Just in case you haven’t read any of the blogs or forums, the economy in SL isn’t so grand right now. Businesses are seeing dryspells, regular customers are holding onto more of their Ls, and SL’s search hasn’t been the most reliable so new people are having a harder time finding your shop. You may be watching your own sales starting to dry up and wondering what can you do about it.
Hang in there. Here are a few things you can do to bring back your old customers, and bring in new ones.
10. Revamp your store. It may be time to rearrange and reorganize things in your shop. Maybe you’ve been putting it off (I know I have…). While it’s quiet is a great time to really get things more organized. You may want new signage to replace the old; a new look makes your older customers interested in seeing what’s new.
9. Release some brand new products. When’s the last time your shop has had a new release? How often do you release new items? Monthly? Weekly? When you feel like it? A regular release schedule helps to get your customers anticipating new products from you.
8. Out With The Old. I made some products when I was very first starting out that were pretty good and reasonably priced (and probably underpriced, but I digress). Since then, I’ve gotten better at what I make, and you probably have too. The older products, much as I enjoyed them, just weren’t up to scratch compared with the newer stuff. So I got rid of them… but not before offering them at a clearance price for a couple last weeks. Just like in RL, people love a clearance sale.
7. Remind your customers you exist. Do you have a shop group? Are you sending out an average of one message per week? If not, you should. Remember that more than that can be bothersome; too many messages and people will get annoyed and leave the group. Once a week is a good rule of thumb. Feature a product once per week, whether it’s something brand new, something that ties in with a RL movie release, something that goes with the time of year, or something that would make a good gift. Put a LM in with the announcement.
6. Use XStreet SL. I hate to admit it, due to my personal feelings on how XStreet is managed, but the fact is it works. People who haven’t heard of you, find you on XStreet. Use your XStreet listing to cross-promote to other items; for example, “If you like this dress, you may like this purse [link] and these shoes [link]!” And put the SLURL to your shop in your XStreet listings.
5. Cross-promote with other merchants. Maybe you make clothes, and your neighbor makes jewelry. Or maybe you make houses, and your neighbor does landscaping. Work together to promote each other’s goods.
4. Have a blog, and keep it updated. Read more about that here.
3. Mark all your vendors to “Show in Search”. Make sure, of course, that your shop is listed in search (if you own the parcel). Chances are, if you’re renting a booth, that’s taken care of for you. Put your business name on your vendors, name the vendor after what’s in it (eg “MyCoolShop Inc. Red Velvet Dress”), and mark “Show in Search”.
2. Give a few gift cards (with your LM) to a club to give away. This can attract brand new customers to your shop. Contact some club owners and/or hosts, and see what can be worked out.
1. Come up with a reason to have an event in your shop. Back-to-School. Any holiday. Wedding season. Hell, make something up if you have to! Throw yourself a birthday or rezday party in your shop. Hire someone to stream music and put out a dance ball. This gives customers a chance to meet you and ask questions, without feeling any pressure to buy anything… and it drives up your traffic to boot!
What NOT to do.
- Slash prices. This may, temporarily, get more people to buy an item. But then, they have to buy MORE of that item to make you any money. Additionally, anyone who bought that item at full price may feel cheated and alienated. And it devalues your work, plain and simple, by sending a message that you don’t think it’s worth much.
- Give away a bunch of stuff. A gift card for promotional purposes is one thing, because it enables the recipient to decide what to get with it. It’s not just go in, get the free trinket, and go; it’s go in, shop around, look at all the products, and decide which to spend the card on. It’s a remarkably simple rule of business that remarkably few people remember: you don’t make money by giving your product away. Someone may get on a high horse and say “All you care about is money”; well, until my tier is free and my time is worth nothing, you’re damn right I care about money.
There’s much talk among SL businesses and consumers about the “Freebie Culture”; this refers to the culture of expecting something for nothing, and the feeling of entitlement to have it all and not pay a red linden for it. Merchants are fond of blaming consumers for this. But we merchants are the ones who created that expectation, by giving it up for free in the first place.
- Hold onto a feature just because you like it. Once when I had my clothing shop I experimented by having a chatterbot. I figured it would be helpful to customers, by answering their questions when I couldn’t be there to do so, and it just seemed like a cool fun thing to have. I soon found out, however, that the chatterbot answered EVERYTHING that was said… by customers, by neighbors in earshot, even by the vendors themselves! Less than 12 hours later I let go of the chatterbot. Ask your honest friends: what do you find annoying in my shop? What could you do without?
- Put out a tip jar. NO NO NO NO NO. Customers overwhelmingly state time and again that they don’t like it when shops have tip jars. The one possible exception is if your shop actually makes and sells tip jars.
- Attach a club for the purpose of bringing people in. This simply doesn’t work. People go to clubs to be at clubs; people go to shops to shop. When people are trying to shop, the noise from a club can be annoying (to say nothing of the lag that often goes with it). When people are dancing at the club, they’re not interested in leaving to go shopping.
- Say ANYTHING to people before they set foot in your place. I’ve got a satellite booth in a marketplace; and there’s this one booth that whenever I pass within 10m of it, it always spams me with a welcome message and a LM. I didn’t want the LM the first time, and I don’t want it every time I walk past. I don’t want it AT ALL. Besides, I know where your shop is. I’m right here! If I wanted to know about your shop, I would have stepped inside. Now, I’m the kind of person that hates being hawked to IRL as well. If I’m interested, I’ll stop. The same is true of any other customer.
- Add a visitor to your list without their consent. This doesn’t just turn people off; it turns them off and makes them tell all their friends to NEVER set foot in your shop. And it makes people blog about it too (I’m looking at YOU, KidzBotz, Karu Karu, and countless others). Invite them to your group when they buy something or receive something as a gift from your shop, and then, don’t bother them again.
So what does your business do to attract new customers, and bring back existing ones?