Back in October, I sat with dropped jaw (as I usually do when listening to a master of virtual worlds) at the Virtual Worlds 2007 San Jose conference and listened to Sibley Verbeck speak about the impact that virtual worlds could have on the state of eCommerce. I had listened to Sibley speak at the prior Virtual Worlds conference where he postulated about the power that virtual worlds could play in the entertainment space, and he was spot on (see Virtual MTV)
But eCommerce... for adults, no less?
Verbeck said the following:
“A lot of the business models haven’t even been experimented with yet,” he explained. “With the right technology, a lot of the consumer experience for ecommerce could be at least as good if not better than shopping on the Web. I think the time will come, and I don’t know when, when most consumer ecommerce is done in virtual worlds. But I don’t see anyone really doing that.”
(taken from Virtual World News)
I was intrigued...very intrigued and have begun my exploration.
The first thing that comes to mind is Peter Morville's Ambient Findability . Unfortunately I am at the office at the moment and do not have a copy of the text, but I recall a portion of the book where Morville speaks about the fact that it is inefficient to make people travel from one place to another on the web, when hyperlinks serve as instant teleports (unless someone sees this post and finds the specific section where Morville speaks about virtual worlds, I will be sure to follow up and cite a specific passage). I see this as one of the major challenges that virtual world designers will have when creating 3D ecommerce experiences.
There are many other challenges they will face, but that is a discussion for another day (or potentially the comment section of this blog).
So what are the benefits of 3D eCommerce?
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of virtual worlds, and that I do in fact feel there is a future in 3D commerce. There are a tremendous number of social ramifications inherent in immersive 3D environments. Furthermore, there are spatial elements that can be leveraged for various aspects of decor and fashion that could not be achieved in a flat space, but after playing with Kinset this morning, I felt much less bullish on the prospect of virtual world commerce happening any time soon (although I am going to attempt to be a part of the solution if possible: more to come on that later, I hope).
I had heard about Kinset's 3D shopping platform a while back. I was on the road and installed it, but the install took so long that I did not open it. In fact, I did not revisit until today when I saw a press release talking about Brookstone's efforts in Kinset on Cyber Monday. After reading this press release, I felt like I had felt after reading so many press releases from PR hungry brands entering Second Life.
Still, I entered Kinset and began to shop, and the experience was very impressive...for a virtual world geek!
I thought to myself, as an average consumer, would I ever do this? Of course not!
In fact, this experience is far more complicated than anything I can do on the web so why bother.
I Love Experimentation
Okay, I was a bit harsh on Kinset. The fact is, I love experimentation and I love the people pushing the envelope for the rest of us, but I am heavily engrained in the eCommerce space (at my agency) and I feel it would be a disservice not to offer some criticism.
Why would someone shop in this space if there are no enhanced renderings of the object in the shop?
- Use Multimedia to display uses of the product while displaying a 3D rendering
- If one of the value propositions of 3D virtual shops is social, have someone in the shopping ready to help
- Surprise and Delight. Show people entertaining things that could not happen in the real world. Make the shopping experience a really enjoyable one.
There is so much more that could be done in this space, I cannot wait to see some of it!