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Store Update

I know, the class work is done, so why am I still posting here? Well, I knew I was going to keep the project going; it was my intent from the onset. And, well, I’ve already made some of the revisions I had alluded to in my project wrap-up posting. I will probably continue to post updates on the store here, since this is the most appropriate location for that.

I closed out two of my non-productive rental sites for the store, and one for the gallery. I have one I’ve kept at promenade mall, but put in some actual merchandise instead of the slide viewer. I still have a couple of weeks there, so I’ll make up some vendors and try them out at that location. If it works out I may keep it. I did rent a bigger space at Promenade for a new Waves Gallery location. That is all set up now and looks like this:


As you can see, I made my own frames, and created both a gold version and a black version. I had been queried before about different frame options, so I decided to offer that. So I re-framed all of my photos for sale. This can be seen in this image. I also made a new sign, which I like much better. I liked the wall and floor design I had created at my smaller rental space here at Promenade, so I duplicated the look here.

Since I had done all the re-framing, I, of course, became anxious to re-do the main gallery adjacent to Kram’s Kreations. That was alot of work, but it’s now done. I’ve included the new signage plus and artist’s statement and artist’s biography. Here’s an updated pic:


The images are much larger than before, and the frames are such better quality. I also redesigned the flow and visibility. It’s a much better viewing and contemplative experience now. I like that the gold and black-framed versions are shown next to each other. Someone can decide on the spot if they prefer one or the other. I’m glad I did this project early after the class work. Now I can move on to the vendors for the store items. I will post updates on that as things develop and evolve.


Final Second (Life)




Well, when you work in new platforms and adopt things early you will inevitably run into snags. One of those was the final class presentations. The main group, which included the instructor, couldn’t get in-world. So we aren’t going to do the group presentations as planned. Instead we are posting them here.

Now, remember, mine was planned as an in-world narrated slide-show, so it will be somewhat incomplete as shown here. But you can view it in-world at the store. You can find a SLURL for the store in the blogroll at the right as Kram’s Kreations. I actually plan to leave it up, maybe for a while. It it somewhat of a history of the store. I thought it might be interesting for people to see. I ended up showing it in one of the slide viewer stands I had made for the rental store locations, of which there is a pic in one of the slides here.


I added a few annotations just for clarity. For a more in-depth exploration, take a look at the previous blog on the final project below.




So, sit back and view the slides. They will be in the same order as in the slide viewer at the store.













Here is a pic of the first store I built:


Here is the next, bigger store I built:



This is one of the slide viewers I built that shows pics of the store, and has landmark givers for the store and gallery.


This is a graph of my visitor count at the store. It is clear that there are definite spikes on the days I had events listed:


This is one of my sattelite rental locations at Promenade Mall. It has the slide viewer and a few sample pieces of merchandise:




This is the adjacent Waves Gallery that displays my fine art photos.


Here is a look at the Gazebo lot I had for a while.



And finally, the Grand Opening…

You can see the dancefloor I added for fun, which I plan to leave in place.





Final Thoughts on the Class

I took the Virtual Worlds class because I believe VWs are the next frontier for advertising, entertainment and education. There is some of all of those already going on in Second Life, which is the biggest and most popular of the user-created worlds.  I wanted to learn more about using these platforms for business and product promotions, since I someday may be seeking work in this area.

I had already been in SL for a year when I had started the course. I had owned property, built items, and tried my hand at setting up a store. I had done the business part at a leisurely pace, mainly with fun in mind; not considering it necessary to succeed.  It was time to get serious about it and figure out some things I had been avoiding, like learning how to really market a business and advertising in general.

I found the class very beneficial. I realize there was alot of frustration for the instructor as well as students with things that didn’t work well. Texting with avatars sitting in a circle turned out to be incredibly boring and time-wasting. We tried voice but ran into technical problems with not everyone being able to do it, and with most students being in the same room, the sound delay became quite disturbing. You would hear someone speak in the room, then hear it in-world. It made it almost impossible to have a conversation. We did experiment with everyone being remote and using voice and found it much better, but not perfect. There were still technical issues, and not everyone was on-board.

I thought all of these so-called failures were quite instructive and useful. I intend to pursue the use of virtual worlds for many things in the future, and it’s just as important to know what doesn’t work as well as what does work. For instance, I’ve learned that instruction in SL probably needs to be muli-modal. You can present print, and speech, but it has to have an interactive element to keep it interesting.

Just that i had to look at marketing in a virtual world and experiment, and watch what others did was a good enough lesson to have learned in the class.

