An ancient Native American proverb says "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave behind." As we pass the reigns of .ski over to its new owners I wanted to share some of the achievements and the legacy its original founders leave behind.
Lets be clear. We never launched .SKI with the intention of competing again .com. What we wanted to do is give the snow sports and mountain communities an alternative. An alternative that elegantly told people online what a website was about before they even clicked on a link or typed it into their browser. That was the beauty of the so called "new gTLDS" and the beauty of our community driven approach. Short, catchy and relevant domains available to those that wanted or needed them.
The .SKI story began a number of years before we launched but we always prided ourselves on having honest, transparent conversations about .SKI with our target market that ultimately created authentic connections with customers. When I look back on the legacy we leave behind I can be break it down into four main areas. Commitment, reach, growth and depth. The commitment to follow through and build a product in partnership with the community. The global approach that enabled .SKI to reach across borders. The business acumen to create consistent growth and finally the ability to understand all our potential customers needs and provide a solution for all of them to create depth.
Lets look at each one.
Commitment to and by our community to a .SKI extension was a core pillar of our success and the legacy we leave behind. Within a globally diversified sport like skiing the only right approach is to start at the top. And we went straight to the International Ski Federation (more commonly known as FIS, or Fédération Internationale de Ski).
Founded in 1924 during the first Olympic Games in Chamonix, FIS is the global governing body for international ski and snowboarding. It encompasses all eight snow ski disciplines. FIS is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the coordinator of ski events that take place during the Winter Olympic Games. Composed of 115 national member ski associations from all continents, FIS also organizes over 7,000 ski competitions worldwide each year.
One of the primary goals of FIS is to establish programs to promote snow activities as part of a healthy lifestyle, most importantly for children and young adults. .SKI plays an important role in promoting and increasing awareness of various snow activities through new internet channels in secure and trusted environments.
We worked with FIS to build the foundations of the .SKI registration policy and committed to protect thousands of athletes names from registration by 3rd parties. Building a strong relationship with FIS paved the way for .SKI to receive the support from over 20 national ski federations including the US, Germany, Korea, Japan, Austria, and France.
This commitment to build an extension for the community was not exclusive to athletes. .SKI was the only sports extension that, in partnership local organizations like the NSAA and Domaines Skiables De France which represent 81% of the world ski areas, committed to protecting individual resort names prior to launch.
We expanded our commitment to snow sports and mountain industry businesses that form the foundation of an industry worth over $100 Billion yearly. In partnership with Snowsports Industries America and ISPO we initiated multi-year education and awareness programs, enabling global brands down to local businesses the opportunity to secure their .SKI domains early.
So as we move on, we leave a legacy of commitment. This is summed up by an email I recently received from a member of the leadership team at the US Ski and Snowboard Association who I've had the privilege to work with over the last few years. A simple sentence summed up our commitment. "Thank you for building .SKI the right way"
The Laurent Vanat 2016 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism outlines that skiing is practiced in 66 countries around the world and that includes those that have indoor ski slopes. When we launched we had clearly defined markets and expectations of where our sales would reach. With limited but international resources close to the markets that represented 68% of global ski areas, we focused our efforts on Europe (Alps) and North America. So we were pleasantly surprised that .SKI has reached to-date 83 countries and growing.
However, as predicted the majority (86%) of .SKI registration originate from 10 countries. Those countries are either all ski fanatic nations with many resorts, export a huge amount of skiers annually or have a growing fan base. This validates our strategy, approach and execution. Focusing on these countries has built a solid foundation for .SKI's continued growth. As more websites using .SKI domains go up in these markets the more eyeballs will become accustomed to typing .SKI when entering URL.
Top 10 .SKI Registration Countries.
Lets talk about growth. The common perception in the new domains market is to use a single metric for defining success. That metric is pure volume. Many extensions inflate their numbers by selling (or giving away) domain at low prices. This makes them attractive to speculators and domain investors, leading to large volumes of registrations and what looks like good growth. The problem with this is that this isn't a true reflection of the popularity of the extension in the community it serves. Our approach was different. By keeping prices to a premium we only attracted those that saw real value in owning a .SKI domain and therefore would be more likely to use it. Another benefit was that we kept speculators away, maintaining what the industry calls a "clean zone". Basically no junk.
Building commitment and awareness in the community through multi-channel marketing programs really paid off on launch day. .SKI launched as the biggest 1st day opening sports extension to-date. It out performed extension such as .soccer .golf and .football which have market potentials considerably larger than .SKI.
At the time of acquisition, .SKI registrations had passed 8,000 and growing at roughly 15% per quarter. This has made .SKI the 2nd largest sports domain behind .bike which launched over a year and a half before .SKI. The total volume of customers is just over 2,000. This means that each .SKI customer buys more than one domain and 11% of customers come back to buy more .SKI domains. Domain name registration are bought in yearly increments and .SKI customers regularly bought domain for multiple years upfront. Not with standing this, the renewal rates for .SKI are on average 85%.
Comparing this to existing domain trends where average purchases are 1, registration length is 12 months and renewal rates hover at 45%, we're proud to have left a legacy of building a sustainable business based on value not quick gains.
Depth or how far did your product penetrate in a multi-tiered market is a much harder metric to quantify. When buying a .SKI domain through one of our global partners, people don't self select their place in the community. But through analyzing registrations, their owners and websites we can make good conclusions.
A domain extension that will be around forever is one that is used by everyone and we're proud to leave a legacy behind that shows .SKI is used by all types of people in the snow sports community. But lets look at the hard facts first.
1. The top ten ski resorts in the world by skier visits all have registered one or more .SKI domain names.
2. The top five US ski resorts by size have all registered one or more .SKI domain names.
3. La Plagne, the world’s most popular ski resort with over 2.5 million skier visits per year uses laplagne.ski
4. 50% of all European & North America ski areas have registered (or protected) have registered one or more .SKI domain names since September 2015.
5. Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all registered .SKI domain names.
More soft is how we've helped the community grow, build websites, increase web traffic, launch new products, reach new visitors and become part of the culture. Here are just a few examples.
Colorado ski resort Telluride uses the shortened brand URL tel.ski for its social media links. Easy to remember and catchy.
French ski resort Val d’Isere outranks other sites for the keyword Val d’Isere Ski Pass on Google search with the help of the domain valdisere.ski.
We've helped Francesca Marsaglia dominate her online presence just like she dominates the world cup ski circuit.
We've enabled innovative mountain industry startups like Huski to secure short, memorable and catchy domains that perfectly match their business. Check out hu.ski
These and websites like tannerhall.ski, maniege.ski, maggie.ski, melt.ski, snooc.ski and blackmail.ski are just a few of the thousands of websites using .ski domains.
As hundreds more launch every day. We've left a community with a tool that is purely their own. Commitment, growth, reach and depth have all gone into making .ski part of the community forever. Thats what we're most proud of.
So as I sign off from .SKI, I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues, partners, customers and the snow sports community. Together we've built a lifelong legacy who's story will unfold over time. And be sure we'll be watching closely as it does.