Consistency is critical to the success of all brands, large and small. Marketers have long realised that continuity is vital to build brand recognition and trust across markets, from the careful definition of corporate colours to the development of a distinctive corporate logo. Yet many fail to transfer these offline essentials to the digital world. Your domain name is arguably the first signpost to your digital shop front and, as on the high-street; you are vying for a consumer’s attention next to a host of other brands.
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Yet many brands still do not own a comprehensive online real estate for their flagship products. Take Apple for example, if you type iPad.com into your browser bar you land on a page that has nothing to do with Apple products, similarly Twitter.net directs you to a bird spotting statistics association.
Many would argue that most consumers use search engines to locate their preferred website, but recent studies suggest organic search accounts for just 18 percent of retail traffic. Even online it seems most shoppers begin with a destination in mind. Imagine you are Boots – you have a loyal customer that wants to visit your homepage, they type your brand into Google, but en route they get distracted by another retailer and never make it in store.
The effective use and marketing of a domain name, means that some of these customers could be transported directly to a store, without ever laying their eyes on the competition.
It’s a bargain for a reason
Domain names can sell for as little as a few pounds and perhaps this is why many marketers consider them to be a minor part of a wider branding strategy. Couple this with the fact that most domain portfolios are managed by the IT function rather than branding teams and you can see why domains can take something of a back seat. In reality getting the ‘right’ domain can be expensive – the most expensive domain sold in history was sex.com, which sold for in excess of $14 million. However this is by no means the average cost.
A recent survey revealed that despite keyword domain names being available for as little as £500, well over a third (36 percent) of UK respondents would be willing to pay in excess of £5,000 for the right domain name for their business. Highlighting that the domain name is now considered an integral part of a company’s brand and online presence.
Protecting your assets
Remember, if you do not see the value in your domain portfolio someone else will. Unsurprisingly, owning the right digital property is big business. The launch of any new product, especially for a global retailer, will result in a flurry of acquisitions by savvy domain experts looking to sell on key word domains for a profit or to make money from misdirected traffic. As such today’s marketers need to build domain planning into their wider product launch strategies and factor in multiple internet markets, to ensure no one else benefits from their marketing efforts.
It does not stop with your own brands either, when it comes to domains, marketers need to think of derivatives and typos of their core brands too, so that potential customers are not duped by sites masquerading under your credentials.
Four tips to creating online brand real estate
1. Keep it short – brands are increasingly investing in short, snappy domain versions of their names such as t.co for Twitter. Short relevant domains are good for consumer recall, can feature in advertising and marketing campaigns and make search easier on mobile handsets
2. Integrate domains in wider strategy – before you launch a new brand or product, marketers should check whether or not that domain already exists in key markets such as .co.uk and .com. If it does, try to negotiate with the current owner before launch to keep the value as low as possible. If it doesn’t exist buy your domain ahead of launch so you own it from the outset.
3. Monitor for domain opportunities – from early next year we will see hundreds of new extensions in the domain marketplace, as ICANN, the body in charge of the structure of the internet opens up the web. This is a huge opportunity to occupy new space on the web under new generic names like .sport and .mum. However this also increases the level of protection you will need to exert around your core digital assets online to evade brand-jackers.
4. Unite your marketing, IT and legal functions – these business units need to work together to plan the digital and global expansion of your brand – from guarding against infringement through to optimising the consumer journey to your site.
Written by Hugo Dalrymple-Smith, Director of UK operations, Sedo
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