For Insight Into Buyer Behavior Simply Enter Your Nearest Virtual World

The summer blockbuster Inception introduced viewers to the concept of an “architect” as someone who creates the reality behind a virtual world. Avril Korman is no stranger to that concept. She is a professional designer and virtuatect for SecondLife (SL); perhaps better known on SL as Axi Krumin.  In a series of guest posts for Search Engine Watch Korman answers the question: what would you do if you could get anything you wanted, especially if money wasn’t a concern?

You might wonder who does this link to online marketing and e-commerce? Well, getting an insight into what consumers want if time, space and more importantly, money, was no obstacle can give you invaluable insight into what makes Internet users tick. In marketing  speak, think: “what buyers want.”

Within the SL universe, Internet users are able to get what they want, create what they want and buy what they want at a fraction of the price of their real life counterparts. Whether it’s choosing to live in a castle, or buying a designer handbag. All of these are items  people can own in SL, whereas in real life these items would be far too expensive to casually purchase.

Virtual world account created: Check. Finding an untapped pool of consumers: Check.

Taking an uncensored look at user demand and extrapolating it to the online or offline world? Priceless.

Since the goal of internet marketers is to match consumers search intent to demand, virtual worlds are an easy way to understand that demand in an unfiltered way.

As Korman says:

“But what if you could buy just about any outfit, no matter how high on the couture ladder, for under $10? That is the true secret of fashion in SL — you can go absolutely crazy and buy everything you ever wanted, with minimal real world financial impact. Folks who can’t easily afford a new outfit in real life, can easily afford 10 in SL.”

In this case you don’t even need to poll or survey users on what they’d want, they’re wearing their intent on their sleeves (or avatar’s bodies). As Korman says “When there are no consequences to what you can wear, it’s interesting to see what people want to buy and wear.“

Want, desire, and emotion, these are powerful triggers and being able to tap into these instincts or lack thereof, can bring your marketing and consequently bottom line to a new level.

Same products, different way to connect with the audience

You might be wondering: how relevant is the virtual world to the real one? Does it accurately reflect market demand? You’d be tempted to write off virtual worlds as places potentially filled with the blue-skinned Na’vi from James Cameron’s Avatar. You might want to think again.

Beyond Second Life there are dozens of virtual worlds including Electronic Arts’ (EA) popular The Sims. There are also virtual world hybrids that focus on fashion like IMVU. Each one has a very unique way for brands to engage with a very loyal core audience.

The virtual interface might be different, the look might be different, the virtual world economics are very similar to their real world counterparts. For example in the fashion vertical women still out shop men 10:1 and with some exceptions, men don’t place a high priority on clothing options, choosing to wear the default drab gray/brown/olive free clothing found in most virtual worlds.

While the virtual world might not be an exact mirror to its real world counterpart, savvy merchants and marketers are trawling the virtual universe to get a gauge of how popular a niche might be while consumers are flashing their intentions for all to see. A savvy brand might even create a virtual world storefront in order to enforce brand loyalty. Marketers, including affiliates, could capitalize on such loyalty by using virtual worlds like SL as touch points in bringing the consumer into the purchasing cycle.

About Andrew Wee

You can find Andrew Wee on Twitter @andrewwee

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