Rob Walker, VP Decisioning & Marketing at Chordiant, on how brands should build a long-term brand strategy on Second Life.
It is very early days in the evolution of Second Life but already we have witnessed a host of companies that have jumped into the Second Life environment without due consideration of how this move will tie into their long-term brand strategy.
The era of quick hit publicity stunts on Second Life has passed and companies must consider any interaction with the 8 million plus population of Second Life very carefully. Virtual worlds and interactions are incredibly fast-paced and, to get involved in this environment companies must realise that they have to commit a vast amount of time and resources if they’re going to do it properly.
First steps are exciting and the entire Second Life concept will in time develop to an extraordinary degree. However, brand perception in these early stages is crucial. If a brand has opened a store in Second Life they must continue to staff the store, to track transactions and engage and satisfy customers. Similarly, if they are to provide a service they must also provide customer support.
This is particularly crucial given recent developments such as the launch of credit cards on Second Life and the first virtual ATM. With so many registered users, the impacts of providing a poor customer experience are not to be underestimated. While the world may be virtual, the brand is most certainly not, and negative experiences in a virtual world will taint customer perceptions just as it would if they were ‘real’.
Though real and virtual experiences will blur within a customers mind, we are still dealing with two very different worlds. One of the biggest challenges to delivering customer experience in the real world is to tailor the solution to meet the overall goals of a particular brand and treat each customer in a personalised manner rather than pushing a blanket sell.
Avatars in Second Life truly value and cherish their individuality although they are part of a user generated world. In order to overcome the traditional obstacles to customer experience, a major mentality shift is required.
The inherent freedom found in Second Life provides the perfect arena for companies to make this radical change in their approach to their individual customers. What is needed in the first instance is a shift in the mindsets of organisations away from an enterprise-centric Customer Relationship Management approach which manages customers on the basis of driving maximum efficiency.
Instead, organisations need to adopt a Customer Experience Management approach which focuses the operations and processes of their business in real and virtual worlds around the needs of the individual customer.
We are still very much at the beginning of the avatar journey and mistakes will be made as brands interact more and more in virtual worlds. However there are plenty of lessons to be learnt not only from virtual world pioneers as well as mistakes made by organisations in the first wave of CRM in the real world.
Brands that take heed from previous mistakes will be able to maximise the many opportunities presented by virtual worlds and will in turn be able to build brand loyalty that bridges the two.
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