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How retailers can play the domain name game

By Retail Technology | Friday September 12 2014

Internet access and domain name expert Rolf Larsen examines the challenges and opportunities faced by retailers in the domain name world

Over the next few years, both businesses and the general public around the globe will be offered the opportunity to buy web addresses that have a new set of suffixes. 

These suffixes will compete against .com, the most widely recognised and dominant top level domain since the inception of the World Wide Web in the late 1990s. 

Previously, only 22 generic top-level domains (gTLDs) have been made available by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) such as .org, .biz and .com. The new suffixes will range anywhere from .global to .horse, and .bank to .bible.

Strategy for brand awareness

As these new set of domain name extensions look to become widely available, businesses including those in the retail sector, Rolf Larsen, domain name expert and chief executive of global domain name company .Global, warns that retailers need to consider their presence in the online space and whether purchasing these domains can help serve as a strategy to increase awareness of their brand with their customers.

“The internet is a virtual world and domain as its real estate,” said Larsen. “In this analogy .com is a very large city, but even in the largest city as properties are bought, space becomes limited. Congestion increases and standing out from all the other places in the city becomes harder.

“Space in the .com city is running out, in fact there are virtually no sensible .com names left at all,” he warns. “Just as in a real city, this means finding a suitable location is difficult and when you do, the rents are extremely high.”

He says that considering, .com has been around for nearly 30 years, this comes as no surprise, but with few alternatives, businesses wishing to have a presence online, they have had little choice but to participate in this overpopulated community and saturated marketplace. 

Rectifying the overcrowding issue

“The new top-level domains will look to rectify this problem by effectively creating new towns – significantly increasing the amount of 'digital real-estate' and businesses will benefit from a clearer and more relevant online proposition.”

Larsen notes that the new rollout of gTLDs will provide large brands the opportunity to establish a new online identity, which in turn can help re-define their business model or refocus the company's strategic positioning. 

“Technology giants such as Google have already acquired over 100 of their own top level domains such as .google, .android and .chrome,” says Larsen. “Equally, smaller companies will be able to benefit from the new suffixes. 

"Previously, many of these companies have been disadvantaged by the fact that the best domain names were already taken and that they had to go through a domain investor if they wanted to secure a simple URL. 

“With more choices now available, ambitious businesses will be able to acquire a more relevant and simple domain name which they had previously been longing for.”

Careful consideration

Larsen warns that despite the fact that more than 1,000 new top level domains that will be made publicly available in the next year alone, companies such as those in the retail industry with an international presence should look to carefully selecting a domain name that will help to reflect their business and vision.

“In addition, small businesses and new start-ups with great aspirations will want to explore the opportunities and potential benefits that these new top level domains will offer,” he adds. “A new domain name can help to create a strong and innovative identity and position themselves better globally and in the online world.”

Larsen gives the example of a small up and coming vibrant fashion retailer based in Manchester that may want to extend its trading online and launch a new website that will compete with major industry players such as ASOS.

All retailers great and small

“From day one, the retailer may want to communicate its international aspirations and reach,” he explains. “A domain name such as .global can help serve this purpose and create a definitive positioning statement signaling their International business operations.”

He admits that some may question why existing retailers and big brands such as Tesco, M&S and Nike, who already have an established presence on the web, would need to purchase a new domain name. 

“It can be argued that the these new gTLDs can allow existing brands to further strengthen their online presence by capturing new markets and audiences that were previously not possible in the era,” he comments.

Global expansion

Larsen feels that companies will be able to expand globally and create a scenario in which it can become easily identifiable by people who may live in another country. 

“The explosion of gTLDs in the new few years will mean that companies will want to take advantage of the new domain suffixes to adapt to the every changing face of the internet and stay one step ahead of their rivals.”

Larsen highlights the fact that some retailers such as Next have been unable to fully reach out to all markets across the globe and further strengthen their brand, as the .com suffix of Next is owned by a different third party. 

“Next can now expand its business to reach new audiences all over the world by purchasing a new domain name to showcase their global ambitions and effectively erase these barriers,” he explains.

Larsen concludes that retailers both big and small, established or non-established, will find the opportunity of acquiring a new domain name an exciting yet challenging prospect. 

“As the internet evolves, this will affect the way consumers interact with brands online,” he says. “Companies should look to use these domain names to expand brand awareness and develop deeper customer relationships. Companies will need to confront these new challenges and if successful, the potential for rewards could be great.”