Websites need to act as ‘shop fronts’ for brands

By Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications at NetNames



Without a doubt, a brand’s online presence is a vital part of its sales and marketing strategy. Websites are rapidly becoming the ‘shop front’ for many brands, as the e-commerce market continues to boom and consumers’ shopping habits extend to new areas like mobile and social shopping. Retailers must therefore adapt to ensure they provide a multichannel shopping experience that includes an engaging web presence that complements their bricks-and-mortar offering.

The convergence of these two worlds can already be seen with so called ‘showrooming’, whereby consumers visit physical stores to browse products before going online to check pricing and get the best bargain, either with the store using a voucher code or discount, or elsewhere. Showrooming highlights the need for ecommerce platforms to mirror the deals and products available in bricks-and-mortar stores and vice-versa, so that they can offer consumers a comprehensive – and consistent – shopping experience across all channels.

However, while online platforms offer retailers many opportunities, brands also need to be aware of the risks associated with digital platforms. For example, Walmart, the US supermarket, offered to match select online prices of Playstation 4 consoles, but its cashiers were quickly presented with Amazon listings showing $400 consoles being offered for $100 or less, revealing a surprising amount of counterfeit products available online. Cases like this not only demonstrate how online counterfeits can have a negative impact on a retailer’s revenue, but also how they can be detrimental to brand reputation.

Brands must therefore ensure they are protected from threats like these by monitoring for any online infringements and taking action where necessary to protect their intellectual property. What’s more, retailers need to educate their customers on what to look out for when shopping online to make sure they don’t get conned by seemingly attractive offers.

The launch of thousands of new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) has meant that brands are now faced with even more threats, as the opportunities for domain name hijacking, cybersquatting, traffic diversion and counterfeiting have all grown as a result.  A defensive domain name strategy is therefore essential for any brands that want to protect their reputation and keep their customers from falling into the hands of online fraudsters.

Despite these threats, the new domain name endings also offer opportunities for retailers to use web addresses to their advantage and refresh their customer-facing digital strategies. For example, brands will have the opportunity to buy dotShop, dotSale and dotOnline as well as their own dotBRAND website endings, allowing them to own a specific slice of the internet – names like dotChanel, dotGucci and dotHermes have already been registered. Companies using their own dotBRAND domain name will increasingly be seen as “safe harbours” by consumers, as only a legitimate brand can apply for its dotBRAND domain name. Retailers that take this approach will therefore be able to increase customer trust online.

As a result of the changes to the internet and consumers shopping habits, it has never been more important for retailers to understand these developments and have a strategy in place. In order to thrive in the internet age, retailers must ensure that all of their sales channels are aligned and protected from fraudulent threats using all tools available, including new domain names.

(First published in A1 Retail)