I’m reproducing here an extract from an Instant Messaging conversation I had in Second Life last night. This is to demonstrate how SL could be used as a virtual store and how companies could use the environment to improve internal communication to the benefit of customers.
In SL I was shopping with Kate; I’d asked her to show me around. We (her avatar and mine) were walking around a virtual shopping mall and we were using chat software (IM) to communicate. The only significant changes I’ve made to the actual text of our communication is to change names and to substitute the word “paintings” for what we were actually looking for (never you mind).
Me: i need to get some paintings.
Kate Jones: Ayate has Ovid set up his shop here again? [Kate has IM’d a friend for info]
Ayate Morowa: hmmm one sec. let me look
Kate Jones: i think his last name is Kane.
Kate Jones: ok
Kate Jones: he has paintings
Ayate Morowa: yes
Ayate Morowa: second floor
Kate Jones: ok upstairs?
Kate Jones: ty 🙂 [ty=thank you]
Me: thanks Ayate
Kate Jones: would you like to go have a look?
Me: yes please
Ayate Morowa: over this way on the second floor. the direction I am facing. 😀
Kate Jones: k follow me
Kate Jones: ty Ayate 🙂
To sum up, my character/avatar is walking around a store with Kate. She IM’s another person who has more knowledge about the subject. That person directs us to exactly the right spot. (If I’d had questions about the art she could have IM’d the artist). Kate then takes me to the exact place and I buy the goods. This all happens within a virtual world, where labour rates are minimal, where all the people are beautiful and I am getting personal service. I don’t need to leave home and I am in complete control of the transaction.
For high ticket items like cars, electronics, jewellery and clothing, people will use SL to buy on-line or select on-line then attend a shop front to complete the transaction. The difference between this and a web site is the level of involvement. In Second Life, you are there inside the transaction. And so is a salesperson.