Whilst Black Friday and Cyber Monday grabbed all the headlines in the past week for examples of the gluttonous behaviours of some consumers in some countries, the true global retail event is still Christmas. Most retailers started gearing up for the festive period months ago, filling their warehouses and preparing their campaigns. The Internet is the new battleground for major brands, competing for digital inches in the search rankings. Yet only one global brand has so far grabbed the opportunity to differentiate themselves in this most competitive market place by adopting a dotChristmas domain name.
Many questioned the sense of Uniregistry launching dotChristmas back in May 2014. Initial registration numbers were muted. Today over 92% of the 13,400 names registered are owned by one organisation who point the names to a landing page offering the domains for sale. Yet even when you look at that subset of 1,000 names, few are owned by the big retail organisations, those that will be spending thousands of pounds per day on SEO tactics and Google Adwords to gain a marginal advantage over their competitors.
When you look at the top 25 retailers in the UK (based on 2013 revenue numbers) only five actually own a dotChristmas domain name - Amazon, Next, Ocado, Debenhams and Sainsbury's. As of 1 December only Amazon are actively using the name, redirecting it to their US festive landing page, whilst there isn't one dotChristmas website in the top 1 million sites ranked by Alexa. So has the retail market missed a trick?
Few major brands will have wanted to potentially sacrifice search ranking position by switching their existing .com or .co.uk for a new gTLD, but by making the .Christmas available many months before the festive period, there was ample opportunity to build a separate campaign website with some Christmas cheer. Google's view on the new gTLDs is still a mystery, but we have seen a number of experiments so far, such as the one by Econsultancy.com that demonstrates that keywords being used within the TLD do have a positive impact on search results. After all, the three key rules of using domains as part of search are readability, memorability and meaningful. A domain using a dotChristmas for a specific Christmas themed or focused website certainly hits all three of those buttons.
It will be hard to use Amazon as an example of whether the adoption of a dotChristmas is successful or not. They are the world's second biggest online retailer as it stands and most things they touch turn to gold. The real proof in the pudding is if anyone else is brave enough to use one such as the four other major UK brands who have already registered one.
For such a low investment many major brands could be missing out on the opportunity to gain good publicity in adopting one of the new, highly relevant gTLDs. The whole programme needs some pioneers who are willing to show some innovation, and using a highly relevant gTLD such as a dotChristmas could have a huge benefit for the programme as a whole.
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications, NetNames.