Archive for the ‘Social Networks’ Category

Does Disney “Get” Virtual Worlds?

Second Life is looking for it’s Second Wind. There.com isn’t quite there yet. The media hype that surrounded virtual worlds just a year ago has ratcheted way back. Real world companies who came in not understanding what they were getting into quickly faded away after they didn’t get what they were expecting.

But one demographic seems to be doing quite well in the virtual space: Kids. If you have one of these living under your roof, you probably know that they are actively participating in online virtual/social networking spaces. They are joining online social networks at increasingly early ages (pre-school in the case of Club Penguin) and in those spaces, they are forming relationships that are very real.

This high level of participation has made kid-oriented worlds like Habbo, Gaia Online, Neopets, Webkinz and Nicktropolis more successful that adult oriented virtual worlds. Disney’s launched Virtual Magic Kingdom in 2005 with a target audience of 8 – 14 year-olds. Seeing business opportunity in the virtual space, they paid $350 Million to acquire Club Penguin last year. This year, Disney launched Pirates of the Caribbean Online to attract a somewhat older, but still teen aged audience (mostly boys) and Pixie Hollow (targeted at girls) is set to be launched later this year. The longer range plan, according to Mike Goslin, VP of Disney’s Virtual reality Studio, is to “have a large number of virtual world for a range of different audiences… sort of like a theme park.” The strategy also includes making the different worlds “feel like a common experience” including the ability to move your social contacts between virtual experiences.

Last Week, Shel Israel posted an fascinating video interview with Goslin and other senior team members from Disney’s Interactive Studios.

In the interview, the Disney team talks about the differentiators that they bring to the game. The most interesting one for me was the idea of Context. Like physical playgrounds, Disney sees their virtual worlds as socializing environments. In them, kids are learning collaboration skills, communication skills and social skills, but as with most everything Disney does, these interactions and communications are done in the context of a story. Disney believes creating social environments and communities around a context adds value to both consumers and business. On the customer side, building environments around a theme drives engagement by communities of interest who are passionate about that theme (think “ESPN Fantasy Football”). This leads to large communities that are defined by their common interest as opposed to the relatively small number of people that may be in your friend list. Those large communities with common interests provides a context for a business model like advertising. Because the community is all there for the same reason, they will likely engage in predictable ways (i.e. minimize random and inappropriate behavior).

Conspicuously absent from the interview was any mention of Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom (“VMK”). VMK was launched in 2005 as part of the Disneyland 50th year celebration. In it, participants create rooms themed after Magic Kingdom attractions, play mini-games, collect inventory and make friends. Just seven months after launch, Disney announced the game surpassed one million players and over 1.3 million personalized in-game rooms. Last month, with no advance notice, Disney announced that they would be shutting the doors on this virtual theme park on May 21. Predictably, the outcry from the “community” has been loud and is growing as the date approaches. A number of petitions have collected thousands of signatures, boycotts are being threatened and one group, VMK Kids Unite, is organizing a protest at the gates of Disneyland on May 10 which may be covered by CNN and CBS. Obviously, adults are helping to organize these efforts, but the kids are the driving force. Kids who are already comfortable with the participatory web and who want to have their voices heard.

So here’s my takeaway. From the interview, its clear that Disney understands the business opportunity in Virtual Worlds & Social Networks. The also have a pretty good idea how to build communities through contextually engaging virtual experiences. On the other hand, Disney’s decision to shut down VMK demonstrates that perhaps they don’t really get the “social” component. In these social environments, Disney’s role is to provide the frameworks (architectural, security and creative) and the context, but the real content is created by the participants. In shutting down VMK, they aren’t just closing an amusement park attraction. They are throwing away the work of the thousands of dedicated, passionate kids who have spent countless hours building and sharing wonderfully imaginative experiences, and in the process, will be alienating many of their most dedicated and influential advocates.

What do you think? Is closing VMK “just business”? Will the kids get over it? Is this consistent with Disney’s brand?

Update: Per my daughter’s advice, here are links to http://www.savevmk.com and http://www.savevmktoday.com

Update #2:  My daughter wrote a song and created a video about saving VMK.  Check it out here.

Teenagers as “Teamagers”

teenagers2web.jpgWill Richardson over at the education-oriented blog Weblogg-ed had an interesting post today about a recent FastCompany interview with Gartner researcher, Tom Austin. In the interview, Austin makes a pretty compelling argument for implementing and using social tools in the workplace and suggests that the real value from IT departments of the future will come not so much from their technology knowhow, but rather from an ability to facilitate relationships (the fundamental element of business) through social tools.

