This week, I wrote an article for Forbes.com about what retail brands need to know about new gTLDs. All brands will have to adapt their digital strategies to the new gTLD space, but global retail brands will face particular challenges and opportunities.
For retail brands, perhaps more so than other industries, the branding implications of being “left behind” and seeming out of date if they do not adopt new gTLDs could be significant. If they stick to their .COM addresses, they could risk appearing “so 1999” as compared to their competitors who begin using branded gTLDs. Since ICANN will not publish the list of applications until after the application round closes, retail brands will have to take a gamble, and for many, the safe bet will be to assume that their competitors are, in fact, applying.
But on a brighter note, new gTLDs could offer interesting marketing opportunities for retail brands. Take back to school shopping as an example. Right now, most top-level domain equity lies in .COM, and there can only be one BackToSchool.com. In the new gTLD space, we could see addresses like BackToSchool.Target and BackToSchool.OldNavy, which could redirect to Target and Old Navy’s back to school sale pages.
On the subject of redirects, in most cases retail brands (and all brands) should not attempt to fully transition content to new gTLD domain names right away. They have made significant investments into optimizing their current sites to rank highly in search engine results, so until we know how search engine algorithms will account for new domains, brand owners should consider redirecting new domains to their existing .COM URLs.
New top-level domains will present online retailers with unique and unprecedented opportunities and challenges over the next few years. But the first and most crucial step that all brand owners must take between now and the opening of the application period is to gather facts and take the time to really explore whether or not applying for a new domain will be advantageous for their business.
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