Apple has moved its Chinese iCloud data to China and India is considering a policy to require data to stay within its country. National governments across the world will likely impose requirements on local residence of local data as time goes on. The “one .com to rule them all” domain strategy may have to include domains for each market. If you are a business owner, what domains do you need when entering the China market? Or, what is the implication if you are a domain investor? I hope a study of Walmart’s domain strategy will give us some hints.
Walmart uses Wal-martChina.com as its corporate domain in China, as shown by Baidu. You may notice the hyphen in the name and how it’s different from Walmart’s global domain Walmart.com. This is because Wal-martChina.com was registered in 1999 and well before the name change from “Wal-mart” to “Walmart” in February this year. Nevertheless, the retailer had the foresight in 2002 to register WalmartChina.com which now forwards visitors to Wal-martChina.com. It also owns Walmart.cn and recently acquired W.cn and W.com.cn.
Walmart’s Chinese brand is 沃尔玛 (Wo Er Ma), which is translated phonetically from its English brand. The retailer owns Woerma.com but Woerma.cn is a live site operated by Chinese functional drinks maker Zhong Wo.
When you look at the domains, you can see that Walmart.cn, W.cn, or Woerma.com would be a much better choice than Wal-martChina.com as Walmart’s corporate domain in China. Therefore, I’d suggest Walmart to consider changing its corporate domain to one of the three domains. In fact, W.cn is a very attractive option because Chinese consumers like short domains, as evidenced in the great success of JD.com by ecommerce giant Jing Dong.
Walmart is well positioned to handle any future change in government regulations to require local presence of websites and domains within China. The retailer can simply move Walmart.cn, W.cn, and Woerma.com to China, and then choose one of them as the corporate domain for its China business. This will not affect Walmart’s global business built on its global domain Walmart.com.
What can we learn from this study? When you enter the China market, you need to (1) acquire the .cn domain matching your English brand; (2) secure the .com and .cn domains matching your Chinese brand; and (3) consider the matching acronym .com or .cn domain. While you only need one domain as your corporate domain, related domains should be secured as much as possible for brand protection. For domain investors, if you own a domain falling into the domain path of companies entering the China market, your domain will be very valuable if there is no trademark issue.
Note: If you have an English brand you want to translate into Chinese phonetically, you can try tools such as ChineseTools available on the internet. Of course, the quality cannot be compared with a professional translation service.)
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