The interview gets into a number of topics regarding the changing structures in some corporations (and not in others) and Austin suggests that Facebook and MySpace will become models for business interaction.

Look at teenagers today. They’re teamagers. They work on projects as a group and think nothing of doing it that way. I expect to see that kind of thing percolate through the enterprise as an unstoppable force over the next two decades.

Will Richardson asked his readers if they thought today’s teenagers have group collaboration down as a part of the way they do their business. Speaking for my on teenager, I would say yes, absolutely.  What do you think?

Don’t Get All In a Twitter Trying to Explain Twitter

Fellow Blogger Socialite Greg Verdino shared a new video explaining Twitter from the Common Craft gang. This is a great way to explain your Twitter Addiction to your friends and co-workers.

If you are already on Twitter, you can follow me here. If not, what are you waiting for? It’s fun and if you are worried that others won’t understand it, send them the link to the video along with an invitation.

Thankful Experiences

rockwell.jpgYesterday, ahead of the US Thanksgiving holiday, David Armano posed one of those great conversation starters to the community that follows his company’s blog, ExperienceMatters. The simple question: What Experience Are You Thankful For?

The response was big, especially since Experience Matters is typically more essay-oriented. Within 24 hours there were over 60 responses to the question and those responses make for a wonderful read. I went to the post this morning and was inspired to add my own words to the conversation.

The replies that people have left are personal, engaging and entertaining. They also demonstrate the human side of these digital relationships we develop through social networking. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

PS. For those of you who are Circuit City associates and read my internal blog when I was employed there, the name ExperienceMatters may sound familiar. Yes, it was the name of my blog there and is the name of the LLC that I created after my employment at CC ended. Great minds do think alike :-)

Using Social Networks to Market PED3 iPhone Stand

Here’s a great example of leveraging Social Networks to market your products. This morning, I jump on Twitter and see a tweet from CC Chapman talking about free PED stands for iPhone and iPod Touch. I jump over to @ThoughtOut’s Twitterstream for the details. Available to “the first 5 people to link http://thoughtout.biz with a blog type of post about “PED3 iPhone stand (or iPod Touch)””

ped.jpg

Sounds simple enough. and I can write a post that discusses the marketing aspects without just pimping my blog for a gadget.

Of course, it’s not as simple as it seems. To be successful at marketing through social networks, you have to have a couple of things. First, you must have a product or service that people want and at a price they are willing to pay. Second, you need an audience. There are lots of Social Networking sites out there. They all provide audiences, but I think Twitter is a great choice due to the speed with which messages can be communicated within it. You don’t necessarily need a big audience, but somewhere in that audience, you have to have people like CC Chapman, who has a high number of active followers in the social network space. People like CC are able to spread your message to other people, who will in turn, share it with their audiences (like I’m doing now).

Even if I don’t get one of the free stands, I’ll probably purchase one and I can say I heard about it first through social networking. I will be curious to know how many other people learn about this product this way.

What Do You Get For $240Million?

facebook-gates.jpgOn Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it will spend $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the #2 social networking site, Facebook. As part of the deal, Microsoft is now Facebook’s exclusive advertising partner worldwide until 2011. Facebook is expected to earn $30 million in profits on $150 million in revenue so $240 million sounds like a really big chunk of change for 1.6%. To put it another way, that deal effectively values the privately-held Facebook at $15 billion (that’s billion, with a “B”). As with similar deals in the past, there will certainly be those that scratch their heads and say this is crazy.

If you are in that camp, I recommend that you read Jeramiah Owyang’s post, “How Microsoft Got Their Passport Afterall“. Facebook currently has 50 million users and a userbase that doubles every 6 months. Those users voluntarily provide all sorts of detailed information about themselves. Owyang writes:

  1. Facebook knows who you are: your name, your gender, where you live, your martial and political status, sexual preference, age, where you work, the list goes on. The funny thing is, you’ve voluntarily given that information up.
  2. They also know who you connect to, who you talk to, and what you say to them (you don’t own those private message ya know).
  3. Sure, up to one third of all profile information is bogus, but what about those unsaid gestures: What people do is more important than what they say. What apps you use, how frequent, what and who you click on.

