“If you build it, they will come” is– as most business owners in SL have figured out– a myth. It’s not enough to have a good product and put it out there; you have to get people to come in and see it.
But how do you get them to stay long enough to possibly buy that product? A discussion on the SL blogs asks, “What makes you leave a store in the first 2 minutes?” It’s an eye-opening look at the things that you may think are cool and shiny and useful, but your customers do not.
10. NO Refunds, NO Exchanges, NO I don’t want to deal with you. While it’s important to make your rules/terms of service clear (for example, just because your textures are full perm, doesn’t mean other people get the right to resell them) it’s a fine line between being clear and making your customers feel like you don’t trust them. One or two signs is more than enough. Making a sign right as you first walk in, spelling out all the things you will not do (or for that matter, putting it prominently in your profile) will turn a lot of potential customers off. Don’t be too unapproachable.
9. Can I help you? How about now? Now? Maybe now? While you don’t want to be unapproachable, you also don’t want to be in your customers’ faces. If you’re busy with something in your shop and a customer comes in, let them know you’re there if they need anything, then just leave them alone and let them shop. If they want to chat with you, they’ll start the conversation. And when you greet your customer coming in and let them know you’re there if they have a question, do so in local chat. Many people consider unsolicited IMs intrusive. Be available, but not too pushy.
8. FREE* Customers have strong opinions regarding freebies. Most seem to agree, however, that reselling someone else’s freebies is tacky at best. Any misrepresentation regarding freebies is an apparent turnoff to customers, in fact. If you offer freebies, how you do so makes an impression on your shop. And don’t mistake that to mean that your freebies are nothing more than an advertisement for your shop; apparently customers aren’t keen on that either.
7. What do you MEAN I can’t fly here?! You may want people to walk slowly past your displays, figuring if they get a longer look, they’ll be tempted to buy them, right? Wrong. If you have a large shop, or one with multiple levels, people don’t want to walk slowly. They want to find what they’re looking for, get to it quickly, and get it. If they can’t, they don’t get it (or anything else).
It’s especially frustrating to would-be customers if they get teleported somewhere far from the store itself (such as to the center of a mall, a club, or a RP-specific designated area). People didn’t TP here to see your mall, your club, or to RP. They came to find and get a product; and if they have to walk just to find the shop where it is, they will lose patience and leave. So, if you’re renting, find out about telehubs and such, and if flight is enabled.
6. One arm, one leg, and your firstborn child. Pricing is a tricky thing. You want to make enough to make ends meet, after all. You put a lot of time and effort into your product (right?!). But at the same time, there’s a point at which a price becomes entirely too high for people to want to pay it. That doesn’t mean that shoppers in SL are cheapskates; it means that they, like consumers in RL, want to be certain that they’re getting what they pay for. If your product costs 150% more than the “average” price, what makes yours at least one-and-a-half times better than the rest? Have real, concrete answers to that question.
5. What is this exactly? In SL, you get one chance to make an impression on your customers about your product: what it is, what its permissions are, how much it costs, how many prims it has, etc. Your display has to make these answers clear right away to your customers. You don’t want to crowd too much text onto your display, however, or people won’t have the patience to zoom their camera in to read it. You could always have something that gives a notecard when a customer wants more information on the product. If you have the primmage and space available, you could put out a display model for people to test out.
None of these will matter, however, if people can’t find your product. If your shop is haphazardly thrown together, hard to navigate, or just otherwise ugly, it gives customers the idea that your product(s) must be the same as well.
4. Welcome to Zombieland. Shops will sometimes employ bots, campers, and/or “models” to drive up their traffic numbers. They figure if their traffic is high, they’ll be higher on the Search listing, therefore more people will come to their shop. What they don’t realize, however, is that this tactic is less effective than they thought, and may even be counter-productive. Customers are often uncomfortable in shops that have these silent “minions” at their employ, and will just leave. I’ve said it before, I’m of the belief that campers don’t work as a business tool anyway. People come, take your money, and scare away the people who might have given you some. Is your traffic rating really that important to you?
3. Oh look, grey stuff. And over here… more grey stuff. You might have the most gorgeous, well-laid-out, perfect store: a work of art, as much as a work of practicality. But, people couldn’t see that, because the textures took too long to rez, and so they left. For your vendors, you don’t need anything larger than 256×256 pixels at 72dpi. Anything larger is extra time to load, which equals time being wasted. And if it’s true that time is indeed money, well, you’re wasting both.
2. One word: LAG. Sometimes this is within the shopkeeper’s control; sometimes it is not. The customer doesn’t care. If a place is so bogged down with lag that they can’t walk anywhere, can they at least cam around and look at stuff easily?
1. One more word: SPAM. This is the single worst thing you can do to a potential customer, according to the consensus at the SL blogs. Surely you’ve experienced it: you TP into a place, and within 10 seconds you get 3 blue popup windows, plus an IM from a bot, plus a LM, plus a notecard, plus an auto-invite to a group you didn’t ask for (yes I’m still on that, because it’s such an abysmally bad idea), plus some random free gift, plus some outdated CopyBot protector chat spam, plus 5 lucky chairs (which haven’t even rezzed yet) announcing new letters, plus a following shop “assistant” on your ass… it’s not just overwhelming, it’s extremely off-putting.
If you must give out a notecard right away, use a script that remembers who already received one so that they don’t get bombarded every time they come back. The same is true of LMs; though there’s no reason you can’t just have a clickable LM giver visible nearby.
Do NOT–I can not repeat this enough–auto-invite people to your group. You don’t like getting added to mailing lists without your consent in RL, right? Why should anybody like it in SL?
Get rid of unnecessary greeters (and chatterbots. OMG I made that mistake for all of 12 hours). Get rid of the arbitrary profile picture on the wall, the sparkly particles whenever someone TPs in, the obsolete CopyBot protector, the cat or dog or faery or robot that greets customers at the door, the lengthy paragraph of unsolicited rules and information. It’s not helping your customers, and it’s hurting you. You really have to check your own ego at the door and look objectively at what is useful to customers, and what you’re just holding onto because you personally think it’s a cool idea.
Honorable Mentions: One thing, shopkeepers have control over; the other, less so: tip jars, and obnoxious fellow customers. Unless you’re selling a tip jar you made and have one on display, most customers agree that it looks like begging. Obnoxious fellow customers are something you don’t have as much control over; however, you can at least make sure your list of rules against obnoxious behavior doesn’t itself become even more obnoxious.
This article is listed in the SL Business section of the Know-it-All Pages, where you can find even more useful information. Go now, and see for yourself!