Target and Toys R Us posted overall sales declines during the holidays.
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Others may find they can extract an ROI from using their gTLDs for more innovative purposes. Some may consider taking a bold digital gamble by creating new content around a generic-term gTLD, such as .Jeans, with the goal of ranking high in search engine results. These gTLDs would provide their owners with an unlimited number of highly relevant domain names on which they could build content. Applying this strategy, Levi's could acquire .Jeans, and develop exclusive content around Womens.Jeans, Mens.Jeans, Skinny.Jeans, MyFavorite.Jeans and other great domain names. But this potentially high-reward strategy is also high-risk, because we do not yet know how search engine algorithms will adapt to account for new gTLDs.
While different types of retailers—web-only, chains, consumer product manufacturers, etc.—will differ in what kinds of new category gTLDs they apply for, own and operate, and what kinds of second-level domains they create in their gTLDs, the challenges are fundamentally the same. When it comes to new gTLD strategies, retailers as different as Ann Taylor and The Home Depot will face the same questions of whether to apply, what to apply for, and how to use their new gTLDs.
It could be years before the ROI of new gTLD usage strategies becomes clear. But for most retailers, the wisest move will be to apply for one or more gTLDs, providing the option of putting those domains to use in various ways, depending on what competitors do and how consumers respond.
How all this will play out remains uncertain. But it's likely that new gTLDs will change the online game for all retailers and significantly impact their ability to drive traffic to their web sites and generate sales.
Phil Lodico is managing partner and co-founder of FairWinds Partners, a consultancy that works with brands to better engage Internet users by optimizing digital identifiers such as domain names and social media usernames. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.