbiased third party authentication resource that doesn’t sell or host transactions on its platform, HYPEBEAST reported.
“To achieve an infinitely scalable database where these sets of algorithms know everything that humans know and constantly keep self-learning, we need to work with experts,” Entrupy CEO Vidyuth Srinivasan told HYPEBEAST.
The sneaker authentication industry will continue to grow, and so will the technology behind it. Above are just a few examples of companies getting ahead of the curve and putting their confidence in technology.