Forget the fact that Microsoft was desperate to beat Google at something. Microsoft wants to be a player in the lucrative on-line advertising business.  This new partnership gives them access to goldmine of personal data with which they can potentially build highly efficient advertising vehicles .  Owyang reminds us that advertising is all about accuracy and margins.  The more accurate an ad is at hitting the target group, the lower the cost.  He also points out that where “Google sells ads based on keywords, FaceSoft can now sell ads on something far more accurate: people“.

Owyang goes on to discuss what the next generation of on-line advertising might look like, suggesting that it will become much more targeted and much more social, and with that comes the risks associates with giving up control.

I think Jeremiah nailed it.  What do you think?

The Next Chapter

20050819-punk-blog-for-food.jpgI started the summer with a major upheaval in my professional life. Losing your job after so many years of employment is a shock and for many, in my demographic segment, finding a new job that provides the same income can be extremely challenging. Some end up like this guy, but since “positivity” is one of my top strengths, I approached the situation with minimal worries. A lyric from one of my favorite, obscure bands says:

“Take the spill, it will make you feel dizzy and then give you wings.”

It’s true. Over the last four months, I have built an incredible network of new friends and business associates in the Richmond, VA area. That’s Social Networking “old school” style and it has opened doors to many opportunities. I’m actively engaging in one or two of them and one has become the next step in my career.

Tomorrow will be my last unemployed Friday. On Monday, I start a new job as a retail consultant with IBM’s Global Business Services. It’s a role that’s going to take me places; lots of places. A great opportunity to work with and learn about different retail operations and hopefully help build better customer experiences for those clients.

Hold the Quechup

I’ve been had.  I should have known better, but in my eagerness to check out new Social Networking sites, I quickly replied “yes” to an invite I received this morning  from someone I trusted. The invite was to join Quechup.  The name should have been the first clue, followed quickly by their slogan, “the social networking platform sweeping the globe”.  That’s funny, I’ve never heard of them.   The fact that the person that invited me hadn’t mentioned it on Twitter AND would share one of his invites with me also seemed odd, but I jumped in anyway.

Like many social networking sites, Quechup allows you to bump your Gmail or Yahoo contact list up against it’s database to see if you have friends already in the network.  What they don’t tell you is that they then send an invite to everyone in your contact list, saying that you gave permission when, in fact, you did not.

In my book that’s called SPAMMING!  These guys should be shut down now!

If you received an invite from me, I am truly sorry.  Please delete the email and do not register on Quechup.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Ah, the vacation. I remember when I was a kid (pre-teens), we would go to Va Beach and rent a “cottage”. It was usually an old, weather worn structure with wooded (sandy) floors and no air conditioning. Other families would join us making for a week long party. Every day, the Moms would packed lunches while the Dads packed Styrofoam coolers with sodas and beer (Falstaff or Schiltz as I recall), and you and the other families would spend the whole day at the beach. If you needed to make a phone call, you walked or drove to the nearest Bell System phone booth. You might get a newpaper, but that was not likely and you didn’t watch much television because the closest station was 40 miles away.

Instead, you played games, listened to music, had conversations. It was a big party. The adults had amazing staying power. They could be on the beach all day long and then party until 3am, much to the annoyance of the kids who wanted to sleep (or wanted to be part of the action). It was extremely “Social”.

I’m at the beach this week with another family. We have been doing the beach thing together for 20 years and we do our share of social activities. We do come up for lunch everyday because we love air conditioning. Yesterday, as I was finishing my lunch (and Twittering), I looked up to see four other people at the table with me. Each was on their own computer.

Five people sitting around a table having lunch at the beach should be talking with each other, but instead, they are all in their own digital worlds. I’m more guilty that ever this year as I take the iPhone to the beach everyday to Twitter, read blogs, etc. It used to be that I went to the beach and read a good book. Now, I go to the beach and read good feeds.

That lunch table image and my own realization of being too plugged struck me as both funny and sad. We have become so accustomed (addicted) to our hyperconnectivity and our digital networks that we can’t take a vacation from them.

I think I’ll head back to the beach with the boogie board instead of the iPhone.

The Social Entrepreneur

handsinsky3.jpg

As part of my ongoing job search (BTW, are you hiring?), I met Michael Pirron this afternoon. Michael has a distinguished educational and professional background with a focus in Information Technology and has worked around the world in various consulting roles. Last year, Michael created a new company called Impact Makers, which to my knowledge and his, has a very unique business model. I also think it may be disruptive (more on that later).

