CEO Sharon Price John says Build-A-Bear’s old e-commerce system is a big reason for disappointing online sales in December.
Once Wall Street’s favorite suffix, the handle “dot-com” has lost its glow in recent months-so much so that a handful of businesses already have dropped it from their names in what may preview a wave of name-shortening to come. MindComet, an Orlando, Fla.-based digital media developer, crossed dot-com off its front door in August. Marketing technology solutions provider BlueStreak of Newport, R.I., and Herndon, Va.-based LifeMinders, an online direct marketer, personalization and wireless technology provider, are just two more among several others that have done the same.
More than just a URL tagline, the term has become shorthand for the excitement and big-money possibilities of the New Economy. But with a boatload of dot-coms going under and the digital marketplace moving toward convergence, some companies fear the term is becoming outdated at best and negative at worst. “It’s definitely carrying a negative connotation for venture capital money-which is one of the things we’re going after at the moment,” says Douglas White, senior vice president of new business development at MindComet. And as a creative services company focusing on broadband development, he adds, the dot-com title no longer represents the sole focus or direction of the company.
Stephan Tornquist, director of marketing at BlueStreak, says the dot-com title as a stand-alone is “less pertinent” as digital marketing grows beyond web sites to include interactive television and wireless devices. Additionally, he points out, the here-today, gone-tomorrow life cycle played out at many dot-coms doesn’t inspire confidence. “A lot of our clients have a presence on the web but didn’t start out there,” he notes. “We wanted to be sure these companies were not alienated by the perception that we wouldn’t be a long-term business partner.”
Houston-based Emerging, an integrated technology solutions company, dropped dot-com in April, deeming it redundant, says CEO Rob Shaw. “There was a time when you really wanted to point out that you were focused around e-commerce and Internet -related industries,” he says. “Now, it’s the only thing to be doing.” Nevertheless, Shaw, who also is the founder and chairman of luxury goods retailer Ashford.com, believes that even if b2b players like technology vendors were to dump dot-com en mass, e-retailers would be slower to follow. The suggestion got a resounding “no” when raised recently at Ashford, where the marketing team said dot-com was too big a part of its brand-not to mention the clue that directs customers to the web site. But with increasing speculation that dot-com could come to mean dinosaur, one day, “Who knows?” asks White. “Right now, it’s a very hot thing-but then telephones were a hot thing once, too.”