During the final week of January, members of the ChopChop Domains team attended the third annual NamesCon Domain Name conference in Las Vegas. NamesCon, which has continued to grow each year, has once again surpassed our expectations and provided an excellent opportunity for domain investors, registrars, registries, hosting companies, IP and brand protection agencies, and many others to learn and develop their business in the domain name investment ecosystem.
Most of the sessions, panels, and networking events during NamesCon primarily focused on cultivating no-nonsense strategies for western domain investors of all experience levels to hone their skills and ultimately make their domain business profitable. However, there is always buzz surrounding the enigmatic Chinese domain market, and so we figured it would be a useful exercise to document some important aspects of domain investing, specifically in the Chinese market, that stuck out to us during NamesCon.
Although China makes up a substantial piece of the domain market pie, it can be incredibly difficult to pin down the ebbs and flows of the market, and knowing how and when to appropriately capitalize on maximizing ROI in the China domain space is not an easy task. At ChopChop Domains, we aim to not only provide you with the best possible Chinese domain name registration options, but we strive to educate our audiences on the China domain market in general as well. So, let’s get into some not-so-obvious takeaways of the Chinese domain market from our time spent at NamesCon 2017.
The first thing I wanted to touch on, which seemed to have been brought up sporadically among the crowded choices of panel sessions, is the fact that domain markets are always fluctuating, especially in China. We all remember when 4-letter, non-vowel Chinese Premiums (CHIP’s, as referred by the domainer community) went through a period of time when they were selling left and right in China, resulting in value spike. Investors who bought and sold CHIP’s were seeing decent returns coming from China, and the trend plodded along as the increased value held strong.
Then, not even a year later, CHIP’s began to slowly depreciate as less and less Chinese domainers were investing in them. Following the domain community, no one can really determine the exact reason for why this market trend lost value in a relatively short period of time. But that’s just part of the ever-changing domain market!
The lesson learned here is that markets are fluctuating in China all the time, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket with one strategy that will likely see a loss of value in time. Instead, plan your investment strategies while keeping fluctuation in mind. Diversify your portfolio. Test and experiment with the current hot trends in China, and find what works for you. Domain markets have ebbs and flows, and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve in China so you don’t end up missing out on opportunity, or losing out on some of your investments.
The second aspect of the Chinese domain market that I took away from NamesCon was that the future of new gTLDs and IDNs still remain somewhat uncertain, however we can still draw many similarities between the .COM bubble in the 1990’s and new domain extensions of today. For example, as outlined in an article written last year about the availability of inventory in Chinese IDNs, we can draw similarities of short, meaningful, relevant, and available .COM domains back in the '90’s to the many new domain extensions in today’s marketplace.
Back in the ‘90’s, some investors doubted the viability of “premium” .COM domain names as a legitimate, tradable commodity. Now some names are worth millions and some investors have made careers out of selling them. Speculation tells us that we could see a similar rise in values with premium-sounding names in the new domain extensions. If you’re a believer in the new gTLDs and how some of them could affect the China market, the time to invest in new domain extensions -- IDNs or new gTLDs -- may be now.
We are still in the infancy stages of new domain extensions and the role they will end up having in the domain name ecosystem. The domain investor groupthink, especially in the west, posit that .COM is still king, and that new gTLDs and IDNs will consolidate, become irrelevant, or disappear altogether. However, in the late '90's and early 2000's, some thought premium .COM names, and even premium unrestricted ccTLD names were risky investments. The lesson here is that Chinese-script IDNs and other relevant new ASCII domain extensions could be at the top in the future of China’s domain name space. If you intelligently invest in short, meaningful, relevant, and available IDNs now, it could pay dividends down the road.
There were only two actual China-related sessions presented at NamesCon. One of which went over various tools and methods to help you invest in domains for China (which we covered extensively as a part of our Chinese Domaining Masterclass series), and the other was a panel session named “China Masterclass.” The panel focused on topics such as the “legal” domain extensions that will sell in China, entry to the Chinese domain market, and what I found most important, building trust with those you work with in China.
To touch on the final point above, after attending this session and speaking with various other China experts at the event, I was able to determine just how important trust is in China. Trust, or “guanxi” is incredibly important for doing business in China. Building guanxi with Chinese partners, consumers, and regulators is a vital piece in doing successful business there. The same applies for domain investors.
If you want to enter the Chinese market or continue doing business in China, you must find a partner you can trust. Build and maintain relationships with your Chinese partners and customers. Attend meetings and events where you can have face-to-face meetings with them. Work with trusted third parties such as brokers or interpreters. Add value to your non .COM domain names. For example, Chinese IDNs not only present a brand/IP strategy for businesses, but it may also be an “ice-breaker” for furthering relations in China.
WeChat is all-encompassing. We cover this in our blog often, but it is pertinent to keep this in mind as you go about your domain investing in China market. Among my many conversations with attendees about China, WeChat seemed to always come up in conversation. In the west, it seems we don’t really comprehend the power of WeChat as a tool for just about everything. This includes domain names. If you can utilize WeChat to buy, sell, or broker domain names, you will have a leg up on everyone else who does not use WeChat.
WeChat is a must-have for doing business in China. Leverage the power of WeChat to reach millions of people to sell your domains. Reach consumers who may be interested in new domain extensions beyond the legacy extensions. Develop marketing, advertising and PR strategies to deploy specifically for WeChat, and partner with those you trust in China to help you do this. WeChat is uncharted territory for many in the west, but the potential and power of the app seems almost limitless.
Thank you again for joining us and we hope you are able to take away some useful and interesting tidbits that we “took away” from NamesCon. Stay tuned for our next blog article and Happy (belated) Chinese New Year!
- ChopChop Domains Team