As Michael explained to me, there are generally two types of social enterprise in the US today:

  1. A nonprofit who generates their own revenue stream by operating for-profit businesses to support their service delivery to the community. The problem with this model is that most nonprofits lack the capacity and the experience to run a competitive business venture.
  2. A for-profit business that gives a small percentage of their profits to fund nonprofits (i.e. Ethos Water or Newman’s Own brand). The problem with this model is that the shareholders can, at any time, decide to stop the program or sell the company.

Impact Makers has introduced a new model where a partnership is formed between one nonprofit entity (Impact Makers’ Management and IT Consulting Services) focusing on generating income in the for-profit marketplace, and a nonprofit partner who is delivering services to the community. Impact Makers not only donates it’s profits, but also provides consulting services to the partner, allowing it to focus with greater effectiveness and efficiency on its core competency – delivering community services.

Is this model disruptive? I think so for two reasons:

  1. In today’s marketplace, companies are increasingly concerned with the other bottom lines – environmental and social responsibility. Major companies frequently use vendors to provide services like IT consulting. A company that chooses to use a vendor like Impact Makers gets top talent at competitive rates, but instead of generating profits for the vendor, they are directly funding a community service provider and that gives a vendor like Impact Makers a competitive advantage.
  2. Individuals working outside of non-profit systems do not have many opportunities to make a substantial difference in their community. They might volunteer occasionally or donate money to charities, but unless you are Bill Gates, you probably don’t have the resources to contribute on the scale of funding a program. Under this model, employees receive competitive salaries while their profit generated from their work directly contributes to improving the community.

This second point, the ability for individuals to have a bigger social responsibility impact, struck me as being analogous to what has happened in a number of other other industries where power has shifted to individuals, thereby giving them a voice and disrupting the status quo.

Impact Makers does not have capital lying around with which to build their business. Instead, Michael is relying on networks and contacts to get contracts. Impact Makers currently has one service delivery partner, a local organization called Safe Harbor which provides confidential shelters for abused women and children. Over time, Michael would like to see other professional service industries adopt his model, should it prove successful. There really isn’t a limit to the types of businesses that could adopt this model. I don’t normally use this blog to promote a business, but I was so impressed with Michael’s model that I wanted to share it. I don’t have a huge number of regular readers, but when you consider the reach of the people I do have conversations with, both here and on Twitter, the reach can be pretty big.

What do you think about this idea? If you like it and have a blog, consider telling your readers about it. Do you have clients who need Management or IT services? Tell them about Impact Makers. If you want to learn more about it, contact Michael ((804) 212-5056 or mpirron@impactmakers.org ), and tell him I sent you.

Marketing to Youth in Social/Virtual Worlds

vlbhills-beach.jpg

As I sit here in my kitchen looking for a job, my daughter Tyler and her friend have the big HP notebook fired up and pointed at Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. Tyler, who just entered her teen years, has been playing around in virtual worlds for a few years now. She has as many friends in these communities as she does in real life and she is not alone. Millions of younger kids are spending significant time in virtual worlds like Disney’s Toontown, VMK, Club Penguin, Webkinz and Whyville. The market for “safe” teen social sites and virtual worlds continues to grow as well with MTVs virtual worlds, There.com, Doppelganger and others.

According to a recent study, 71 percent of tweens and teens between the ages of 9 and 17 visit social/virtual world sites weekly. There isn’t a clear tally of the virtual world population, but the number of registered users for kids and teen worlds is growing. From the study:

Urban teen environment Doppelganger has nearly 150,000 registered members, while PG-13 site There.com has 1 million members, 70 percent of whom are between the ages of 13 and 26. Self-described “edutainment” site for tweens, Whyville, has 2.3 million users.

As has been pointed out in numerous studies, many kids are watching less television, preferring instead to spend time on the internet. In the last week alone, my daugher has watched maybe 6 hours of TV, but has spent three times that much time on YouTube, VMK and other social sites. I’m beginning to think the computer is somehow physically attached to her as she takes it everwhere.

Enter the Marketers

Over at ClickZ, Matthew Nelson published a good article last month which discusses the the marketing landscape in youth oriented virtual worlds. He points out that in the PG-13 worlds, marketers are quite active in promoting specific items that appeal to todays teens (clothing, music, electronics). The challenge here is to find ways to engage them. As Nelson points out, this audience has been the target of sophisticated campaigns since they were babies. They recognize when they are being marketed to and will simply ingnore the message if it doesn’t add value to them.

