Shopping moves into virtual worlds

Paul Hemp emailed me recently to let me know about a piece he wrote for the Harvard Business Review, entitled “Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?” In it, he talks about the moves by retailers such as American Apparel to set up virtual storefronts in the game Second Life, and how this could lead to an increasing amount of shopping taking place online, with friends meeting virtually to window-shop in virtual stores.

second life

According to the piece, Raz Schionning, who oversees Web marketing for American Apparel, says that

Visitors to the Second Life store often arrive in groups and seem to know one another. They typically talk about the clothes on display. They might buy something or watch the in-store videos. But they often end up chatting about unrelated topics, even as they continue to linger in the store—mirroring the activity at popular virtual clothing stores in Second Life, such as Preen and Dazzle Haute Couture.

I’ve written before — both on this blog and in a recent Globe and Mail column — about this idea, and how smart retailers and marketers like American Apparel and Adidas (and even Telus, one of Canada’s telecom companies) are making inroads into Second Life and using these virtual worlds for word-of-mouth marketing.

One of the things that got me to write about this phenomenon, in fact, was an earlier piece that Paul did for HBR, which was accompanied by a virtual conference in Second Life about marketing to avatars. I think Paul is definitely on to something.


In other Second Life news, Reuters is opening a virtual news bureau in the game, staffed by reporter Adam Pasick — who will appear as avatar Adam Reuters. His first piece was an interview with the head of in-world bank Ginko, and he said he plans to cover it just like any other developing economy or society. The bureau is here.


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