Perhaps it could be handled as a virtual marketing intro class in the future, and then offer an advanced class that really markets a product or service as if it was a paying job. There would have to be instruction in all the necessary parts, like identifying who the targeted customer would be, how to reach them, and how to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. Perhaps internships with companies doing this sort of business in SL could be arranged.

The class would have to have some prerequisites, such as each student having proper equipment to function effectively in SL, and it should be primarily an in-world and online based class with only a couple of sessions in person for lively discussions and pedagogy.

Overall, I feel the class was useful in both its successes and failures. I only consider things to be a failure if you don’t learn from it. The class became an evolutionary process, which may have been unexpected, but shouldn’t have been, considering we are early adopters of a new and evolving platform.


Final Word on the Final Project

I am greatly satisfied with how my project turned out. I actually met both my primary and secondary goals. My primary goal was to increase traffic. My whole reason for choosing the store project was to take something I had worked on before; several iterations of a store project, and was not successful with the traffic or sales. Since the class was about starting and promoting a business in Second Life, it seemed the perfect opportunity to finally take the time and effort to make it a success. My secondary goal was to make more sales. Now I was getting maybe 3-5 visitors a week and maybe a sale every 2 weeks, so it seemed quite possible to improve on that. I did. My peak traffic was 69 people, and my highest sales day was $850L. Both far exceed anything I had done before.

I am most proud of the store itself. I had designed two others, each with shortcomings; one looking too much like a house, the other being too large and not very inviting. This time I went with an open concept and designed my own displays, which forces the shopper to meander through the store and view many items. The current store is open and airy, yet with an intimacy created by solid walls. It keeps out the long-range view, not to distract the shopper from looking at the merchandise.


Now one weak point was a purely self-serving one. I had enough property to build the store and still have enough land for my other pursuits. I decided to keep the store close-by so it would be easy to live between the two areas. The problem with this is that it is in a very residential area, so no foot-traffic so to speak. I would also not benefit from people noticing it while doing other shopping. The only way I would get customers was to market the store effectively.

My first attempt to market was to create a slide show on a stand that showed the store, and included landmark givers that would give a notecard about the store and a landmark to get to it. I figured if someone liked what they saw in the picture, they might actually come to the store.


I didn’t get good traffic from this, and also realized I hadn’t built in any way to measure if anyone had used it. I expect I will convert these rented spaces, which are in good retail locations, and put in vendors with my products for sale.

I had planned on using the classified ads, but realized it was ridiculously expensive to get your listing anywhere near the top where someone might actually see it. What I did find that worked was the Event listings. I listed my store as having pre-Grand Opening Freebies. I offered one of my items for free, and randomly, would change them out, encouraging people to return often. This was very successful at bringing numbers up, tripling my traffic at one point. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for sales. My Grand Opening which was also listed as an event didn’t bring in the traffic, but sales were the best ever. Now I had lowered prices, so I think there is a lesson here about reaching a targeted market, since my home decor products is more of a niche market, and finding how to reach them, with pricing in a range that they won’t hesitate to purchase what they want. I had talked to a couple of shoppers at the Grand Opening, and they really didn’t remember the prices they had paid for things. This indicates to me that pricing was viewed as a non-issue, and I was charging an affordable price.

I will also mention that I made an attached Photo Gallery to display my photos for sale. The original intent was to run these two enterprises together. I even listed the freebie events, and gave away different photos. Two things I realized. The gallery and the store seemed to be drawing people independently. There didn’t seem to be as much of a cross-over as I had expected. Often the Gallery would bring in higher traffic than the store. So I believe there was more word of mouth advertising going on in the in-world art world. I decided to pursue the store project alone, which turned out to keep me quite busy. I’ll return to promoting the gallery later, probably with affiliating with other artists and groups.


In retrospect, I would reconsider location first of all. While I still like the store being adjacent, I made alot more work for myself for getting customers to it. “If you build it they will come” definitely doesn’t work in SL. I would probably keep a main store with my items displayed, and maybe even keep the slide viewers, but would certainly go to having satellite stores in busy shopping areas with a good mix of merchants. I would place vendors in the stores, with notecards giving a description and landmark to the main store.

The other thing I would do differently is my choice of product. While I really enjoyed making the items I have, they are of interest to only very few people. It is somewhat of a vanity gallery to have this work out for sale. I think I’ve learned that people (avatars) just want to look good, or enhance their “cool” factor. It seems that no matter how many skin, shape and clothing stores show up, people will shop them. I plan to find a new product line that appeals to just that.

