So, summer’s over and we’re back working on new innovations for shopping in Second Life. Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out a new product aimed at cutting through the veritable molasses that is shopping in Second Life, but rather than just spit it out, I’m going to sit down with a dear friend (who’s polishing her interviewing skills) and roll it out the old-fashioned way …
MT: So, Phantom, thanks for interview … I guess I should start this out by asking about your current projects leading up to this.
PR: Well, I started SL in late 2007, and shortly after getting my bearings, I started a little shop called “SLBest,” and the purpose was to create something akin to Consumer Reports for SL markets. I was very fortunate when a friend opened a club (that was rather popular for a while), and I was able to set up shop right outside of his door. While it didn’t pay for my car note, it was successful enough to pay my SL expenses for some time.
Eventually, when LL started discouraging the use of their name in branding, I changed the name to “Phantom’s List,” and eventually I weaved the product into my blog, “Phantom’s Republic,” which was also very successful for some time.
MT: But, that’s not up anymore, and you were gone for a while. Tell us what happened.
PR: Well, I decided to leave SL in late 2009 for a while to focus on some personal and career goals, so I did close my businesses and blogs in SL until those were well underway. I wanted to return much earlier, but there was no longer a “catch” to get me to log every day. Once I found that in late November of 2011, I was “hooked” once again, and a friend encouraged me to start working on projects.
MT: The purpose of any successful business is to fulfill a need. What need do you see this new venture fulfilling?
PR: Well, since I joined SL, shopping has always been a challenge. In RL, if I want a new outfit, I will go to the mall or a favorite shopping centre … the one everyone else goes to in my suburban area. And, if there’s some place new, these places are still always points of reference … so, it’s never a hassle. In SL, nothing’s connected. The more successful merchants put their stores on beautifully sculpted private islands – which are very nice, but disconnected from everything else. I could never just happen upon it driving down the street.
This hypothetical merchant may place ads, but he or she has to be very careful with those, because effective ad placement – just like using GoogleAds – can be extraordinarily expensive, and … a lot of people won’t even use SL Search.
If he or she has a massive network, they may get lucky … and will probably get to participate in one of the fashion hunts or fairs …
MT: Well, that gives you a lot of exposure …
PR: To a degree, yes … but, if either are really successful, they are lag-hell for customers, who may not get to sludge through one or more stores before deciding to go do something else. I can’t tell you how many of both I’ve missed simply because the lagging and crashing wasn’t worth it. And remember, these events are meant to connect customers with merchants … what sort of customer service does a lagged out fair or hunt provide?
MT: You’ve missed the blogs and magazines. These are enormously successful, obviously.
PR: Blogs and Magazines are both fun. It’s a great way to pick up a new look in a hurry; but, for the most part, you’re limited to the vendors listed in the posting, and some bloggers rely on the generosity of creators to get free stuff, or some work for them directly – neither is a very objective situation. I know, because when I did fashion blogging, I did the same thing … and once used it to promote a community I was working/living in at the time.
There are a lot of nice magazines out there, but in some cases, the “exposure” is a little over-hyped, and this is sort of “known” in the SL fashion industry. In RL, magazines are a dying industry, and most print industries are rapidly converting to online or downloadable content. In addition to those inherited problems SL’s “print” industry has another one – their product has to “rez” page by page, unless you’re reading the online version, of course. But, there again … most people prefer blog-type “up-to-the-minute” data … who in RL reads their magazine subscriptions online? I certainly don’t.
Now, they do have readers – but these are mostly industry people. I’ve had a lot of friends in SL, and I’ve never heard one quote a SL magazine, or be inspired for a purchase because of something written in one. Blogs yes, magazines no.
MT: The best places I’ve found were from word-of-mouth, or clicking on something someone was wearing …
PR: Isn’t that always the case? I’ve certainly found wonderful places that way as well (my current AO is a great example … thanks Lola!). But, it is limiting as well, isn’t it? Can all the best retailers be represented on a dance floor the night you happen to go out with friends? And, I think we’ve all tagged along with at least one friend who insisted we were about to visit the shop of the next Coco Chanel, only to be surprised by landing in a shop that looked like a play-dough factory explosion.
MT: So, you’ve like bummed me out … these are really the only ways people can navigate the SL fashion world, and you’re right … I’ve experienced all of those problems. This is the part where you’re supposed to say “but there is a better way,” right? (laughs)
PR: (laughs) Well, yes, there is! I’m completely overhauling my original product and reintroducing it with the latest of SL scripting technology that will allow you to bypass those laggy fairs and hunts, skip over the loads of … well, the not very good stuff that litters SL Search, and save hours and hours of searching through blog archives to find that “special look” you remembered from a month ago. This product is instantaneous, and the best stores in SL are literally at your fingertips.
MT: Or, the best according to ….
PR: To a lot of people! I can’t say I came up with the “best” on my own. I rely on the advice of very well connected friends, bloggers, voracious shoppers, etc., but instead of just losing it in my LM folder, I’ve ranked those best places and put the cream of the crop in this product. And, unlike most of the promotional events out there – this isn’t a promotional product. NONE of the content creators participated in the making of this product. We went out and searched, bought, tried on, and evaluated these products just like you would.
MT: And so … you’ve almost described it the best I can tell …
PR: Well, the curious customer can certainly visit my shop to view and purchase our initial roll-out (limited to our male customers at the moment), but we’ll be doing an official release every week until our entire line is out.
MT: And where is your shop?
PR: Readers can visit by clicking HERE.
MT: Will you please show me now, Phan?
PR: Sure … let me just save this first …