Just clicks away from cheap knockoffs: Dupe.com has gone viral thanks to a controversial usage of image recognition tech.

Thanks to its ingenious feature, Dupe.com went viral. Today, we're breaking down how the site works, why it's been a hit—and why success may not last.

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Dupe.com platziert sich als die Suchmaschine für Möbel- und Interior-Plagiate

So-called dupes, i.e. cheaper copycat products, have seen their reputation go from pariah to messiah. Driven by social media, cheap perfumes that smell like 200-euro flacons are just as trendy as pieces of furniture for a few hundred euros that look strikingly similar to pricey originals. The aptly named Dupe.com is now further fueling the hype in counterfeits with a clever affiliate business model.

Back in late 2022, when OMR Editor-in-Chief Roland Eisenbrand wrote about cosmetic dupes (link in German), the Dupes hashtag had amassed over two billion views on Tiktok. Today, that figure has increased threefold to over 6 billion—and is thus a strong indicator that product plagiarism is no longer a deal breaker for younger audiences.

"The online culture of dupe shopping, accelerated by TikTok especially in the last few years, has flipped the script," Ellyn Briggs, Brand Analyst at Morning Consult, told CNBC. "Instead of being an indicator of lower status or considered “shameful,” dupe shopping is now “something that’s actually a prideful thing for consumers." The good deal is ultimately in the foreground and is, after all, what is shown on Tiktok. And it is precisely this image reversal of plagiarism that Dupe.com is now exploiting to build a business model around finding dupes.

Google Lens for faux-niture

Ramin Bozorgzadeh and Bobby Ghoshal launched Dupe.com at the end of March 2024 with the support of well-known internet entrepreneur Nikita Bier, who, incidentally, recently completed the sale of his social app "Gas" to Discord for several million). They had previously launched Carrot, another site for dupes focussing on celebrity clothes and outfits. From the get-go, Dupe.com has outpaced Carrot thanks to an ingenious feature.

Users can simply add "dupe.com/" to the URL of an item of furniture and the Dupe website pops up immediately. There, the piece of furniture is scanned and recognized by image recognition software. Dupe.com then provides an overview of cheaper imitations and direct links to the stores. Dupe.com earns affiliate commissions on every click and purchase. The mechanism also works via a direct URL input field on Dupe.com, which is strongly reminiscent of Google Lens. This technology also recognizes objects by image—but much more broadly than the affiliate startup specializing in furniture and interiors.

Blurry recognition?

In a random sample, the technology works particularly well with classic designs. The well-known Eames Lounge Chair, for example, costs 7,400 euros on Vitra. Dupe.com can find armchairs in the Eames look starting at 580 euros. Another example that has already gained traction online is a chair by Pierre Jeanneret, which costs over EUR 6000. On, or via, Dupe.com you can find a replica for 166 euros. Just like that you can save 97%. According to co-founder Ghoshal, users have taken to this new shopping experience. "At the end of the day, we are challenging the user experience of shopping, being creative and breathing new life into eCommerce. “General feedback has been, ‘This is a godsend,’" he told Fast Company.

However, Dupe’s flagship feature has its limitations. For starters, there is not nearly the same amount of volume of copies for less well-known or newer designer pieces. Example: for a Hay vase that runs EUR 150, the site simply suggests blue-striped vases, some of which have a completely different shape and only minimal visual overlap. One vase suggestion on Dupe.com is even more expensive than the Scandinavian designer piece. And founder Bobby Ghoshal uses this fact to defend himself against the accusation that he is promoting an unfair business model of fakes. Users could also enter plagiarized items as a starting point and come across the original design via Dupe.com. "I’m not in the business of telling people what their tastes should be," he told Business of Home.

Kick started via viral campaign

The second key aspect to Dupe’s success is the viral success of Dupe.com it enjoyed the first few months after launch, in which Ghoshal, a friend and a Post-It played a decisive role. They appear in almost every video on Dupe.com’s Instagram, Tiktok and X accounts. One Reel, for example, features the founder simply speaking into the camera wearing a big hat, explaining how Dupe.com works; it's notched 5.4 million views on Instagram. Another has "My interior designer just showed me this... ummmm WTF?!" written on a Post-It note held up to the camera, before proceeding to show how Dupe.com works, has generated over 17 million views on Instagram.

Ultimately, the novel function, combined with the topic of plagiarism and the stripped-down production of the videos, helped drive the company’s the viral success. "We don't want to be provocative. We simply wanted to make the brand known directly - people should understand the product immediately," explains founder Bobby Ghoshal to Business of Home. The viral launch soon led to thousands of users. The analysis tool Similarweb shows rapidly increasing traffic for Dupe.com. In March 2024, the month the website was launched, over 88,000 users visited the site. In April, the figure was already over 350,000 and in May just under 670,000.

Next-gen affiliate marketing?

It is not yet clear how much turnover the company has generated and can still generate from the hype. After all, once the innovation becomes widespread and/or loses its luster, will users really come back? For its part, Dupe.com is already proactively taking on the issue. There is a plugin for all common browsers that makes the website's functionality even more accessible. Anyone surfing on a furniture page can display duplicates of the currently displayed piece of furniture with a single click.

But one problem remains: deeeeeeeep-pocketed competitors. Google has the same feature in Lens and can easily link its own Google Shopping ads. And users can already search for products that they have seen images of online, including price comparisons. However, Google is unlikely to want to replicate the exact functionality of Dupe.com, as going all in on promoting counterfeit products would seemingly be too much. But large furniture companies, such as Wayfair, which already sell duplicates, could also copy the functionality of the young company, which would surely spell the end for dupe.com.

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Scott Peterson
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