In the run-up to Christmas, consumers will be keen to secure the best deal possible on gifts.

The rate of online purchases is growing every year, as people recognize that taking their trade to the web is the best way of finding the cheapest price on goods. Indeed, research by Casio has found that over three million Britons are going to do all of their Christmas shopping online.

On top of this, only 39 per cent of respondents are going to make more than half of their purchases on the high street.

This presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses that operate in the online domain, as they can look forward to an increase in custom, but they also need to make sure there is an effective brand protection strategy in place.

Securing domain names

Brand abuse is an issue that is growing and it is therefore vital that companies – especially those with popular consumer brands – secure their domain names and domain name variations, as well as monitoring their brand online.

In the past, it may have been enough for firms to take ownership of the .com and the country-specific domain name that they were operating in. However, this is no longer the case, as they have to protect themselves in as complete a manner as possible.

This includes purchasing all of the relevant variations of the brand name, as domain squatters will attempt to buy website addresses with brand names at the earliest opportunity. Staying on top of this should prevent the situation whereby customers accidently buy counterfeit goods. Not only will this leave people feeling disgruntled, but long-term it could do reputational damage to a brand.

Moving forward, this is going to be an increasingly important issue as a result of the expansion of generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). Over 1,900 new gTLDS are currently being vetted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and a range of new suffixes will become available from some time next year.

This demonstrates why portfolios have to be managed in a proactive way to ensure visibility and control are placed at the heart of any strategy.

Effective brand protection

According to Mark Calandra, vice-president of sales and product development for the CSC, domain names “anchor most companies’ marketing efforts, give form to their supply chains and enable secure, web-based transactions”.

This means the importance of protecting URLs – and therefore the brand in question – cannot be understated. To start with, brand owners need to make sure they are aware of any big changes in the online world, as this leaves them in the position where they can be proactive, rather than reactive.

Organizations should also be looking to make sure they have an effective monitoring platform, as a good system can crawl billions of web pages and present the information in an actionable form – something that is valuable for big firms looking to take important decisions in short timeframes.

Focusing on social media

Social media continues to grow at a very fast rate and so firms need to recognise the risks posed by this. Enforcing intellectual property rights in this medium can be tricky and so scrutinizing social media channels with great regularity is advised.

As content updates occur in a quick and global manner, real-time social media monitoring is a must for all firms. Identifying, tracking and consolidating any mention of relevant brands allows managers to gauge interest levels from the consumer, while it may also help them to discover if there are any issues with counterfeit operations.

Ultimately, companies need to remember that a smart domain name strategy can improve the brand owner’s return on investment, as well as ensure overall customer satisfaction. Organizations have to target investment in this area if they want to take control of their own online presence.

Not only will this ensure that brands enjoy a strong reputation across the web, it should also help in achieving the end-goal of providing a top-quality service to consumers.

Christmas ‘presents brand protection challenges’

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