Merchant Tips

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The Problem

You log in on a Monday morning, after being offline since the previous friday. As your avatar rezzes in, the deluge of incomings arrive. Among them are half a dozen notecards of new products from some stores you only bought one thing from and didn't really plan to go back to, and 2-3 notecards each from still more stores about some weekend sale. You might not have even BOUGHT anything from the stores, depending on what they're using to send you the notices - just set foot in their store.

Don't you find all that annoying?

Then why do you turn around and do the same thing to ALL of your customers?

Buying a product is not a defacto opt-in to a marketing subscription - this is why it is against the CasperTech TOS to use the "updates" sender in CasperVend to send your marketing newsletters.

You want to get the word out to your customers, but the idea is NOT to drive them away with unwanted spam or give them reason to use the "opt out" link to never EVER hear from you again!

The Solution

This page will explain some of the more professional ways to communicate and advertise about your products, and how to more professionally handle yourself AS a merchant, long term.

The Basics

Your Profile

Your profile is your primary inworld contact point, so it should also list your business. This means your profile should contain, at the very minimum:

  • A profile pick leading to your inworld location(s)
  • A link to your business website, if you have one
  • Your MP link, either on the "web" tab, or in a profile pick
  • Your business-related social media contact points)
  • Inworld contact instructions
  • Business hours, if you keep a specific schedule.

Why? Because you never know how people are going to find your profile.

They may do an "inspect" if they see someone wearing something of yours that they like.

They may do an "edit" to see creator details on a piece of furniture, a building, or some other item they like.

If your business information is in your profile, they'll be able to visit your inworld location and/or your marketplace store, and possibly do some shopping. Which brings us to the next step....

Some shopping blogs are now linking to the shop creator's inworld profile, rather than a "physical" landmark which can be out of date in a matter of hours from website posting. The assumption there is that a shopowner who is serious about their business will list their store IN their profile picks - and keep it updated every time they move. Plan accordingly.

Your my.secondlife.com dashboard


Make sure your profile privacy settings have the viewing options for at least your "Picks" and "About" are set to be viewable by "Second Life" - the default is quite likely "private", which means even if you put your business information in your profile, people on MOST current viewers will NOT be able to see it AT ALL.

Product Pictures

Ideally, your vendor pictures should include the following information for your customers to see at a glance:

  • Product Permissions
  • Land Impact/Prims for rezzable things
  • Special scripted features
  • Your store branding, for consistency and identification
  • Fonts should be easy to read, and clear even when viewed at a small size (not everyone runs in "3rd person mode" in SL.)

Set up a vendor image template in your favorite graphics program in order to keep consistency across multiple products.

Texture "lag"


Remember to keep filesizes smaller, rather than larger - one image at 1024x1024 can average in around 4 megabytes. One image at 512x512 will usually average under 1 megabyte.

To show you some of the math:

  • 200 different 1024x1024 sized vendor pictures = ~800 megabytes
  • 200 different 512x512 sized vendor pictures = ~200 megabytes

1,000 megabytes = 1 gigabyte. For perspective, your average US$100 video card (as of early 2016) will have between 2-4 gigabytes of memory.

These numbers are vendor examples alone - they do not include the textures on a mesh body, hair, shoes, jewelry and clothing (Understand that mesh bodies alone may have as many as 40 1024x1024 textures on each, all of which have to be multiplied by the number of avatars in viewing range...) as well as the textures on the surrounding buildings, landscaping, and the general store/parcel/sim decor.

It all adds up! And when there are too many huge images for your video card to handle....textures may stop loading, or partly load, but stay blurry. Textures may "bounce" in and out of focus. This is part of what's described as "texture lag".

If you have a video card with 8GB or more of RAM chances are likely you won't see any of this. But never forget that not all people have the spare cash to put to an annual video card update - your customers will greatly prefer shopping a store that doesn't lag them out or take an hour to load all the textures.

Marketing Tips

Newsletters

Sending Newsletters


CasperTech does NOT currently have a newsletter (or "groups") sender at this time. You WILL need a standalone subscriber system, such as Fred Allandale's Subscriber Kiosk.

(Do NOT use the "updates" tab within CasperVend. That tab should only be used for sending updated products to the customers who purchased them.)

Getting Subscribers


Place a subscriber terminal in your shop, in direct view of the landing point. Have both "subscribe" and "unsubscribe" options easily visible.

Some subscriber systems (like Fred's mentioned above) also have a script or scripted widget that you can include with your packaged products to send a subscriber invite when rezzed or when clicked. This gives more customers the opportunity to join later rather than having to go back to your store.

Newsletter Timing


Sending a marketing notice 1/week (or less frequently) seems to work reasonbly well for customers who have chosen to subscribe.

SL Groups

If you have an SL group for your customers, you can use a simple scripted widget to give people a link to click, or if it's invite only, get an inviter bot for people to get an actual group invite. If you use SmartBots or another supported bot, it can be integrated within CasperVend so that customers get a group invite on a purchase, or in CasperLet so that renters automatically get land group invites.

Advertising

  • Marketplace (but remember to MANUALLY cancel later...it won't automatically.)
  • Depending on your products, rental boards in popular places
  • The SL Universe forums have advertising banners, and the site does get some traffic
  • Join sales events
  • Join grid hunts, as long as the theme is compatible with your products
  • SL Land Search (L$ 35/week)
  • Classifieds (variable amount, depending on how close to the top you want your ad to appear)

Business Appearance

Professionalism

  • Don't Spam Arrivals - Don't annoy customers with auto-spam greeters. They shouldn't get multiple popups just because the arrived at your store.
  • Store Signs - Use signage, not greeter scripts, for your landmark giver, group joiner, etc., and locate them all by your landing point. Let your customers decide to click for info.
  • Organization - if you sell different categories of things, group your vendors by category sections.
  • Placement - ensure your vendors are within the default camera view. Not everyone knows to detach their camera and look up.
  • Vendors - If you have the prim/impact capacity, then single-panel, single-product vendors will have the best luck.
  • Theme - Your store should have a coherent theme for decor. If your theme is "darker" (i.e., goth/sinister/etc), remember dark grey can sometimes work better than black on your walls - not all monitors will show contrasts well when using black.

Be Sociable


This doesn't mean you are required to spend every logged in moment with customers, but be willing to spend SOME time - even if you set up specific "business hours" - where you'll be willing to chat with customers.

Have a landmark for your business ready to hand out if someone inquires about it.

Be willing to use a translator - not everyone speaks your language. Be aware that machine translators will still suck for the complex or more "in-context" languages such as German.

Customer Interactions


  • Never, ever outright say "You're doing it wrong!"
  • Never let the customer feel like you're ignoring their concerns.
  • Be willing to take the time to understand the customer's view.
  • Be willing to fix problems, or explain how things work.
  • Sarcasm: Not all countries (such as Japan) even HAVE sarcasm, much less understand it.
  • Phrasing: What's obvious to you, isn't necessarily to someone else.
  • Not everyone has a genius IQ. Some people will therefore ask "very dumb questions". Treat them kindly anyway.
  • If you reply to a negative MP review, other people will focus on how YOU respond to the complaint.
  • Understand that you can't please everyone, some people are just very thin-skinned no matter what you do.
  • Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you have to share the misery with your customers.

Additional Information

Auryn Beom writes an excellent merchant help/advisory series.