Another thing I’ve learned that I wouldn’t want to lose track of is, just as in real life, it’s who you know that makes a difference. I had alot of help from friends who were merchants and willing to share their knowledge and expertise with me. They also came through in the end for the Grand Opening. The people they invited to it turned out to be people who were looking for my type of products, and gave me my best sales day ever. There may be other ways to make things work, but good friends in SL still seem to be people you can depend on.


(Not so) Grand Opening

I had my Grand Opening for the store on Saturday Dec. 1st. I had the place partied up a bit with some balloons and streamers, and the added dancefloor. Attendance was basically my friends and people they brought along.  My numbers for the whole day were 17 people at the store, and 18 at the Gallery. So the Gallery actually brought more traffic than the store that was having the Grand Opening. Here’s a look at the store:


I also added more freebies, and reduced the prices on all of the items. Overall, I found the price reduction to be a good strategy. I sold $850Lindens at the Opening, which is the highest sales ever. This event drew far fewer numbers than my previous event listings, which only offered freebies.  So I think I have figured out that I will stick with the event listings I had been using, offering some freebies, which brought in much better traffic, but with the lowered prices, which will hopefully encourage more people to buy. I may need to figure out how to target my marketing better. As I’ve seen, the higher numbers didn’t translate to better sales, but even with the lower numbers, having a “select” group at the store increased actual sales tremendously. It may be that word of mouth serves me well here. I do have a niche product line. I will investigate ways of determining just who my market segment is, and figure out the best ways to reach them. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to really like my products, so I think the quality is there, and now the pricing is even better, so I hope to see alot of return customers.


Grand Opening Scheduled

I finally scheduled a Grand Opening. It will be on Saturday December 1st at 12 noon, SL time, which is Pacific Time, and will last for 2 hours. So it will be 12-2 west coast, 3-5 east coast, and 8-11 UK time. I tried to find a time that will reach these groups the best.

In preparation for this, I have listed it in the Events calendar for Saturday. The events listings still seems to be the highest traffic producer for me. I created a sign above the store announcing the opening, mainly just for clarity when people arrive. I’m not in a high traffic, fly-in or walk-in area. I kept it pretty low key.


I also created a notecard with the landmark that I will give to friends to distribute to people, as well as for me to distribute.

I had a few ideas of what to do for the opening, including a benefit, a live streaming music show, but decided these events are large and hard to handle in the time I have. It would be a project unto itself. So I decided to just throw a party. I’ll make it festive, have music on the property, and dancing.

So, the way I decided to handle the dancing was to use a dancefloor I had previously created. At first I was going to have it hovering above the store, and have teleporter access. But in the end, I decided to just move a wall section out of the way, and put the dancefloor at the same level as the store floor. This turned out very nicely, and I think I will keep it as a permanent feature. If my store is seen as a destination for beauty (my adjoining property) or for fun, then I hope people will return, and that they will bring their friends. Here’s a view of the dancefloor from the landing point in the store:


I’ve installed a dance ball above it, and have placed slow dance poseballs around the dancefloor. That’s my house in the background. Here’s another view of the store and dancefloor:


I’ve realized that I’m selling a niche product line, and that alot of my sales will depend on word of mouth and friends of friends referrals. I’m actually pleased with the amount of traffic I’ve generated, but sales are low. I’ll be reconsidering my product line.

During the Grand Opening, I will rotate freebies, and will have large price reductions to encourage purchases. I’m also thinking about lowering my prices. Even though merchant friends have told me my pricing is where is should be, I think I will sell alot more if I lower them. It would probably spur the undecided buyer to make that purchase if they don’t think it’s a lot of money. I’d rather go for more volume than just the high-end intermittent purchasers.

I am mentioning the Gallery for the opening information, and will have similar specials there, but I anticipate a separate Gallery opening which will be targeted at a different market. It will take some time to develop the contacts I will need for that. I have also constructed my own frames now which I think will be an improvement. I have a dark and a gold version, so I think I will display each image side by side in both frames, giving the purchaser the available options. Currently I have a group of select images on the back wall in the black frame variation. So I will be re-framing all the images, and re-hanging in the gallery. That will be done after the class is done, and that will also be when I will work on the Gallery opening. For now, the store project has proven big enough to occupy my efforts.

I also intend to narrow down the rental spaces I have from 4 to probably 2. I will experiment with placing vendors instead of the slideshow exhibit I have now. This also will wait until after the class is done, being yet another major project.