Real-world opportunities in Second Life

Lest you think I’m addicted to the latest flavour of Kool-Aid with my recent commentaries about Second Life, this post isn’t to do with the fun times you can spend in world (see, I’m getting to know the lingo).

This is about business opportunities with Second Life and the real world.

One of the things that seems crystal clear to me is how a business – any business – could easily link a presence in the virtual world with their physical presence in the real world.

For instance, you could have a shop in Second Life where anyone in world could purchase a virtual product that’s a mirror of a real product you sell in your real world shop. An easy example – a t-shirt or other item of clothing which is a similar design to the real one you sell. At the very least, your virtual t-shirt could have branding that advertises your real world business or presence (so watch out for FIR t-shirts in Second Life soon). Think of the reverse as well – your real-world presence can advertise your Second Life presence.

What then happens is that anyone wearing that t-shirt in Second Life advertising your real world shop or brand travels around in-world promoting your business. Everyone they encounter among the 300,000+ people who have signed up for Second Life sees that ad and may well want to check you out in the real world. And maybe visit your online web shop or even your actual shop. And they might actually buy something there.

Your set-up costs in Second Life are practically nothing, so it’s not a money issue. Imagine: construct a shop online, fit it out and stock it with merchandise for a startup investment of ten bucks a month and your time.

A good example of a toe in the water is American Apparel (and there are others, too) who discussed their Second Life experiment and what they’re hoping to achieve from it during the virtual meeting last week organized by the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School.

Writing in the Business 2.0 blog, Erik Schonfeld nails down the immediate future:

[…] People already buy things in Second Life to use within the game, mostly as a form of self-expression. What would really flip my wig, though, is if some of the far-out clothing and objects designed for Second Life were actually fabricated in the real world. Then you’d start seeing Second Lifers on the street in their funky getups, and the difference between the virtual and real worlds would really be blurred. And then there is always the idea of Second Life credit cards, where you’d get a real Visa card that earns loyalty points redeemable for currency in the virtual world.

My bet: a business like Amazon – someone with real muscle – will establish a significant presence in Second Life within the next couple of months. It’s not hard to reach this conclusion if you read what Business Week’s Rob Hof is saying.

This is just the beginning. So maybe this post is to do with fun times.

(Credit for the great MasterCard image above: Philip Torrone of MAKE magazine.)

[Technorati: Second Life]

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