Thursday, December 29, 2011

The African Reseller Club: Domain Reselling still a hopeful venture on the continent

I'm always very wary of buying from Domain Resellers partly because I do my home work on the best pricing on the internet before committing my money to any purchase and I know where to get much better deals from some ICANN Accredited Registrars who not only offer domain names at very low prices but also offer first class customer service!

A key challenge in the growth and uptake of domain names in Africa is the lack of large registrars with the marketing power and incentive to attract a large number of users. The void has hence been filled by African Domain Resellers whose core businesses are not necessarily domain name services. This I think has hindered the adoption of domain names, the kinds of mass adoption that has led to the success of registrars in the West. In Africa, people are likely to buy a domain name only when they need to host content on them or for some kind of brochure websites. Domain investing as an industry on its own, separate from the larger web design/webhosting business has not taken root. Several factors account for this which makes Africa a not particularly fertile ground for domain investing.

Key amongst them is pricing, and then there is issue of the terms and condition of some of the ccTLDs which are very unfriendly to users. There is also the issue of access to broadband as the business requires lots of access to the internet to carry the adequate research and networking in order to succeed. You need good internet connection to register domains, participate in domain auctions, develop a large number of websites, network with your peers, do volumes of research in a short period of time and so forth. This is normally hindered especially in African countries where prices for broadband are still steep in spite of the much vaunted launch of the fibre optic cables.

Domain Resellers however play a crucial role in the internet ecosystem in taking domains to the local markets where the large registrars may not have the marketing power or the understanding of the prevailing cultures that would help them appeal to local tastes. It would be quite costly if huge registrars like say eNom or GoDaddy or ResellerClub had to establish shop in each of the 250+ countries of the world. Imagine GoDaddy establishing GoDaddy.co.ke GoDaddy.co.za GoDaddy.cn etc to take its domains to the storefronts of every country. It would be quite costly. So the DNS being an internet business, registrars simply rely on domain resellers worldwide.  Signing up to be a domain reseller takes just a few minutes and you have your own "registrar" business!

Many large registrars focus on building reseller networks since these are the conduits through which you can reach millions without spending a dime. In many cases, the resellers will do their own marketing in order to push domain sales and that means a multiplier effect on your products. It means that while the registrars are doing their own marketing, there is a network that’s reinforcing their existing marketing network.

Having this rich network of hardworking, knowledgeable and committed resellers is key in taking domains to the shop fronts of every African country. These resellers normally specialize on other businesses such as web design, graphics design, even offering cybercaf├ęs services but as resellers they are able to push domain registrations, sales of SSL Certificates, sale of hosting packages, email hosting and much more to their local and if they are ambitious enough global clientele. As they say, on the internet, nobody knows you are a dog.

Given the dearth of ICANN Accredited Registrars in Africa, there is a real opportunity for African resellers to build a solid business before consumers opt for cheaper options in the global marketplace. There is an African Domain Reseller that was recently accredited by ICANN and many of the ICANN Accredited Registrars that you see were once domain resellers.

As a reseller, learn to give users special services for example, free installation of Wordpress for every domain or hosting package bought; offer a few domain offers to consumers; be social media savvy and blog often and be helpful to technically challenged clients or potential clients; since you are small, this is an opportunity to personalize your services and build a much closer bond with your consumers.

You might not grow very rich as a reseller at first but with hard work and dedication to your clients you will win their trust in the local and the regional markets and inspire consumer confidence in your products and services. You can for example dominate Wordpress blogs hosting, Joomla hosting, Drupal hosting and custom design and help in taking your local market online.

Instead of waiting for the customers to come for domain and websites, domain resellers can buy and develop hundreds of their own domains which they can use as portfolios to boost customer confidence and later even resell at a higher value, after all, they are resellers! If you can resell SSL certificates, you can surely resell high value generic keyword websites tailored for the local market.

Resellers cannot rely on domain sales alone at this time, but more Africans are yet to get online and the future looks promising for those who will be willing to stick to the knitting and weather the storm.


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