The Second Life Product Lifecycle

Sunday, October 19, 2008 Sunday, October 19, 2008

I realized that I am not doing my job properly. I mean, my store doesn’t seem to have new products appearing on the shelves as often as it should. Does this mean I am not spending time building new particle effects? Not at all – in fact, a recent inspection of my increasingly poorly organized inventory reveals a dozen partially built products and another ten that are actually completed but not yet put out for sale. This is not good.

I thought about how this came about, and realized that building a product is only part of the story. Each product has a lifecycle that must be traversed in order to be sold. My problem is that I am not following the lifecycle. Be it due to interruptions, social priorities, RL distractions or downright laziness, my product ideas have not been flowing through correctly of late.

So you want to understand the mysterious lifecycle? Here’s my steps to creating a successful for-sale item:

  • Need. Somewhere you must find the inspiration for creating a great product. Often this is simply a need expressed by someone you encounter. They may not explicitly express this need, but you may observe their need. For example, someone might be visibly struggling with some aspect of SL. That’s a need you can fill by removing or reducing their pain.
  • Idea. Once you have inspiration, you have to conceive of something that will fill that need. This step may take some time, as you may have to mull over several different approaches before you come across one that is feasible to build. Yes, this means you have to mentally work out how you will build the item before you get started. It’s not that hard, though – just make sure you have a reasonable chance of successfully building it.
  • Prototype. Now that you’ve figured out how to build it, you must TP to your favorite sandbox (or in my case, my Laboratory) and get down to it.  Use the approach identified earlier to actually build something close to what you imagined. Do your best, but recognize that it won’t be perfect.
  • Experiment. This stage is where you really try out your new item. Actually, it’s not you; it’s someone else. You have to find some friendly, honest, reasonable and talkative beta-testers to give your product a good run through.
  • Refine. If you selected appropriate beta-testers, you will have received some very useful feedback on your new product. Listen carefully to them, because they will look at the product in ways you didn’t expect. Then refine your product by making the changes they have suggested. Even if you don’t entirely agree with them.
  • Box. Your product is finished. Not really, since you probably have to box it up. This means placing it in a vendor, creating informative notecards, box photography, setting descriptions, etc. Then you have to assemble it all together into a salable unit.
  • Price. You might think this is just part of boxing up a product, but there is quite a bit to the art of price-setting. I’ve written about this controversial step in the past. The only quick out on this step is if your product is a variation of an existing product where the price is already established and you need only copy the price.
  • Place. The completed box or vendor has to be placed where customers may make purchases. Where is that, exactly? Your store? A mall? In a vendor somewhere? Depending on the nature of the product, it may be sensible to place it with related items to increase the probability of a sale. Choose the location carefully!
  • Place again. Wait, we already placed it, didn’t we? Yes, we placed it on sale in-world, but there are other places where it can be sold: XStreetSL and OnRez are examples of third-party services that can sell your items to avatars.  Put the box into the third party’s vendors and set up placements on their websites for the new item.
  • Advertise. No one will buy your new product unless they know it exists, so you have to tell them. It’s way beyond the scope of this article to describe the techniques of advertising, but whichever methods you use, use them now!
  • Promote. Now you’re finished, right? Nope. You have to continually promote your new item. Mention to friends that it exists, tell others when it is appropriate to do so. Give out samples or freebies occasionally. Make sure the word is out that you have something interesting to sell.
  • Monitor. Sit back and watch what happens. Is the new product selling? Is it not selling? Why? Ask for feedback from those who purchased it, and if you can, ask those who did not buy it. You may be surprised at what you find out.
  • Retire. Eventually, the product stops selling at a useful rate, and you must decide whether to have it occupy your valuable prim space. If the product is boxed, then only a single prim is used and therefore it isn’t a lot of trouble to leave it around. On the other hand, if you have a 750 prim flying elephant that hasn’t sold in 16 months, you might consider retiring it.

To be successful, you really have to make sure all of these steps are addressed. Following these tips can make the difference between a successful business and one that fails, even though a great product was created.

At this point you probably have noticed that the “Build” portion is only one of many steps. There may be more steps that others use, but for me this seems to do the trick. But it is indeed a lot of things to do, isn’t it? That’s why I sometimes don’t keep up. But I will this week. Honest. For sure.


Peter Stindberg said...

Again, I can only agree to this. Being in the SL service industry almost all of my SLife, entering retail by means of my own funriture company and by being the Sales & Marketing guy for my girlfriends jewellery line gave me some rather interesting insights.

Peak sales follow public announcements closely, be it our own announcements or reviews on blogs. Also, peak sales occur with new items only. With a few weeks without new items, sales start to dwindle.

While makeing publicity for jewellery is very easy, given the huge amount of fashion related blogs and magazines, it is quite difficult for furniture and probably even more difficult for particle effects. There is only a handful of blogs dedicated to furniture, and only one magazine which knows about its monopoly. We've experimented with advertising but the size affordable for us generated zero results.

Skinkie said...

I'm so glad you've posted this ArminasX. I swear some customers think content creators have endless time to "create" yet once you decide to sell your creations that time makes up perhaps 10% of the workload.

If I have one criticism it is that you've under-emphasised the boxing up process. In itself it is a series of steps. Remember, for items like jewellery, clothes and hair this has to be repeated for each and every colour:

1. Photograph product - for clothing and jewellery this requires up-close detail pictures from different angles, and "in-world on-avi" shots.
2. Make vendor ad's - the finished picture the client sees that makes your product look wonderful, contains ever detail they need to know about it, and aims to look professional. I've been known to lose the will to live doing this, and is a major reason why I've cut down the colour variations I offer.
3. Set permissions - doesn't sound like a big deal, but to use my Tiffany range as an example, there are 7 individual pieces, most of them with two types of attachment point, plus the 5 colours. That's about 140 items that need the correct permissions set on them. By hand. Damn SL for not having a simpler perms system.
4. Write notecards - most items need instructions of some sort and it's rare that a generic notecard will do. You might want to get this translated into other languages (I recommend Babel Translations *grin*).
5. Box up product - I sell all my jewellery in decorative jewel boxes that can then be used, so each piece or set has to be boxed up prior to placing in a vendor.
6. Set up vendors.
7. Test vendors - get someone trustworthy to go through every vendor to check that it a) works b) the price is correct c) the perms of the items inside are correct.

This is the part of the whole process where I stall as the above is such a daunting task. My last two releases were sat in my inventory, finished and ready to go, for literally months before Peter kicked my ass and I got them done. For every day building, the process described takes three days. I'm SO glad I don't make hair with a zillion different colour variations!

Thanks for a great and informative post.

Anonymous said...

Great post and great comments. Seems like common sense when you write it out, but in fact a lot of these steps are easy to overlook or implement poorly.

Thanks for posting this. Your business related posts are second to none.

Related Posts with Thumbnails