13 months ago, we sold our first new gTLD. Early this morning we hit 100,000. It has been a very interesting journey full of important learnings. I’d be lying if I said we had very clear expectations about performance. We also had no idea about what would perform well. .PHOTOGRAPHY seemed too long to be successful. .XYZ felt a bit too generic. The truth is that both extensions resonated with resellers and users. We looked at this past year as an opportunity for us to try new things, learn and adapt. Some of the things we tried worked, some failed miserably. The most valuable thing for us was how much we learned in the process. These learnings will definitely help us in the coming months and it will also give us an opportunity to give some guidance to our resellers. Here are 5 things we learned this past year:
1. Adoption has been slow
And we are perfectly OK with that (read on and you’ll find out why). As I said before, we had no clear expectations about adoption and we tried to go into it with low expectations and an open mind. We believe adoption will pick up over time and we expect 2015 to be a much stronger year.
2. Different markets react differently to new gTLDs
The fact that we have 13,000 resellers in 150 countries gives us the unique opportunity to look at performance globally.
Our European resellers are leading the charge. We expected the European market to be more open to new gTLDs and that prediction proved correct. It’s a market used to ccTLDs so having a couple hundred more new gTLDs was not a big deal.
North American resellers are lagging behind. It continues to be a very .COM-centric market that is still skeptical about too much choice.
South American and Asian resellers complain about the English-centric nature of new gTLDs. A lot of the new gTLDs we have launched do not make sense in these markets so adoption has been slow.
Our South African resellers saw a lot of success with geographic TLDs such as .CAPETOWN and .JOBURG.
3. A lower price point will not put you at the top of the charts
When we look at our top 10, only 3 are priced below .COM (.CLUB, .LINK and .XYZ). Our top new gTLD is .LONDON and it is currently priced at $40. .GURU, .PHOTOGRAPHY, .EMAIL, .COMPANY, .TODAY and .ROCKS are all priced above .COM (between $15-$20). The learning here is that the market decides what’s good and what is not and performance is not necessarily tied to a low price point.
4. User Experience is often being overlooked
Presenting a drop-down with 200+ options to the end users is not going to help adoption. Users feel overwhelmed and more choice may also mean no action. Most resellers have not figured out efficient ways to present new gTLDs. Users need contextualization. Our most successful reseller (as far as new gTLDs go) is Hover and they have spent countless hours trying to come up with novel and efficient ways to present new gTLDs to their users. The effort has certainly paid off but when you talk to the Hover team they will say that there is still a long way to go.
5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
We knew this from the start. Our registry friends may have hoped for a quicker start but we knew this would take time. A lot needs to happen before new gTLDs take off. Registries and registrars need to get better at marketing, resellers need to wrap their minds around which ones they would like to offer, to whom and more importantly how. End users need time to accept the idea that non-COM, ORG, NET, INFO domains are also legitimate. All that takes time. Low and steady wins.
2015 will be a year when we will be able to apply some of these learnings. And we are going to learn some more. And we will keep repeating this formula until this is a success.