Noveck (2006) asserts that a virtual world is a collection of an internet or online community whereby users inhabit and interact using interactive 3D virtual surroundings. In the 3D environments, the users take the form of a representation of himself or herself in form of a textual, two-dimension, or a three-dimensional graphical representations or models. These forms of representations are known as avatars. The virtual world takes a form of a computer based environment and to be eligible as a proper virtual world it needs an online continual world that is accessible 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The virtual world must also be active. The interaction in the virtual word does not occur in real time. It is can be inconsistence.
Second life is a virtual world that is accessible on the internet. It was founded by Philip Rosadale and developed in the Linden lab. Second life enables users to interact with one another via avatars. The users use a free client program referred to as the Viewer, which is downloadable. The Viewer allows the users to interact with one another. The users are referred to as residents in the virtual world. The residents usually create the contents of the real world on their own. The residents can walk, fly and teleport around the world .The residents convene, play, participate, socialize, in online group activities and also trade with each other. In the second life one can buy or rent land, do shopping, meet friends just like the real world. The users interact with one another and obtain instant feedback by the use of avatars. The standard age for a resident in the second life is 32 years (Lieb, 2006).
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Second life usually creates a social network and it is not limited to people from one locality. It attracts users worldwide and a person in china can be to sell his virtual goods to a person in the UK. The residents can buy and sell services and goods to each other. The market in the second life is usually a free market and to make money one has to find clients who are willing to buy or pay for the virtual services. It is just like in the real life where a seller finds customers to buy his goods or services and the seller is willing to supply the goods. An example of virtual goods includes clothing, buildings, and hairproducts among other things (The Drum, 2010).
Second life uses its own interior currency known as the Linden dollar, which is used in trading or commerce by the residents. The Linden dollar could be obtained within LindenX exchange offered by the Linden Lab and is traded trough the use of US Dollars together with other currencies. The Linden dollar is also sold by independent brokers or any resident users and it is independent of the pricing (Victor, 2010).
Second Life is different from a website. A website is like a notice board. It is a one way method of communication giving information to site visitors. Second life is designed in a way that it is a virtual environment that allows virtual attendance and interaction by the avatars. It looks like the real world where the venues for meeting have doors, windows, conference tables and any other furniture (Kish, 2007). The venues in the second life should be interactive in order to engage residents. In Second Life, people have an idea of how many people are in the virtual community unlike the website where a person visiting the site is not aware of another person visiting the same site.
Second life has had a major impact on the global world and many major corporations are marking strategies on how to make sales using the second life. This is because the world has become a global village and the more customers the corporate make, the higher the revenues. Companies are coming up with better marketing strategies so as to gain popularity. Major companies are now opting to use second life world and are innovating new strategies. The instant feedback given by customers is efficient and fast than the feedback given by conducting the manual survey. The information given by the resident is accurate because the information is given based on interaction (The Drum, 2010).
In second life, customers have a unique experience because they experience the product in a virtual environment just the same way a customer in the real world would experience the product. Virtual worlds such as second life are having a major impact on the marketing strategies of Major Corporations (Rhind, 2007). Companies like IBM, Mercedes, MTV, Toyota, and Adidas are already in existence inside second life. The companies are joining second life because into the virtual world, they are likely to get opinions from different customer across the globe. The corporations believe that by setting a home inside Second life, the virtual world may change the way business is done.
Susan Kush in her article, “Virtual worlds: Second Life and the Enterprise”, major corporations are employing second life as a new conduit for sales, media distribution, teaching, customer and relationships. These channels include medium like construction of islands to encourage artists, launching a new car concurrently in second life and the real life and customizing a shoe in the Second Life to be bought in the real life. They also use Second life to test and develop products.
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The major corporations may use Second Life to come up with ideas on how to implement the ideas into the real world, for example the launch of the Mercedes c-class. The Mercedes Company used the strategy of Second Life to launch the new C-class model. The launch was open to all residents and the media attended the show as well. This was so that they could generate interest in the car pre-launch and as the driving rationale for entrance. The residents took the test drives around the Island. Thus a resident in another continent was able to view the car without going personally to the showroom (Rhind, 2007). This saved time and cost that would have been spent in the real world. This marketing strategy enabled the Mercedes Company to get to their customers in an efficient way and also it created awareness for the c-class model. This is one of the marketing strategies that the Mercedes used to market the c-class. In the Mercedes Island, there is a virtual showroom with brochures that are downloadable and Mercedes personnel who is always available.
