November 20, 2012

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The FairWinds Cyber Monday Championship

Which E-Retailer Is Best Prepared for the Busiest Online Shopping Day of the Year?


It's no secret that Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving, is the Internet's answer to Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. The term "Cyber Monday" was coined in 2005, and the day has quickly become a massive source of revenue for Internet retailers, with consumers spending over $1.25 billion in 2011, according to comScore. Sites offer deals and savings comparable to in-store specials that consumers find on Black Friday, resulting in huge boosts to site traffic – and, of course, online sales.

Are brands maximizing this online sales potential on Cyber Monday, or are retailers losing thousands of dollars in revenue during the busiest online shopping period of the year to typo variations of their websites?

Typosquatting, a type of cybersquatting, refers to the practice by which individuals seek to monetize or otherwise benefit from traffic generated by spelling or keystroke mistakes made by Direct Navigators attempting to reach popular branded and other domain names by typing the domain names directly into the address bar. Third parties often host fraudulent content and targeted ads on these pages, which can confuse potential customers and divert them from their intended destination. Controlling and enforcing this practice, then, should be a priority for the most popular ecommerce sites, especially during the busiest online shopping period of the year. It is also important to note that there are common typos that divert traffic that are not examples of infringement, but are equally as valuable for brands to consider owning and using.

Considering the importance of Cyber Monday to retailers that engage in ecommerce, FairWinds was eager to look at the day from a different perspective. We sought to determine which of the 50 largest e-retailers (according to Internet Retailer) are taking the best advantage of Cyber Monday by owning the best domain names. To do that, we started by analyzing the increase in traffic to each retailer’s site. Then, we determined the most frequently visited typos of each of the 50 retailers’ main domain names to measure increases in traffic on these domain names and more importantly, whether or not the retailer owns the misspelled domain name. Weighing these factors, we ranked the top 50 retailers and are ready to crown one company the FairWinds Cyber Monday Champion. The FairWinds Cyber Monday Champion is the retailer that experiences the largest percentage increase in traffic across its own site and the most common typo domain names that it owns. 


In determining the ranking of the ecommerce sites included in this study, FairWinds utilized a number of different tools and factors. First, we used Internet Retailer's Top 500 Guide to determine the 50 largest retail websites in the United States. The list is based on yearly sales, and it spans a variety of categories, from office supplies to electronics to apparel.

In order to determine increases in traffic around Cyber Monday, we analyzed data from Compete, a digital intelligence site that breaks down traffic on a month-to-month basis. Because of the variations in the baseline number of visitors to each site, we determined the percentage increase in traffic over the months of October and November 2011.

The other primary component of the study is examining whether or not these e-retailers own the most-visited typos of their main domain names. Using DomainTools' Domain Typo Finder and Compete data, we collected up to 20 of the most common typos of each domain name and calculated traffic increases across October and November 2011 for each one. Some domains had fewer than 20 typos with significant traffic, as determined by Compete, and in those cases we included as many typos as possible.

Based on each domain's WHOIS data, we were able to tell which of the typo domain names each of the 50 sites owned, and because of the differences in numbers of domain names owned and not owned among the different sites, we took an average of the traffic increase (or decrease) across the months of October and November.

The ranking numbers are the sum of three different figures. Sites received one point for each percentage increase or decrease in traffic on their primary domain name between October and November 2011. Sites received one point for each percentage of the average increase or decrease of owned typo domains between October and November. Finally, sites received one negative point for each percentage of the average increase of not owned typo domain names between October and November. If there was a decrease in average traffic among third-party owned typo domain names, a site received zero points in that category.

The full list of 50 sites was then ranked according to this scoring system, and a higher score indicates a better standing in the FairWinds Cyber Monday standings. 





FairWinds’ ranking of the top 50 sites revealed some interesting patterns and information. Target and Vistaprint, ranked 23 and 35, respectively, in the Internet Retailer rankings, tied for the win this year. Target and Vistaprint, like other high-scoring sites, ranked highly by owning the typos that receive major jumps in traffic and by virtue of a significant jump in visitors to its homepages in November. On the other hand, sites that ranked in the bottom part of the list, suffered because third parties control typo domains that experienced huge jumps in traffic between October and November. Traffic to one site jumped an astonishing 10,788 percent, and the fact that the company does not own it negatively affected its score and its ranking.

Only four of the top ten largest retail sites, Liberty Interactive (QVC), Staples, Amazon, and Wal-Mart, rank in the top 25 on FairWinds’ Cyber Monday ranking list. These sites are committed to ecommerce and have invested significant capital in their websites, which are a large source of revenue, so owning typo domains should be a high priority for them. By owning common typos domains that experience big traffic bumps during November, these firms would be able to redirect errant navigation back to their homepage, retaining customers and protecting brand identity. These sites, and the rest of the sites in the ranking for that matter, are losing revenue from potential customers by not owning these sites, especially during the busiest shopping period of the year.

In terms of industry, seven of the 13 clothing sites in the top 50 rank in the top half of the list, demonstrating that the apparel industry is cognizant of the importance of typo domains and is taking appropriate measures to take advantage of it and curtail any possible typosquatting. On the other hand, more than half of the sites that sell computer equipment and electronics rank in the bottom half of the list with negative scores. Given the proliferation of counterfeit goods and the space within the tech industry, this is somewhat surprising. 


Although it is challenging to determine the exact number of customers or amount of revenue a particular site loses to typo domains, these results make it clear that typo domains present lost opportunities for some of the most popular ecommerce sites. Other than lost monetary opportunities, not owning typos of a brand's domain presents lost reputational opportunities as well. While some brands, like Target, Vistaprint, and OfficeMax, are doing a commendable job of owning domain typos that experience large jumps in traffic and redirecting customers to the intended homepage, other popular brands, are struggling.

Brands should take appropriate action on typos domains to make their Cyber Mondays as busy and profitable as possible. Following the release of traffic data for November 2012, FairWinds will update the study to crown the 2010 FairWinds Cyber Monday Champion.