It Was Mall Maddness!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's now several weeks after setting up a second satellite mall location in Amat next to a popular Rave club, and it's time to examine the results.

Well, that didn't take long – THERE ARE NO RESULTS! That's not quite right, there are ALMOST no sales whatsoever.

How can this be? The shop is located right next to what I thought would be a prime location.

What do I mean by “a prime location”? Here was my thinking beforehand:

  • Heavy Traffic, generated by the club owners, who in this case seem to do an amazing job at organizing DJs, events, etc. There are always lots of people in the club
  • Location immediately beside the club. If you step out the door of the club, you cannot possibly avoid seeing the store
  • Right kind of Traffic. The club-goers are not only Ravers, a genre for whom I have specifically built many products, but quite a few of these specific people are already my customers and “rave” about my products
This should be a no brainer, right?

Wrong. My traffic counter indicates I am getting about 0.5 visits per day, which is many, many times less than my main shop's traffic. As a result, there are few sales.

So what went wrong? All the facts seemed to indicate that this shop should have been successful, but it wasn't. Here's my analysis. By going into the club and observing the comings-and-goings, I knew what was wrong right away:
  • While the right kind and quantity of people were in fact nearby, they did not enter the shop
  • People would arrive frequently to participate in the well-promoted club activities (usually DJ's, etc.)
  • People would participate (dance their brains out) in the club and then simply TP away
  • The avatars would almost never take the time to step out of the club and stumble into the mall and my shop
So, I now conclude there is a third factor required for mall success: Traffic Flow! Yes, you need not only lots of traffic and the right kind of traffic, but also the traffic must somehow flow past your store. In the Amat case, the people flow occurred entirely within the club walls and never left. The mall shops were left to the ghosts.

So now I am thinking, how does one design a mall/club to produce effective traffic flow? If I was building a mall, I would consider the following aspects:
  • You (the mall owner) cannot control the point from which people leave. They can just TP out anytime from anywhere in your sim
  • You (the mall owner) CAN control their entry point
  • Visitors are coming for their own benefit, not the shopowners. They were attracted to the sim for a particular reason. In the Amat case, they come in their dozens to participate in the club activities
  • So (and this is the key point) visitors will traverse the shortest path between the entry point and the area they were attracted to in the first place
  • Therefore, if you want visitors to see the mall... The Mall Must Be Placed In Between The Entry Point and The Sim's Attraction!
I am now imagining various designs for malls that could do this. All would be relatively simple to do, it's just positioning of the build objects. Does any mall actually do this? One limitation to this approach would be that visitors would tolerate only a certain number of stores on their way to the attraction. You can't expect them to walk through an entire Mall of America just to get to the pole dancers!

I spoke to the Amat club owner about this, but he seemed to think that a change in building style of the mall units would be the solution. I am not sure about this, because that would do nothing to affect the traffic flow at all.

So, my secondary shop remains in Amat, not selling anything. Come by and visit sometime!

Special Occasions

Sunday, June 24, 2007 Sunday, June 24, 2007

I had some great luck earlier this year when I created a special effect just before St. Patrick's day: a Shamrock poofer. I sold a great many of them that day, but of course very few since then. Occasionally an Irishman seems to buy one. At the time I was pleased with the high sales on that one day, but disappointed with sales afterwards – even to the point of believing the product was not really a success.

However, I got to thinking: if this product is successful only on one day a year, why not have a series of products that would be successful on different days? After all, once built, a product requires little attention and you can pile up products to cover a lot of special occasion days through out the year.

Looking at the calendar, it occurred to me that the national holiday for both Canada and the US was coming soon. So I created a special poofer for each country and placed them both for sale just before the important dates (Check out the picture of WarmSpirit Williams and I trying them out). Sure enough, I am selling lots of them.

This seems to be a moral of the story: a product that works only on a few days is not successful, but many products that each work on different days is successful.

Transfer Complete!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The new store has been operating for a week now and it appears to be a success. Sales are up substantially; traffic is up and I am happy. Finally I can get back to building particle effects. My list of ideas and requests has grown far too long. For those of you who are expecting something from me, I am hoping to work through my list as best I can.

Building a New Store, or SL Ergonomics 101

Friday, June 8, 2007 Friday, June 08, 2007

Man, I am tired! I just spend two whole days building my new store. While I took the logos and color scheme from the old store, I wanted to try to use my experience from the old store to create an improved store concept.

Here were my goals:

  • Make things as easy as possible for customers, meaning easy to see/find products, move around, operate demonstrators, etc.
  • Create an expandable design suitable for adding many more products in the future (I am staying here a long time, remember?)
  • Keep the prim count low (thus extending my stay at this location for the longest possible time)
I thought about other store designs that I have encountered, and realized some problems that are all too often present:
  • Products placed one by one on a wall cause avatars to move from one product to the next in a very tedious manner. Step, turn, look; Step, turn, look; repeat twelve times
  • Doors are a pain. In RL, doors keep thieves from walking off with your inventory. That kind of theft simply doesn't happen in SL (at least most of the time, LOL!) You don't need really need doors at all, unless doors are critical to the store's atmosphere. Worse, poorly designed doors are sometimes hard to get through
  • Have I seen all of this store? Is there another room I haven't found because it is hidden around the corner? Should I open that door to the back room? Is it a back room? Sadly, this type of confusion is often the case
  • What the heck am I buying? I want to be able to see it, which is doubly important with particle effects that involve motion that can't be properly captured in a still image
Sometimes these “problems” aren't really issues because the store is trying to achieve a look-and-feel by approximating a specific real life situation. That I understand. But far too many shops simply build square walls, doors, etc. without really thinking of the effect on the ease of use by avatars in SL. SL ergonomics are DIFFERENT than RL ergonomics!

