What Exactly Is a Domain Name?
Look up at the address-bar of your web browser right now. What you see is the URL of this page, i.e.,
This is the complete address of the webpage you are looking at. The part that says, "about.com," is the domain name. The rest of the URL relates to the specific part of About.com that you are presently viewing.
As you can see, the domain name is the primary identifier of any web property. Hence, choosing the domain name is as important for an ecommerce business as choosing the brand name for any type of business.
Significance of Different Domain Name Extensions
Notice the part of the domain name after the period? It is "com." As a result this type of a domain name is called a .com (dot-com) domain name. The ".com" is the domain name extension, also called the TLD (Top Level Domain) of this domain name.
The .com extension is most common, but there are several other TLDs, e.g., .net and .org. The problem with choosing a domain name extension other than .com is that some customers will end up visiting the .com website even if that is not the one you wanted them to go to. So if you advertise the website BuyCoolGizmos.net, some people will end up visiting BuyCoolGizmos.com out of sheer habit. That is why most ecommerce businesses prefer the .com domain name extension.
Specialist Ecommerce Domain Names
Some ecommerce businesses feel that a domain name with a special extension might be more relevant to their offering. The list of special TLDs keeps growing over time. At present, some the TLDs that have captured the imagination of ecommerce businesses are:
If you have a travel related ecommerce business, what could be better than having a domain name that has the .travel extension? For instance if you specialize in luggage that can be used as cabin baggage on flights, why not consider a domain name such as CabinBags.travel?
Handheld devices are one of the fastest growing consumer product segments. They have also spawned an entire industry of accessories. This is why we have the .mobi TLD. If you are an ecommerce business that sells screen covers for mobile phones, why not consider the domain name ScreenCovers.mobi?
Regional Ecommerce Domain Names (.co.uk, .com.au, .asia, .eu)
In addition to specialist domain name TLDs there are close to two hundred domain name extensions that are related on different countries or territories, e.g., .co.uk is for businesses in UK and .com.au is for businesses in Australia. Country-specific domain names can have special restrictions. For instance, a .com.au domain name can only be purchased by a business that has a license to operate in Australia. But a .co.uk domain name can be purchased by anyone.
If you are an ecommerce business, you should consider the implications of using a domain name that has a country-specific TLD. In some markets, there might be a higher relevance for a local website than for an international website. And one of the indicators that a website is local is the country-specific TLD.
A major application of country-specific domain name extensions is in creating regional language variants of your ecommerce website. If you have an ecommerce business that can cater to multiple countries, you could consider mirroring your website in another language. And the non-English website can be placed on a domain name that has the extension of one of the countries that is the most common user of that language.
Postscript: Two domain names: BuyCoolGizmos.net and BuyCoolGizmos.com have been mentioned in the article for illustrative purposes only. At the time of writing this article, both were available for registration.