Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Virtual Value

Virtual Value

Are businesses making the most of their Secondlife investments? Maybe not.

Firstly, you might have seen some press flying around about a hotel chain discontinuing their Secondlife investment and donating its’ “land” for charitable purposes, and more about Secondlife user numbers falling over the last month. No surprise really- given the nature in which companies have jumped into this space to get a bit of presence without really considering the interactive and social dynamic of virtual worlds (or interactive media for that matter.)

One major failing I can identify is the precise replication of one business and economy metaphor into another without consideration of the technological advantages. Secondlife, as many are aware, is not yet stable enough to support users as a complete v-business web experience, and technology is still catching up with the demands of the user. Retail stores who tried to replicate their shopping experience on the web ten years ago are doing the same again now. Have they forgotten the reasons why that experience does not work as well? Ok there is the bandwith issue, but how does a user want to look at the product when shopping? The advantage of online shopping in this retail example, is the ability to have a cart, use previous lists, do quick searches for items and all the other perks of online shopping. When you use technology well – you consider the advantages and how that might benefit the business and customer demands.

So what are some of the advantages in virtual worlds like Secondlife? People want to interact, be entertained, create, learn, converse, discover, play, experience, roam, teleport, fly, engage, communicate and even escape. Who wants to escape to an online supermarket for entertainment? Not me!!

Some of the better examples of Secondlife places using the interactive social dynamic include movietickets.com, Comcastic island, the Alpine Conference Centre, IBM’s SOA Island, and even Coca-Cola who recently had a machinama competition with Crayon Marketing.

Next time your customer asks you about ways to use Virtual Worlds – think about the way users engage and the business opportunities therein.

  • Speaking to Harley Davidson? What about making well branded virtual bikes, giving them away at the popular and Noob (new user) areas and embedding links to your online store?
  • Talking to an insurance company? What about putting billboards up in the Freebie areas (such as Coldwell Banker is doing) handing out free wearables, or creating a ride in one of the many playgrounds?
  • What is a new and unusual way to use the medium – like IBM did with Wimbledon and the real world ‘hawkeye’ ball tracking data?
  • Your customer has globally disconnected teams? Set up team building exercises at the beginning of a project as part of the project ramp-up with thematic visual cues for retention and gameplay as a way of connecting.
  • Need to challenge some workforce diversity issues? Create a simulation using objects with scripting (like the Schizophrenia simulation)!
  • Onboarding staff? Get staff to take a cruise around the different areas of your business, set up a landscape metaphor…and that is just the tip of the iceberg, I am sure there are plenty of better uses…

Why are people making so many houses and business centres that are fast becoming empty while the nightclubs, beaches and experiential islands flourish with social networking? Lets think outside the square – and tell me about your favourite places or ideas…!!

2 comments:

Andy Piper said...

Very nice post. It lines up pretty closely with some of my own thinking, and a conversation I had at a conference this evening - why do people spend so much time (re)building the real world in a virtual world, instead of remembering that there's no gravity in Second Life :-)

Wonderwebby said...

Andy I have been thinking about this, and I really think my studies of Animation have helped me see the potential of Virtual Worlds!

The first fundamental thing they teach you in animation:
you can do ANYTHING here and make things exist that would never have otherwise seen the light of day

Our natural disposition tends towards familiarity,but I am sure once people start to feel more familiar with the sense of space in virtual worlds they will start to crave "more".
Isn't that why, in real life, cities get bigger, architects challenge us with bold gravity-defying statements and we go for entertainment outside of our familiar landscape (amusement rides, movies, 3D screens, scuba-diving...)
I cant wait to see where it goes and I have a few ideas of my own!