To appeal to teens, advertisers and virtual worlds often team-up around themes that are clear fits, such as music, entertainment, clothing and electronics, but marketers need to engage their audience to keep them coming back. Recently, There.com signed an agreement with Capitol Music Group to bring music artists into its world, and created a series of virtual nightclubs for them to play in. More than that, users will be able to watch videos and interact with band members.

“The artists are realizing they need to be more involved with their market,” said Michael Wilson, CEO of There. “And this is a more efficient way to meet a fan, to change the engagement with them from a few moments to minutes.”

Nelson points out that there has been conscious decision among the young kid oriented sites to disallow all in-world advertising, but that’s not to say that the sites themselves aren’t powerful marketing vehicles for the brands that own them. The point of sites like Nicktropolis, Toontown & VMK is to get kids to interact and engage with the brand. Spend any time in VMK and you will see all kinds of in-world ad for Disney properties.

Youth Are Receptive to Marketers IF….

A recent study conducted by Grunwald Associates found that kids (9 to 17-year olds) are not only spending significant time in social sites, but are willing to engage with advertisers in those spaces is they are approached in the right way (i.e. must be relevant and perceived as adding value).

Disney obviously understands the attraction of social/virtual worlds to their target consumer (kids) and are aggressively moving to expand their presence. They are planning new virtual worlds around specific properties like Pirates of the Carribean and just this week bought Club Penguin. By simply renaming it “Disney’s Club Penguin” club penguin fans become Disney fans. Others brands, such as Capital Music Group, are partnering with virtual worlds to build persistent experiences for their consumers to interact with. If you market products to youth, social/virtual worlds are clearly channels that you need be exploring. These are two examples of what I think are successful approaches to marketing in social/virtual worlds.

Do you have some examples to share (good or bad)? What are the big pitfalls of marketing to youth through these channels.

Discuss……

CrowdSpirit: Crowdsourced Consumer Electronics

CrowdSpirit is a French startup that plans to use crowds to develop and bring to market tangible, inexpensive, electronic devices such as CD players, joysticks for video games, and Web cams. The community will handle all aspects of the product cycle—its design, features, technical specifications, even post-purchase customer support.  Community members will submit and vote on product and design ideas. The winners will be funded by community members and they will go on to prototype and beta-test the products.

A core CrowdSpirit team, along with a subset of community members and distributors, will have a final say on decisions. The hope, however, is that the products will be extraordinarily focused on the customer because the ideas are coming directly from the people who will use the products. In development since last September, the site will formally launch at the end of June, 2007.

This is just one more example of the growing trend of “Crowdsourcing“.  Tapping your customers to collaborate and innovate with you is a great way to build relationships and to differentiate your brand.

You can read more on this at the CrowdSpirit website

<via BusinessWeek>

Social Retailing

x07.jpg

Picture this, ladies… You walk into the store and go straight to the big mirror with the touchscreen panel beside it. You select select 30 different clothing items from the touchpanel and then stand on the big spot on on the floor. As if by magic, the first pair of jeans that you selected appears in the mirror right over your reflection giving the illusion that you are wearing them. They look ok, but you aren’t sure. Not to worry as you asked some of your BFFs to join you online. That image in the mirror is also showing up on your page and your friends can vote up or down on each selection. In fact, anyone who is a friend on MySpace, Facebook, or any other social networking site for that matter, can weigh in on how those new jeans look. They can also IM you through the mirror. But wait, there’s more… They can also pick out other pieces for you to try by selecting items from the store’s online catalog. Those new items now appear on the touchscreen panel. After you’ve sampled all the pieces, you can actually try on just the ones that your friends say looked the best on you.

There are also RFID and data-mining components in the system that help retailers monitor inventory in real time and collect data that provides valuable insight into customer mindsets, behaviors and evolving needs.

I saw this bit of technology at the National Retail Federation’s Store of the Future – X07 display at their conference in NYC. It’s the brainchild of IT Services company IconNicholson and they call it “Social Retailing”. Clearly, IconNicholson understands that today’s youth is hyper-connected and extremely social. They are always traveling in a group, either physically, or virtually via phones and IM. They also understand that tech-savvy young consumers can be compulsive shoppers who look for validation and approval by their social groups for their purchase decisions, especially regarding soft lines.

“Social retailing is a concept that evolved out of our work building
personas based on youth shopping needs, behaviors and current technology
trends,” says Rachael McBrearty, VP Creative Strategy. “The demonstrations in X07 provide retailers with a vision for how they can reach the audience at the center of the social computing craze seen in websites like YouTube and MySpace, to connect in-store shopping with the online world in a way that is new, entertaining — and completely relevant.”

