It appears that the both the domain name industry and businesses opting to use new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) may have a great deal of marketing to do to spread awareness about gTLDs. Most consumers are not familiar with the initiative to get sites using over 1,300 new domain options, and at the same time, they don't like going to domains they don't recognize.
According to the Domain Name Association (DNA), just a quarter of internet users worldwide are aware of efforts to expand the number of domain names. 55% are completely unaware, and 20% are unsure. eMarketer illustrates the data:
eMarketer, which created the above graph based on the DNA's findings, says, "The initiative isn’t without controversy. What some view as a 'blank canvas for innovation' to spur more creativity, diversity and trust on the internet, others see as costly, exploitative and bound to cause consumer confusion. Nonetheless, it continues to move forward, requiring all internet users to adapt."
The lack of awareness may not be as big a problem as the lack of trust about unfamiliar domains, considering that search is the way most people are getting to content.
The DNA said, "Consumers trust domain names as THE most trustworthy way to navigate the Internet. The majority of consumers say they are most confident in the security of links they have bookmarked or have typed directly into the web browser. Ranked next, consumers most trust search results WHEN THEY RECOGNIZE THE DOMAIN NAME or url. Then further down the list are search results delivering an unknown web address. So people use search slightly more often but click on search results with recognized addresses and trust known or typed-in domain names."
It also says that new domain extensions that identify brands or security attributes are likely to increase user trust.
Discussing a recent survey from NCC Group Trust, the DNA says, "60% of respondents stated that the 'Websites associated with a known brand or company' provide an increased sense of security. To me, this says that loans.chase will be seen as clearly more secure than chaseonlineloans.com where Chase can build brand awareness (and where long domain names with brand names embedded are often a source of Phishing attack). Similarly and in a short period of time, onlinepayment.bank and onlinepayment.secure will be able to build awareness as secure places."
Again, this just shows how important the marketing of these gTLDs is going to be to businesses who are using them. But even businesses themselves need to be marketed to as well.
DomainMart CEO Alex Tajirian says, "Success requires cooperation among registries and resellers when it comes to sales and marketing. Impulse buying aside, a product's sales are driven by the product's utility, which is why some professionals believe that the main objective of marketing is to create awareness of a product's utility. If people find the product useful, they will pay the right price. Hence, when businesses don't register new gTLDs, it can mean one of three things: the businesses aren't aware of the gTLDs' existence, they don't understand the things' utility/benefits, or the price is too high to be cost-effective."
"Instead of targeting every unaware business and trying to change the minds of others regarding the new gTLDs' utility, I propose a targeted and focused marketing audience," he writes. "Start by focusing on undecided managers and those who are not aware of the new domains; then expand to a broader audience. One such audience is start-ups. They can be reached with booths at tech conferences, ads on online tech sites, and use of traditional marketing venues in high-tech hubs such as Silicon Valley."
Aditya Chauhan, a Business Development Strategist at LogicBoxes, writes at DomainNameWire that increasing awareness is one of the three biggest challenges facing new gTLDs, calling this a "nightmare for registries".
"Not only do they have to bear the burden of marketing their product, but also the need to educate customers about nTLDs [new TLDs] as a whole," she says. "This is something that .CLUB seems to have handled remarkably well on a global scale. By using well known faces to endorse and use their product, .CLUB has spread both awareness and acceptance amongst their target audience. However, there’s still a long way to go to make nTLDs more mainstream."
Donuts, which is the largest registry for new gTLDs, recently unveiled what's being called a "marketing offensive" aimed at "spreading the new gTLD gospel to small businesses in the US," as Trevor Little at World Trademark Review puts it.
The good news is that according to Donuts, several studies by search experts have found that the first generation of new gTLD addresses are matching or outperforming legacy gTLDs and ccTLDs in search performance.
Images via ThinkStock, eMarketer, .CLUB