Tips on Using Virtual Worlds for E-commerce
During the past two years, social virtual worlds have become an industry. More than $1 billion has been invested in the sector, and more than 100 virtual worlds are either currently in development or live. As a result, many brands have begun using virtual worlds as a new channel to reach consumers. Here are a few tips to consider when developing a virtual-world campaign designed to drive e-commerce.
- First and foremost, determine whether the virtual world you are working with offers reporting to track your campaign. Not all reporting is created equal in virtual worlds. Because most traditional Web analytics tools do not work in virtual worlds, it is generally up to the platform operator to provide you with reporting. Ask to see an example of a report. Ask how the reports are generated, what specific data they track and how often you will receive them. Also ask whether there is any flexibility to customize your reporting should you need to track a unique data set.
- Consider offering a "virtualized" version of your product or products for use inside the virtual world. The cost to recreate virtual versions of your products can be very inexpensive, and, for There.com, we've found that consumers carry the same affinities for real-world brands into the virtual world. In some cases, consumers are even willing to pay more for virtualized versions of real-world products because they are more novel and contribute directly to one's status and identity in the community.
- Integrate real-world transactions into your virtual campaign. Some virtual worlds support mini-browsers that open within the virtual environment and can link directly to your Web site or product catalog. This allows consumers to access your Web site without leaving the virtual world, which provides a smooth integration of your brand into the virtual game play experience. For example, when several Capitol Music Group artists did live virtual appearances on There.com last year, the staging area contained interactive kiosks that allowed fans to download the artists' music from iTunes or to purchase CDs from Amazon. These types of experiences can be great fun for consumers and also can directly generate sales for your products.
- Understand that virtual worlds are communities. In many ways, they are mirror reflections of the real world, with all the same kinds of social and economic strata. Treat your campaign in a virtual world with the same level of consideration that you treat your real-world campaigns. Find out who is using the particular virtual world you are interested in, and learn what they are doing there. Ask the virtual world's platform operator to let you know what are the most popular types of activities and events within the community so you can construct your offers to complement them. For example, one of the most popular activities on There.com is shopping for virtual goods. So when we ran a campaign for Nike, anyone who purchased virtual Nikes for their avatar could actually run faster than anyone else in the world when wearing them. Nike added unique value to an already popular activity within the community, and the campaign was well-received by users.