Hide Your Products!

Saturday, September 19, 2009 Saturday, September 19, 2009

I performed an interesting experiment this week at my store, Electric Pixels. Like most SL business owners, I’ve experienced a downturn over the past year, and it’s still not great. However, by keeping my expenses low I’ve managed to survive. But there’s still a concern over how to grow sales. I’ve tried various strategies, including completely rebuilding my shop in a new way to be more inviting to visitors.

The original philosophy of the shop was to make it easy for visitors to shop. I had experienced visiting many stores where products were scattered across several rooms, resulting in awkward situations:

  • Having to find out how to move from room to room (might require opening doors, navigating difficult stairways, or even - argh - teleports!)
  • Fighting with camera controls to scan the area
  • Not realizing there was yet another room around the corner

I felt that the segmented shop design might be a detriment to sales because impatient shoppers would not put up with the troubles of locating items within the store and quickly move on to other places. After all, the next location is merely a click away.

My approach was to make an open store, where all “departments” were visible; no surprises, everything clearly marked. However, sales never were quite as good as the previous store design.

Friend Peter Stindberg suggested (more than once) that one issue with the new design might be texture rezzing. Because all my departments are visible, the SL viewer must load all textures within view - and this takes time. I didn’t really notice this effect since my computer and network are pretty good. However, those with less than adequate equipment could have been presented with a scene full of anonymous grey boxes. I wasn’t so sure, but thought this was worth an experiment.

My approach was rather trivial: I simply placed a obscuring wall in front of each separate department, closing off the view of the product boxes. This would eliminate a ton of texture rezzing for any visitor. Of course, once the visitor entered a department by passing through the obscuring wall, they’d have to rez the textures for the relevant product boxes. But there would be far fewer to rez at one time.

What was the result? Strangely, sales actually doubled for the days following the wall change. This means that Peter’s hypothesis was correct! My thoughts:

  • Visitors with poor equipment saw grey product boxes and impatiently left before purchasing
  • There are likely a great many people with poor equipment. Perhaps the majority? (Hm, what does this imply for Blue Mars??)
  • Visitors are drawn into the now hidden departments to see what’s there because the wall obscures everything

There may be other effects happening here, but in any case it seems to have improved things. Experiments are a Good Thing. 


Caliburn Susanto said...

Yes, I saw that a few days ago when I was there. I thought you were just organizing the products into clearly labeled groups; the rezzing part never occurred to me.

Good job! Glad it's helping your bottom line.

Rifkin Habsburg said...

Another option is to simply spread your store out. Too many people start with a small store and add more and more vendors to it as they add products. The result is a tiny room crammed with hundreds of hi-res textures, which results in the texture lag you note.

If you spread your vendors out, the SL client can selectively load the closer ones first. Then you don't need to add walls to separate things. As a rule of thumb I'd suggest no more than a dozen vendors per 1024 m2 floor space.

Btw, your 'Electric Pixels' link in the About Me is broken.

Peter Stindberg said...

Glad it worked out for you! However "hide your products" is a bit too simplicstic I think. The idea behind my suggestions was to make object occlusion work for you, in a way to give the client as little to render as possible. This can be done in the way you did it, but it can also be done with a clever made store layout with seperate rooms. No need for doors or such, but just smartly arranged entrances to the seperate rooms.

Another trick to save bandwitdht and have faster rezzing is to combine textures. Few products in SL require a single full 1024x1024 texture. Many products can easily be presented with a 512 or even a 256 texture. But instead of uploading 4 different 512x512 textures, it makes sense to combine them on one 1024x1024 texture. That way you have LESS textures to load (and even save 30L upload costs), and those large textures compress better too.

Lalo Telling said...

I first came across the "break up the scenery" concept (maybe a bit less ironic than "Hide your Products!" *grin*) in a blog post someone was passing around in-world to counter the myths about causes of lag: Anatomy of Lag.

Since reading it, I've been paying attention, and seen it work -- and seen it work in reverse! A club I go to occasionally, which was laggy as hell to begin with, underwent a complete re-design -- in fact, the whole sim did. They created open space where none had been before. The result: attractive, and nowhere as visually claustrophobic as it had been... but you may never notice that, unless you're very patient about loading time.

Ari Blackthorne™ said...


I actually recommend this very thing in my book SBSL (www.xstreetsl.com/modules.php?name=Marketplace&file=item&ItemID=1320108) - and I have even quoted some of YOU in that book, ArminasX.

This is funny.

IM me in world, ArminasX - I'll throw a copy at you. Follow what's in there, your business will at least quadruple, if not more.

Ari Blackthorne™ said...

This is funny.

I actually recommend this very 'solution' in my SBSL book.


Hell, even you are quoted in there, you know. Throw me an IM in world and I'll toss a copy to you, ArminasX.

Ari Blackthorne™ said...

Yay Google.

First comment gave me an error and yet thar she is. Sorry for twice-posted (okay, thrice-posted with this one).


ArminasX said...

@Ari - sounds like a very interesting book, I'll take you up on that!

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