The Value of "I Want"

by Judith Oppenheimer

It's no secret the domain name real estate market is hot, catching up to and quickly surpassing the 800 vanity number market due to its legal status. Note recent sales:

800 vanity number sales, though often illicit, are in the same ballpark: 1 800 TICKETS: $1M plus 6% stock; 800-i-TRAVEL: stock valued at $1,648,500; 1 800 COMPUTER (along with computer.com): $500,000. And so on.

GreatDomains.com says the average price of domains sold on its site is $14,500. That's low-end for an "average" vanity number, but not entirely incomparable.

So you've got a domain name. Maybe its not one short word (witness ForSaleByOwners.com above - there are valuable exceptions to the one-word gospel.)

What's it worth?

Logic, and battle-worn folks, will tell that its worth what someone is willing to pay - and what the seller is willing to accept. But theoretically speaking, you ask - what's it worth?

The closest model for valuating domain names is 800 vanity numbers. Setting the differences aside (vanities overlay 7 digits with 3,000+ alpha permutations, and are captive to different regulatory and trademark schemes), 800 vanity numbers can be informally valued (since buy/sell is illegal per FCC 4/97 ruling, the vanity not officially an asset) a number of ways. 

  1. The Brand - If a brand is valued a $X Million dollars as a static name, its interactivity: transportation, concierge, and cash register - can only increase that value: measurably, tangibly.

Certainly this brand model of static value to measurably increased interactive value, can be applied to brand domain names, as well as generics for products and services that have high appeal and broad market/mind share.

  1. 800 and Dot Com - 800 is branded, triggering an elevated consumer response, and a pronounced buying behavior. (888/877/866/855 etc get too easily confused with the proliferation of new local area codes, and inevitably send misdials to the 800 version. They do not perform, or represent, as well as 800.)

Can 800-modeled elevated response and recall be attributed to the branded dot com? By all appearances, yes.

  1. The Power of Language: "I WANT" - Closer to the heart of domain names, is the power-of-language factor.

In interviews I conducted a number of years ago, Prodigy Internet revealed a 25% greater response, longer recall, and significantly increased customer retention, when testing its 800 PRODIGY vanity number against an 800 numeric in a mainstream television campaign.

Operations managers reported that 800 PRODIGY provided an ease of use and access of service that well exceeded the initial response, extending the sale into a customer.

1 800 JEEP EAGLE, rolled out during a Super Bowl, revealed increased response, and an elevated caliber of respondent, both more inclined, and more financially qualified, to buy -- plus a 50% conversion rate: within 12 months of the initial call to 1 800 JEEP EAGLE, 50% of callers bought either a Jeep Eagle or comparable vehicle.

That's an incredibly high conversion rate on a very high-priced item. Bally's Health and Fitness' call center manager raved that their 1 800 WORKOUT and 1 800 FITNESS callers "were raising their hands, asking to buy."

Apparently the value of consumers actively semantically asserting the inherent "I WANT" demand in 1 800 PRODIGY, 1 800 WORKOUT, and 1 800 JEEP EAGLE, far exceeds the more tentative consumer behavior experienced when provided weaker response and access vehicles.

So 800 number brand names, recognized vernacular, and calls to action trigger an elevated response and a pronounced buying behavior. They attract more callers, who are more qualified by both desire, and ability, to buy.

I'm not aware of any studies done attributing increased sales, conversion, or retention, specifically to dot com's. But like the 800 vanity, called, dialed, clicked or keyed.

Common sense dictates that the pronounced assertive "I WANT" behavior, its benefits and value, would apply to the vernacularly dominant (brand, generic and call to action) domain name too.

Judith Oppenheimer is President of ICB Inc., purveyor of accurate 800 & Dot Com News, Intelligence, Analysis, Consulting. http://icbtollfree.com/, http://1800theexpert.com/

Copyright 2000 ICB Inc. All Rights Reserved.