It’s Facebook meets the Mall and it’s a capability that is available using today’s technology. There’s bound to be a fair amount of complex code behind the scenes to make this work, but it clear to me that the retailer that pulls off social media shopping and couples it with IT systems will have quite the competitive advantage.

Z-Meme Me

squidoo1.JPGOK, this may get a little confusing, so pay attention….

A couple of weeks ago, Mack Collier over at The Viral Garden blog decided to try a little experiment.   The idea was to create a meme built around giving link-love to the blogs that deserve it, and hopefully turn Technorati’s system of using a blog’s # of links to determine its ‘authority’, on its ear.  Mack started with a small list of blogs that he links to and asked his readers to pass the list on, adding their favorites to it.  (BTW, Mack’s initial list of 5 blogs included fellow WordPress blogger Becky Carroll’s excellent Customers Rock)

The list grew, and the “Z-listers” began getting the links they deserved.  Then, best selling marketing guru and blogger, Seth Godin got a hold of it and created a Squidoo “Lens” for it.   Mack Collier noted just before Christmas that a number of the “A-List” blogs (like Seth’s) had been added to the lens, thereby moving the list beyond it’s original intention.  This makes sense given the caption that Seth has placed on the page which reads:

Worth a look! There is no A list, so there can’t be a Z list. There’s just good blogs.

Today was the first I had heard of Squidoo, and I’m still not sure I fully understand the concept other than it is a single web page, dedicated to a particular topic that you are passionate about.  It contains content and links to content.  In Seth’s Z-List lens, you can vote for or against a blog on the list to change its rank.

Having a rather obscure blog, I felt compelled to add myself to the list today to see if it would generate any traffic.  And whaddyaknow, it did!!  I’m currently sitting at #74 #127 and the total list is up to 312 340. Of course the spam blogs have also discovered the list and are inserting themselves.  Fortunaltely, people are voting them to the bottom.

So here is the deal (2 parts):

  1. If you read my blog and think it is worth your time, do me a favor and vote for me on the Z-List Lens.  You will need to register on Squidoo in order to vote, but that is painless. 
  2. Check out the current Z-Lister (from Mack Collier) after the jump.  If you are a blogger, you can participate in the experiment.  Simply cut and paste the ENTIRE list below to a post on your blog. That’s it. You’ll get a ton of happy bloggers suddenly coming to YOUR blog to thank you, you’ll get a ton of great new blogs to read, you’ll likely get a ton of links yourself, but most of all, you’ll feel good about making a whole lot of other bloggers feel good about themselves. All by taking a couple of minutes to leave a simple post. Not a bad deal, eh?

    PS: Check out this list of Z-Listers from Christine Kane’s blog. Notice that her list is almost as long as the one below, and at least HALF of them are different!

Continue reading

Circuit City Joins The Virtual World

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Circuit City and IBM have teamed up to launch a prototype virtual store in Second Life. The store, which will be open to SL residents on 12/18, is designed to be a virtual extension of Circuit City’s existing multichannel design and will be used as a learning lab.

SecondLife residents can purchase items such as iPods TVs, and Computers in the store for use in SL, but they can can also link to Circuit City’s website to purchase the real world version of the product. There are other extensions of the e-commerce site into virtual space such as forum discussions for particular products, a store locator, and a display that helps you decide what size TV to purchase based on how far back your sofa is.

“Teaming with IBM in the virtual world is as much about sensing and learning from the community as it is about commerce. These immersive environments provide an interactive forum for testing and feedback as we focus on the next generation of customer service”, said Bill McCorey, senior vice president and chief information officer of Circuit City. “Our ultimate goal is to understand the implications of virtual 3-D worlds on multi-channel retailing and to extend the connection we have with our customers to new spaces.”

I think the big thing here is that Circuit City is starting to experiment with 3D web as a commerce channel. I believe this is the future of ecommerce. The combination of an immersive 3D environment with the social networking aspects of an environment like SecondLife will give the customer a rich experience that transcends today’s 2D experience. Granted, we are in the embryonic stages of this transformation and the experience is not “all that”, but at least Circuit City is putting their toe in the water and that’s a step ahead of where most retailers are.

Read more about the launch here and here.

Full Disclosure: I am a Circuit City employee and am part of the SL team.

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