Brand gTLD applicants like Apple, Microsoft, McDonalds and Johnson & Johnson, to name just a few, are planning how they will use their brand gTLD(s) in 2014. While most brands agree that simply migrating the home page from .com isn’t the solution, they’re still looking for innovative strategies to deploy their roll out. Many are concerned about how consumers will adapt to this new way of navigating the web and don’t want to lose valuable search equity in their existing .coms.
Brand gTLDs, as a digital platform, have the power to transform how people think about and navigate the web and could build off of a brand’s success in apps. Consider that second-string domains function similarly to an app version of a web site — a window into one function the user is seeking, with one purpose and one interaction focused on cool, fun or simple engagement.
For example, apps have provided single points of entry to games like Angry Birds, navigation tools to find what you need, instant coupons tied to your exact location, easy streams to your favorite local restaurants, social communities or to shopping. Apps are tailored to quickly and easily access one function of an experience with a brand, rather than a homepage with every function available. While apps are certainly tied to the mobile experience, a similar navigational concept could apply in thinking about how to design the brand gTLD.
With a gTLD, brands are no longer married to the homepage concept, using the .com as a landing page in a rectangular shape, with tabs across the top luring the user into layer upon layer of rectangular pages of content. They can build out each experience into a separate landing page, unique to the needs of the user, with the intention to engage them fully in that one function. Those brand gTLDs can easily track how users navigate from one functionality to another. Brands could evaluate how users currently connect with their web experiences, what terms they use in searching and what functionality they invest the most time on, while engaging with the brand on the web. These are all the important data points to consider when creating a user experience, not just a web page with the brand gTLD platform.
Digital life has changed things dramatically for all marketers. In a digital world, brands can control the content and the distribution of their message and create unique user experiences. gTLDs provide brands a higher level platform to control engagement with the consumer. Once consumers start to adopt this way of navigating the web, the doors are wide open for more innovative thinking, just as apps opened up the door to more streamlined strategies for engaging the user and solving their problems.
Take a look at this word cloud of possibilities and new ways to think about navigation:
No longer chained to a home page, brand gTLDs can tap into their analytics to create functionality and user-experience-based solutions through the gTLD platform. While it may be confusing to consumers at first, if this becomes a trend, ultimately it will become intuitive, just as email, web navigation and apps have infiltrated our daily habits. The generic gTLDs may become directories of websites related to those categories; for example, local.restaurants, beach.vacations, zip.coupon, new.style, live.sports, live.news and so on.
Technology disrupts markets and transforms industries. Think of the gTLD as a new technology platform. In just the last few years, we have seen cloud computing shift users from desktop-based software to software accessed from the web. This technology could ultimately help software companies eliminate piracy of latest versions by giving them complete control over how the software is used and accessed.
Apple took a big bite out of the music piracy industry by offering a low cost and easy way to download music. Pandora took it one step further: Why buy any music if I can get what I like for free? Netflix eviscerated Blockbuster and is now competing as a content producer and distribution company.
Market solutions form and drive consumer behavior. Consumers have migrated to an app-like approach to getting want they want online and as a result, increasingly use their mobile devices more than a laptop or desktop computer. As smart TVs begin to connect the in-home experience to the web, brand gTLDs have the power to deliver this same market-based solution through the intuitive navigation inherent to the technology platform of the gTLD.