Toyota as the first automobile brand to enter second life built a virtual city for their vehicles by restructuring three of the designs to come up with Scion range. This was in order to build their brand. The IBM Company is another major corporation that integrated second life with its marketing strategies. The organization organized a conference on virtual world hosted in a safe and sound Second Life setting. There was a conference space, a library, a virtual centre for green data, and different regions for community gathering. This meeting enabled the organization to create its brand footprint. The meeting was attended by residents from various countries and it generated a lot of feedback (Suh & Lee, 2005).
Second Life world created by the IBM is known as the IBM Academic of Technology. This academy consists of 330 thought leaders and technology innovators. These members are the key providers of technical leadership to IBM. The AoT members pursue technical developments while still identifying them. They also look for opportunities thus improving IBM’s technology base and developing IBM’s technical community (Victor, 2010). This shows how the IBM integrated its marketing strategy in the Second life. By hunting for emerging technology in the virtual word, it is easy for the company to have a strategic advantage over the other companies. The members are able to create strong brands. The corporation also has a virtual business centre that uses the virtual world as a sales channel for experiment.
Microsoft Corporation integrated Second Life while launching their European Version of Vista. They selected launch parties across the mainland areas frequented by different European nationalities (Victor, 2010). This enabled the company to get feedback from the European users. The feedback enabled the Microsoft corporation to determine whether the version was acceptable and of quality standards. The corporation also created a Visual Studio Island within the Second life. This was a strategy to promote their visual studio product and its target is the visual studio developers. This can be considered as a marketing strategy used by Microsoft Corporation.
The Virtual world in the second life is having a great impact on major corporations such that the organizations tend to rely on the avatars for feedback on their new products, services and policies. For example, there is a consumer research panel known as the First Opinion. In this research panel, the residents offer the fortune 500 companies with insights together with feedback on their new products, policies and services The First opinion is owned by the Social Research Foundation (SRF) but managed by market tools and research service for online consumer (Suh & Lee, 2005). Most fortune 500 companies and the main leading universities such as john Hopkins use this service. This consumer research in the Second Life has benefit over the web based and other present methods. Consumer researchers will have an ability of measuring and viewing the influence that peer interaction has over decision making, something that is not possible using web-surveys. Additional companies researching in Second Life are Market truths and Reperes.
Although market research in second life is a bit complicated due to landscape navigation, the success of these companies will depend on how well they address three certain issues related to their work on the second life. Issues like standards of best practices, cross-cultural learning, privacy protection and internal training, if integrated well will lead to a successful feedback and insights from residents.
Jones (2010) observes that Star wood hotels used the Second Life to build their hotel brand, aloft. The Starwood executives built a prototype of the new brand and residents could enter the hotel and examine the layout, rooms and amenities. The residents were able to give suggestions for improvements to the executives. Thus the Starwood Hotels used the second life as a marketing brand.
To sum up the whole discussion, the Virtual world as second Life is gaining popularity in the digital world. It is likely that the web technology might vanish as more and more people get introduced into the Virtual world. Virtual world provides an interactive environment unlike the web based environment. The users in Second life can move around, meet in groups and also trade with each other. This is not the case of the real world. Second Life offers a collaborative, open-ended experience as people create and inhibit a new world of their own design.
According to (Li, 2002), it is seen that major corporations are using the second life and integrating it with marketing strategy. These companies are utilizing Second life to make trials on their designs, concepts and new products prior to launching them into the real markets. This is one of the ways that the companies are using in order to have a competitive advantage over its competitors.
The Virtual world is bringing the world together making it a global village. Residents are able to meet despite being miles away from each other. The sharing of ideas through discussions and group meeting brings about innovation because new ideas are shared and generated.
The insights from customers and feedbacks given to corporations on their products enable a corporation to improve their products. The information gathered in the Second Life is fast and accurate. The companies are also considering the Virtual world as a time saver and cost cutting. This is because the organization does not have to use their resources while conducting surveys in the real world. There is also improved productivity as employees have more time to engage in company’s activity (Lui et al, 2007).
The virtual world is becoming more and more popular with marketers. The marketers are experimenting with the second life and they are using it as a marketing vehicle to create experiences around their brands. Thus the Second Form is an important platform that marketers should consider.