Quick note: this article was written in 2009 and is long overdue for an update. That in mind, however, I think a lot of the principles are still sound, and I hope you think so too. Enjoy. –ME
Consider how many businesses there are in Second Life. Most of these businesses aren’t run by business people at all; primarily, most of the businesses in SL are owned and run by people who are creators first, businesspeople second (if at all).
I am in no way an authority on this subject, but I do have some experience, having opened more than one business in my Second Life. One of the great things about SL commerce is that you have the opportunity to learn from your mistakes but still keep your doors open in the meantime while you implement what you learn.
Well. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here. There are some great articles out there on SL commerce and I’ll point you to them as I go along. I want to talk about some of the things I’ve learned, what works, what didn’t work, what will hopefully work for you.
First and foremost: Have a good product.
Graph by Prad Prathivi, made on GraphJam.
The graph may have been intended as a parody, but it’s still not that far off from the truth. You can hype the hell out of your product, get people through the doors in droves, but if your product isn’t good it won’t stay.
Really think about what’s already out there, and what niches need to be filled. What do people need that isn’t out there yet? If you make a similar product to what’s out there, how is yours better? How can you make it better? How can you make it unique and interesting?
This article gives a great explanation as to why to set permissions on clothing as mod/copy/no transfer. Early on when I first opened Living the Dream I made clothes as trans/no copy, but once I read this article I really understood why I was making an unwise decision.
It also talks about a good practice for naming your products. They recommend this formula:
BRAND NAME ~ Item name ~ color ~ left/right ~ attachment point/layer/additional info
So for example:
LTD-Mens Tunic-Blue-sleeve Left
People need to be able to find your product again when they look in their inventory later. Just naming it “Blue sleeve-Left” won’t help.
Put your business name on EVERYTHING you make.
Packing it up
Put a LM to your shop in with every product you have. Either box them up in one package with your product(s) or if you have a single item vendor, put it in there with the product. This is especially important when it comes to Freebies (something I’ll get more into in a bit).
Good design on your vendors is key. You don’t have to be a brilliant graphics designer to have good vendors. Just know these four important factors:
The text must be readable.
Don’t put more or fewer words than need to be said. State the product name. State its price. State its permissions. Put light text against a dark background, or dark text against a light background. Don’t get too fancy with your text; don’t have more than two fonts in use on the whole thing. People have a hard time reading fancy text, especially when it’s on a vendor.
The picture must show the product in clear detail.
Here are three examples of vendors for the same product. Two are fails, the third is a win. The reason the third is the best is that it shows a crisp, clear, detailed picture of exactly what the product looks like. People don’t–and shouldn’t–wonder what they’re getting.
DON’T misrepresent your product by doctoring your picture.
Just, don’t. Bad. Very bad.
A larger picture takes longer to load, and is totally unnecessary.
If people have to wait for a picture of your product to rez, they’ll likely get impatient and leave. Early on I had these 1024×720 images in my vendors, and sure enough, they took ages to be seen. A 256×256 image will be seen just as clearly, and takes WAY less time to rez.
You might consider using scrolling vendors, which save prims. Don’t put all your products into a single scrolling vendor, however. Put color variations for a single item together in one vendor perhaps; then you can save some prims but still not take ages for people to see all your products.
Promoting: Not As Pricey As You Think.
The number one single most useful tool for promoting my business was recommended to me by a fellow builder, and I stubbornly resisted it for reasons I can’t even recall. If you do nothing else to promote your products, do this one thing:
List your products on XStreet SL.
It’s not as complicated as you think, it’s completely free to do, and it only takes up one prim in your shop. It’s easy: you get a Magic Box, you drag your products into the box’s Content folder, then you go online and your products are uploaded and waiting for you to list. That’s it. Make sure your products are boxed up to include your shop’s LM, so they’ll come visit you. Also include a SLurl to your shop with each item listing.
Spell-check and proofreading are key when you list your item. If your listing is in ALL CAPS and full of terrible spelling, grammar, and punctuation, people won’t stick around to read them. You put a lot of time and effort into your product; promoting it should take just as much care.
Have a picture of your product in your item listing. Hell, use your vendor picture; only for XStreet, use a larger and higher-resolution version than you do for your inworld vendors.
Some other free or cheap ways to promote your shop:
- Put it in your Profile Picks. Cost: $0L. Have your friends put it in their Picks too. Have it numbered so it’s the FIRST thing in your picks.
- Have a group for your shop. Cost: one-time fee of $100L. Send updates to your group about new items, promotional events, or whatever else about once a week. If you send out group notices too rarely, people will forget about the group and drop it. If you send out announcements too frequently, people will get annoyed and leave. Send out a promotional item every now and then to reward the loyalty of your group’s customers. Invite every person who’s ever purchased a gift from you to join your group: ONCE. Check your transaction histories, and keep notes of names.
- Click “Show in Search” on your vendors. Cost: $0L. And put some good search keywords in your vendor’s description. Put your shop name in the Vendor’s name too.
- Place a Classified Ad. Cost: minimum of $50L/wk. It will help it to show up in Search. To tell you the truth, I didn’t find this nearly as helpful as having search keywords put into the description of the parcel where my shop stood. If you rent, rather than own, see if this is a possibility with your sim’s owner.
- Have regular events at the shop. A sale, a hunt, a DJ’ed party, a contest… you get the idea.
- Offer freebies: wisely. A freebie is a great way to get people into the shop, but if you’re not careful you’ll just have people go in, grab the free thing, and go. How will they remember your shop? I suggest the supermarket approach to freebies: make it a sample, a taste, something they’ll enjoy that will remind them where it came from and where they can get more. Don’t obsess over them, by doing a daily freebie, unless you actually like investing lots of time to not get a dime for it.
- Be present in the shop and talk to customers. Cost: $0L. As this article states: people (including the author) often won’t feel right leaving without buying something if the owner’s right there.
What doesn’t work:
- Camping. People come and sit and TAKE your money. They don’t GIVE you any. It artificially boosts your Traffic rating, which is why people do it. Spend the money on a good Classified instead.
- Calling anything a Freebie that ISN’T. If it’s 10L, it’s not free, it’s 10L. If it’s 1L, it’s not a freebie. Calling something that isn’t 100% free a “freebie” is an example of misrepresentation, and that hurts your reputation with your customers. I can afford that $10L item easily, but if you TOLD me it’s free, I’m not going to buy it and will in fact get a sour mood about this place.
- Grid-Wide Hunts. This was a lot of time and effort invested to get LOTS of people through my doors who never bought anything. There were hundreds of stops on this hunt, and people just wanted to get in, grab the freebie, and get the hell out. They often don’t even wait for the rest of the building to rez around them before leaving. And when they go home after the huge long hunt, they dump most of their stuff–including whatever it was you spent the time and effort on–without ever even trying them.
This one thing is priceless. If your customer(s) have a problem, make it right. Replace broken items, represent your product honestly, don’t gouge, make it easy for customers to contact you. It’s an old saying but it’s very true: take care of your customers, and they’ll take care of you. There really is no promotional tool quite like a solid reputation.
So if you can get people through your doors, offer a quality product that’s well presented, and keep your customers happy, you’ll be on your way to more Ls coming in for your shop.