Connecting Digital & Real-World Experiences: Why Brand gTLDs Could Bridge the Gap
Brands with gTLDs have the ability to control the entire user experience – from dedicated microsites to targeted in-store experiences.
Big data has become the hottest trend in digital marketing as companies try desperately to track the mountains of data available and turn it into dollars by creating better, more tailored, and customized experiences for their customers. As the digital world consumes most of us at home and at work, our daily routine is tracked by devices and activities across mobile, social, and online platforms. We weave in and out of this digital and real world seamlessly, but brands are struggling to keep up, often creating separate and distinctive experiences.
The gTLD (generic top-level domain) could help bridge that gap. For brands who own their own gTLD, this new platform for designing and building digital experiences is a catalyst to rethink the experience for customers across the digital and real-world divide. Most companies created a basic architecture to their home page 10 or more years ago. And, while it has undergone facelifts, it’s essentially building off the same thinking. Meanwhile, the use of apps and mobile devices, the engagement in social networking, and a paradigm shift in how most of us live our lives has been tackled one issue at a time, rather than as a cohesive strategy.
Our Digital World
Generally, everything we do in the digital world is about having a convenient or free/inexpensive experience with each other and our brands. If we use this as a premise, then we know what types of experiences we need to create in the digital world. We need to make it easy and free or cheap to engage with our brands online.
How we buy things. Apple Pay may make everything paid for by our phone. Starbucks already made that easy for our morning coffee with their system. Amazon Prime and Zappos’ free shipping and returns has made two-day free shipping an expectation of consumers. It’s easier to price and shop and buy almost everything online. Groceries are surely next.
How we are entertained. Whether you use Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, or Chromecast, you either have or will watch content direct from the Internet cast up onto your flat screen in the near future. Most of us have extensive libraries of digital entertainment on numerous devices so we watch what we want, where want, and when we want it in the digital world.
How we work. Even work has become more digital. Most of us spend hours in emails, online sharing spaces, online meetings, or video chats, spanning hours across the globe.
How we connect. Our social worlds continue to migrate into the digital world as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so many others make it easier to interact with our friends in a social network or group texting rather than over the phone or in person.
On the go. Uber has made it easy to get a cab, GrubHub, easy to order food, OpenTable to make reservations, Google Maps to help us find our way, etc. The list of apps that make our life easy is never ending. Even dating has become an app function with Tinder.
When we do all of these things, we expect it to be easy and convenient and usually free or inexpensive.
Our Real World
When we do go out into the real world for those same activities, we want something more than just convenient and free or cheap. In fact, we generally expect experiences to cost more in the real world because we expect them to be better. Even getting from place to place is about the experience, whether it’s in a car, train, or plane. When we have important meetings that need to be face-to-face, it’s because the experience is better. It’s usually less convenient and costs more, but it’s important.
We go to the store to see, feel, touch, or try something on because we want the experience of someone helping us and walking away with a purchase. We can certainly order food online, but going to a restaurant and enjoying the experience is what we want. We can watch movies on our phone, but going to a theater with the big screen, surround sound, and energy of a lot of other people plus authentic movie popcorn, creates an entirely different experience, one we’re willing to pay more for than in the convenient digital world.
Companies now have to bridge the gap between the real and digital worlds and use the mountains of data to help them do so.
Bridging the Gap
Brands with their own gTLD have a strategic advantage. They could look at every experience their customer has in the real world and the digital world and identify how to help them transition or enhance one to the other. In the gTLD space, brands have complete and total control, so whatever they can imagine, they can do. And, they can do so in a way that’s more memorable and unique so they rely less on search tactics to get people there. If you’re shopping at Macy’s this holiday season, Macy’s may want to encourage you to buy more online once you leave the crowded mall in desperation. They might simply have a code in the store to direct you to a landing page like holiday.macys or mallsaretoocrowded.macys and build out campaigns to help continue the experience in the digital space. Their big data can tell them what you bought in the store and what else might go well with your purchases.
At the movies over this holiday season, Sony could promote a special offer to early access to buy a digital download of a movie you saw at the theater with ilovedannie.sony printed on the back of your ticket. They could also build out social experiences within that space for people to talk about seeing the movie in the theater.
Or Pillsbury might launch a baking.fun space in its holiday ad to connect that real-world experience of baking over the holidays with great recipes and coupons online. Digital microsites like pickuplights.homedepot or pickuplights.walmart might make it easy for those last-minute trips back for extra lights by ordering ahead of time and bypassing long lines to just pick up what you need. The examples can go on and on by digging deep into what experiences your customers have as they live between the digital and real world; any one of these could be built into landing pages or microsites tailored to a specific audience with a specific need in a unique and memorable way. Track.zappos; Holdat.tjmaxx; Replay.nfl; snowstorm.weather; or Holidaywines.gallo are all a few more examples.
Brands with a gTLD have a wide open canvas to play with in their creative thinking. If they can think it, they can do it. They own the whole space. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the data they can track as a result. Will we see more of this next holiday season? I suspect we will – and how fun will that be?