So, I built a store with some unique, SL-ergonomic features. Time will tell if they prove valuable:
  • Products are hung on semi-circular walls. The customers need only rotate (one key press) to see many different full-on views of products. Step, turn, look at 12 products all at once
  • Modular design that can be added to vertically. When do we run out of vertical? Not anytime soon for me!
  • Demonstrators beside all products. Customers do not have to move at all to see an instant demonstration of the product
  • Open design without walls or ceilings. Customers can quickly hop up or down to get to any portion of the store. In fact, when they arrive via TP, they can actually see the entire store all at once without any hidden rooms for them to find, and fly-bys can also see the entire operation
  • Visible work area. I have placed a Laboratory Sandbox behind some glass. This not only provides me with an area to work, but also something for visitors to observe (think “zoo animal”.) Watching someone build particles is usually interesting, especially when things go horribly wrong...
  • Open stage with bleacher seats for presentations or special events
That's enough for now. I have to open the store now (which means shutting down the old store and replacing it with redirection signs and re-issuing the advertising with new landmarks.)

New Land Big Land!

Monday, June 4, 2007 Monday, June 04, 2007

I've done it – I've bought an 8192sm parcel located in Caso Milo. This is monstrously gigantic compared to my tiny 512sm in Lanestris. It's one-eighth of an entire sim! Maybe someday I will be able to say “I own my own virtual island”, but not quite yet.

My previously mentioned objectives for land strategy turned out to be slightly incorrect. I did not need to buy flat land. My buddy Poopmaster Oh showed me that I can use mega-prims to quickly cover the area, creating a perfectly flat space. In fact, she actually built them for me. Thanks, Poop!

The mega-prims used here are 20m cubes. I need only eight to cover the entire area, producing a perfectly flat surface for building. You can't create such cubes, but some still float around SL, having apparently been created before the 10m limit was imposed.

Now I'm left with the hard part – construction of a new store. More on this in a future post.

But what about my old parcel in Lanestris? Should I sell it? Obviously not until I open the new store, but what about after that? I am still concerned about customers having landmarks pointing to the old location. You know the old saying: “your best customers are your existing customers”. I believe this to be true in SL also, since I often have former customers returning to buy new or more products.

I've decided not to sell the Lanestris parcel quite yet. Instead, I am going to erect signs and landmark givers that send anyone who shows up to the new location. Also I will rez a body counter to see how many people area actually showing up there. When the visitation rate gets low, it will be time to sell.

More Mall Madness!

Sunday, June 3, 2007 Sunday, June 03, 2007

This time, my mall experience will be better. I've been contacted by the owner of a very popular Rave club in Amat who is starting to set up a mall and seeks vendors who are appropriate for those who frequent his club. Now this sounds a lot more interesting than the last mall!

I've made arrangements to fill a prime spot in his new mall, just opposite the club itself. This should be infinitely better than the last attempt at a mall location, which failed miserably. With a large number of people who are more likely to be interested in my products, I should be able to make some sales. The sales will hopefully offset the ongoing rent.

As I did with my previous catastrophic mall expedition, I've set up a small shop with my most popular products (or at least the ones related to Rave culture) and included live demonstrators to show people how the particle effects work. Wish me luck!

Mall Time Not!

Saturday, June 2, 2007 Saturday, June 02, 2007

I wrote previously about setting up a second location in a busy mall, and speculated on how well it may do. I am afraid it's bombed catastrophically. After several weeks of operation, I have sold exactly ZERO items, while my main shop sells dozens of items daily. How could this be? The mall shop is located in a high-traffic area, right next to a club. Other apparently successful shops are nearby as well.

Puzzled, I spent some time hanging out at this location to see what was going on. Soon, I learned the truth: there was indeed high traffic, but the people were wrong! Don't misunderstand me – I am sure they are nice people, but they just were not the type that would find my products of interest.

What kind of people were they? I watched the traffic TP inbound and followed their path.... they typically walked by all the stores and entered the club. From there they presumably TP'd out somewhere – never entering my shop.

My very good friend WarmSpirit Williams and I went into the club to see what happens, and we immediately realized what was going down - literally! The club was not a dance club, but instead was a sex club for newbs and strippers! As we all know, newbs typically have no money and are not able to buy many products. Also, those in SL for sex are unlikely to buy my products. Obviously, I was never going to make any substantial sales at this location.

Stepping out of the club, I also saw a Money Tree outside – which I then recalled from my newbish days, shaking single L$ from as many trees as I could find. And who do Money Trees attract, exactly? They attract more people with no Lindens! Clearly, this is not the right place for me. I am moving out right away. (Note to self: don't bother putting up that Money Tree in my shop.)

My next mall experience must have quality traffic – that is to say, people who might have an interest in my products and have the money to buy them.

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