Written by Roland LaPlante, CMO of Affilias
Over the coming year, the Internet will experience its biggest makeover ever. More than 1,000 new top-level domains (TLDs) will join “heritage” domains such as .COM, .INFO, and .ORG. These new TLDs, covering brands, geography and generic concepts — like .DELMONTE, .VEGAS and .YACHTS — are designed to increase innovation on the Web. They will also open up massive opportunities for brands and retailers who want to make it easier and safer for online consumers to find and interact with them.
Many international brands have already diversified their Web presence. By using country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), they’ve created dedicated sites ending in .UK, .DE or .AU. With the availability of new TLDs, however, retailers will be able to get even more specific. Domain names in .VEGAS and .STOCKHOLM, among others, will allow retailers to target consumers by city, offering the possibility of a highly localized online experience for consumers.
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Also, with the new domains, expect to see retailers expand globally while leveraging locally based domain names. For instance, Chinese marketplace Alibaba has applied for .ALIBABA in English instead of in Chinese where it is already well known. This suggests that the company plans to continue its global expansion. Conversely, handset manufacturer Nokia plans to take advantage of new domains to increase its presence in Asia. Nokia has applied for the Chinese-language domain .诺基亚(“Nokia”), making clear the company’s ambitions for the Chinese market.
Of course, there will be occasional challenges for retailers looking to own certain domain names, as Amazon found out in its quest to secure the rights to .AMAZON. Countries in the Amazon region have formally objected to Amazon’s application, and this is delaying their plans. However, Amazon isn’t going away empty handed. They have applied for domains like .SHOP and .FASHION, including similar domains in Chinese and Japanese. And other retailers are also finding ways to commercialize generic names. Everything from .AUTOINSURANCE (from Allstate) to .TIRES (from Goodyear) is being used by creative retailers to carve online market share for their brands.
Based on the results of a recent survey, it’s also likely that retailers will invest less in third-party social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Despite the current popularity of these and similar sites, they can end up diluting a brand since the focus moves away from the brand in question and onto the social networking platform.
By diverting energy back to brand websites, retailers can lure customers to online shops with an experience that still feels like it speaks directly to the user. One of the key advantages of these new “dot Brand” domains is that businesses will be able to take back control of their online presence and reduce reliance on social networks for online conversations.
Over the next few years, the Internet is certainly going to look like a different place. While “heritage” domains like .COM and .ORG will be sticking around, the availability of new domain names will offer up space and creativity for retailers to better interact with customers and make the Internet as local a presence as its main street stores.