By David Barnett,
Brand Monitoring subject matter expert
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The month of November marks the start of a busy shopping period in both the offline and online worlds, not only because of the proximity of the festive time of year, but also because of a number of specific commerce-related events. In this article—the first in a series of two—CSC looks at domain registration trends related to holiday shopping.

The concept of Singles Day (or Guanggun Jie, literally “Single Sticks Holiday”) began at Nanjing University in China in the early 1990s, marking November 11 (11.11 or double-11) as the day of celebration. But the commercial opportunities associated with the event were spotted in the late 2000s[1], when the Alibaba® marketplace starting using the date for its annual online sale in 2009[2] and then trademarked the term double-11 ( 双十一) in 2012[3]. Singles Day has subsequently grown to become the biggest shopping day in the world, with combined sales across Alibaba and JD.com alone totalling in excess of $44 billion in 2017[4]. Though the occasion continues to grow in prominence, it remains most popular in the Far East, perhaps due to the coincidence of sharing the date with Veterans or Remembrance Day in the West.

In the U.S.—and much of the western world—the period around Thanksgiving, on the fourth Thursday of November, has also long been popular with shoppers. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has traditionally been regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S. More recently, the coining of the following Monday as Cyber Monday was introduced, producing a four-day long weekend designed to encourage consumers to shop online. Online sales on Cyber Monday have grown year-on-year since 2006, reaching almost $8 billion on 2018[5].

The use of references to Singles Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday as ways of promoting eCommerce, and increasing sales for internet retailers, continues to remain common practice. Domains can be registered by individuals for a number of different reasons—in the context of Singles Day and the Thanksgiving weekend, domains can be used in the creation of event-specific eCommerce sites and to promote particular brands, marketplaces, or products.

Beyond this, the registration of domains can be profitable even in cases where no live site is configured. In many cases, domain names, including high-relevance keywords, can be registered on spec, to see which examples generate significant volumes of web traffic. This traffic can then be monetized by the site owner through the inclusion of sponsored advertisements (pay-per-click links) on the webpage. This practice alone can be of particular concern to a brand owner if their brand name is used in the domain name and the sponsored ads direct visitors to competitor sites.

In this study, we consider domains with names containing the strings 11(-)11[6], black(-)friday and cyber(-)monday (with optional hyphens in each case). The information is derived from domain name zone files, which are data files containing lists of registered domains, published by the registries responsible for the operation of particular domain name extensions (top-level domains, or TLDs). Zone files are available for the majority of generic TLDs (gTLDs such as .COM, .NET, etc.) new gTLDs, plus a selection of country-code TLDs (ccTLDs).

The following statistics show the numbers of pre-existing domains already registered at the start of November 2019.

These statistics illustrate the scale of domain name registrations relating to the November events, and the proportion of these domains, which—on the basis of the associated keywords—have presumably been registered to promote sites or attract traffic relating to eCommerce activity. For the Black Friday and Cyber Monday domains, significant proportions (26.1% and 34.9%, respectively) feature keywords pertaining explicitly to eCommerce. The share for 11.11 domains is rather smaller, due in part to the more generic nature of the string itself, and perhaps in part to targeting the Far East audience with less reliance on English-language keywords.

The TLD data shows that, although the majority of these sites exist on common, familiar gTLDs such as .COM and .NET, other new gTLDs (e.g., .XYZ and .TOP), as well as ccTLDs (e.g., .UK and .DK) are also important.

In cases where brand names are explicitly being used to promote competitor products or offer the sale of counterfeits, this activity can be highly damaging to the brand owner, in terms of lost revenue and reputation damage.

CSC recommends that brand owners carry out proactive monitoring for the registration of new domains relating to their brands, which is particularly important at times of the year when eCommerce activity is at a high. Monitoring should also take a holistic approach, covering a wide range of relevant TLDs and keywords. Infringing domains can potentially be taken down via a range of enforcement processes. In some cases, other approaches may also be appropriate, such as attempting to dispute or acquire highly relevant or desirable domain names, or looking to launch a snapback procedure to register a domain after the expiration of its current registration period.

Our second article in this series will address trends in the numbers of new registrations across the Singles Day and Thanksgiving weekend events.

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[1] telegraph.co.uk/black-friday/0/what-is-chinas-singles-day-and-how-does-it-compare-to-black-frid/

[2] econsultancy.com/singles-day-2018-alibaba/

[3] gtld.com/insights/blog/2014/11/happy-guanggun-jie/

[4] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singles%27_Day

[5] cnbc.com/2018/11/27/cyber-monday-sales-break-record-a-record-7point9-billion-spent-online.html

[6] This study excludes domains (deemed non-relevant) where the 11(-)11 string is immediately preceded or followed by another digit, e.g., 000000111111.com

Holiday Shopping Starts Now! How Will 11.11, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday eCommerce Domains Trend? Part 1