As the Internet continues to evolve with the adoption and expansion of gTLDs, chief executives need to be prepared to evolve along with it. Here are the top five things CEOs need to know about the new gTLDs.
One of the primary roles of the chief executive (CEO) is to understand business cycles and be able to take strategic risks to achieve future success for the company. Because of limited media coverage, many CEOs are unaware that the Internet is undergoing an unprecedented scaled expansion and that powerhouse technology companies, which have already transformed the way we do business, have made substantial investments in the new gTLDs. Consider these top five things your CEO should know about the new gTLDs.
For the first time in the history of the Internet, we are experiencing numerous converging forces on how consumers navigate not just the Internet, but their entire digital world. Fifteen years ago, the Internet became a mainstream tool for business, school, and life. In 2004, when Facebook was introduced, the social media revolution began. And as smartphones took over old cellphone technology, with the iPhone introduced in 2007, the way we live on the go also changed.
Amazon Prime and Zappos have changed the way consumers think about buying online with two-day free shipping and free returns, requiring retailers to invent destination experiences to lure shoppers into the brick-and-mortar store. The number of patents filed on digital-related inventions has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. We are in the midst of a massive digital transformation impacting all industries. Soon, there will be driverless cars, adding a whole new digital component to our lives. For CEOs, this scaled expansion of the Internet is just one piece of digital transformation that will directly impact the strategy they set for the future of the business.
Nearly 2,000 new gTLDs are categorizing the Internet and assigning secure authenticity and credibility to brands at the top level. Google applied for 101 top-level domains. Amazon for 76. They will create value in these new digital spaces. As half the world’s brands begin to advertise and promote new and unique digital experiences, then the way consumers think about their online world will start to change.
In the 1990s, some CEOs questioned why the company needed a website or what value the Internet would have to their company, but it forced them to innovate into this new digital age. When the Internet began, there was no Google, eBay, or Facebook. The new gTLDs, much like the wild west of the original .com era, will force companies to innovate new uses for the online experience in the top-level domain environment and spawn new companies.
Traditionally, online was chained to a desktop or laptop computer. Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire are now casting that website or online experience onto the flatscreen.
The homepage will be unraveled in favor of specific experiences users are seeking and casting up on the big screen. Brands will quickly begin to understand the authenticity, security, and brand power of their own Internet channel and innovate the online experience. As millions of new wide-open digital spaces are created by the new gTLDs, entrepreneurs will respond with new ideas and technologies to leverage the expanding Internet universe. CEOs need to recognize that every company needs digital innovation if it will survive this transformation.
CEOs rely upon their people and data to drive strategic thinking. The convergence of new data available creates digital intelligence essential to make strategic decisions.
Consumer shopping data is available within your own digital world. Understanding what, when, and how consumers shop online, including how they respond to algorithm-driven point-of-sale prompts, is critical to spotting key trends. Likewise, how people are searching and navigating the Internet tells you what they think and want and what they want, but can’t find. One of the greatest pieces of data for a brand gTLD will be what people search for in their ecosystem that is not available and how they move from one space to the next. How people behave in social and mobile spaces completes the picture. In social, you know what messaging and who influences their thinking. In mobile, you know where they are and what drives purchase behavior or decision making. This data, along with other indicators like patent trends, can tell you where your competitors, customers, and industry are headed. In the trenches of companies, managers are focused on executing the strategy the CEO sets. But if the CEO doesn’t have digital intelligence, the key to the future of the business may be lost as "off strategy."
Fifteen years ago, consumers searched a desktop computer using a mouse and a browser. Now, they search with great specificity on mobile devices or apps and few bother beyond the first page of search results. New gTLDs will initially create more confusion, but as consumers come to recognize certain gTLDs or channels as trusted, they will begin to search within those spaces and Google may begin to change the way it guides users. In prior years, companies would use search engine optimization strategies to generate results to drive consumers to their digital spaces. Today, it’s becoming less possible to "game the system" to get better search results.
"If you keep the mental model of 'What is Google trying to do?' – trying to return great search results for users – then that helps you try to align yourself with those goals. If you are aligned with those goals, then we are trying to return the high-quality pages that you are making. If you aren’t aligned with those goals, you are always going to be working in opposition to the algorithms and you’re always going to be working in opposition to regular users and what they want to see," says Matt Cutts of Google. "What will be important, today and moving forward, is embracing the mix, getting the mix right, and repeating that success using these newer tactics. For a business to really achieve success, they have to look beyond the search engine and set their sights firmly on impressing the customer," adds Duane Forrester of Bing.
Historically, when paradigm shifts begin, those who are negatively impacted by it say it will never work and often work hard to stop or slow the shift. But these shifts are inevitable. Consider the railroads, the industrial revolution, ZIP codes, the highway system, the information age, or social media. The rise and fall of business models and how we navigate our world is inevitable and it’s happening at an accelerated pace. Remember these companies: Kodak, CompUSA, Compaq, Tower Records, Woolworths, EF Hutton, KB Toys, Hostess, and Borders?
They are no longer in business. Their CEO missed some indicator in time to make the shift. While gTLDs are just one part of the digital transformation underway, they are a critical piece to the puzzle and worth at least a mention in your next report to the CEO. If you’d like to see a new infographic on gTLDs, click here.
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Jen Wolfe is an author, digital leader and global IP strategist. She has written a series of highly acclaimed books, Brand Rewired and Domain Names Rewired, endorsed by executives from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Warner Brothers, and more as cutting-edge thinking about the future of brands and the impact of the new gTLDs. She interviewed leaders from Yahoo, Verizon, Harley Davidson, Time Warner, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Intel, Interbrand, Re/Max, Scripps Networks, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft Foods, International Paper, General Mills, and others to uncover trends in branding and technology.
Wolfe is widely cited by business publications for her expertise on the brand gTLD. She has been named one of the top global IP strategists by IAM magazine for four years in a row and one of the few in the world developing brand IP strategies. She also serves on the GNSO Council of ICANN.
Jen consults with C-Suite executives in Fortune 500 companies to develop digital IP strategies and detailed plans for the impact and roll out of new gTLDs with an innovative approach to be a market leader in a changing digital environment.
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