Saturday, January 8, 2011

do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?

Ideally, anyone motivated should click over to the blog entry in question, and take the time to read through the comments, because the comments are really the reason to read that entry in the first place.

But I did want to step forward and air a few things for the counter-argument.

I do believe the grid is oversaturated with ways to get things cheaply. Four years ago it was difficult to get quality free items; now, a stroll through everyone's inventory library is good enough to get acceptable, decent things, let alone crawling the grid for free items from actual stores. There's been a lot of water under the bridge from SLBoutique (which worked) to SL Marketplace (which doesn't), but it's gradually getting easier to search, and as of now I see no difference in the free policy stated a year ago--and never implemented--and the free policy implemented currently.

I also believe there are too many special sale days. I agree--when you have a standard week and every single day, practically, has a dedicated blog, and sale group, and a double handful of makers striving to be noticed on that's gotten out of hand. It used to be every three months there would be a big grid-wide hunt. Now there's six launching every week, thirty each month, hundreds each year.

But what's the big thing you're hearing me say in these few paragraphs? "Used to be". Why, the time was, you could walk around in a freebie skin and a t-shirt and no one cared, because everyone looked the same...

Yeah. Four years ago. Four years ago the grid was a lot different. Four years ago we never had more than 35,000 people on the grid. Now that means the grid's having trouble and there's rarely ever a day goes by without more than 50,000 logging in.

So let me speak to this on both a consumer's, and a maker's, level. Because some of us, we're both, so we see both sides.

1. Saturation.

The grid is saturated right now. Everyone walks in a new store and looks for freebies on the floor, on the counter, on the wall near the entrance. The initial scan--far beyond Is there anything good here? is Lemme see the freebies.

Why is this a good thing? First, separate out what's good and bad about it. Yes, you know people will return to your shop if you put out new free items every week, but forget that. Change them when you want to. Really proud of one outfit? Put it out in a specific color. Really proud of one outfit and don't want to make one free? Put out a set of stockings, gloves, shoes, or a hat; hells, even a hair flower, whatever, to go with that item. Some folks will come for the item; some will come for the item, and pick up the outfit. You control the access, not your customers.

Not only that, but some folks put out entirely unrelated things--like the bath and shower place I ran across one year that had a free blue chair. It was their first sculpt, and they were proud of it; but their entire work to date involved water: in-ground pools, hot tubs, showers, bathtubs. It was a departure, and, as far as I know, something they never continued with. But it was still a cool freebie.

Don't be afraid to make things that reflect things your store doesn't normally make. You may be interested in pushing the business that way. We may be interested, as customers, in seeing what else you can do.

2. The dreaded hunt.

Yes, grid-wides really are the bane of the grid right now, and far too many stores are getting involved with nineteen hunts every month, hoping that this will encourage folks to buy their products. Quick tip: it won't. No hunt in the universe will make a sale unless someone's really curious about what you do.

So how can they help? Tailor the hunts you pick to your business. Pick up hunts where the majority of your store's goods fit the hunt theme perfectly; that suits you two-fold, both making it easier to make hunt prizes, and letting people look around and see what you have while they're already thinking of the hunt theme.

Listen, we're hunters, we're scavengers, we'll go on hunts that interest us-with an even twenty to thirty hunts starting every single month, now, we can pick and choose. And most of us, with that many, want to know in advance that what we're hunting for isn't going to be something we'll just turn around and throw out.

So you want in on this mobile, omnivorous horde. Fine. But if your business is flowers and wedding displays, don't join the Twisted hunt. If all you make is demonic toys, don't join a hunt where the other ninety-nine businesses are kid-safe. Some things just don't make sense.

Still, hunts can be good things, even with the glut of them on the grid. If you match your business to the hunt, and place new items next to the hunt sign, or to the hunt item, this can breathe life and currency into your business like little else.

But we're likely just going to ignore you if you have sixteen hunt signs, every single week. *coughs* Like Michigan's Shack *coughs again*

3. Discount days.

I understand that deliberately devaluing your goods just encourages people to be cheap. Trust me, I get that. But by the same token, you don't want to be in a mindset where you know you're only getting L$25, or L$50, or L$69 for any given item, so what does it matter how well it's built?

It matters. Trust me. But here's the catch: again, you need to be in line with the concepts of the discount day. Some of them--like the Sixty-Linden Weekends, f'rinstance--can be anything. There are no quality or quantity standards. It's just a weekend of lowered-cost items, and that's fine. But groups like 25LT, they've got to be Gorean items, or items that can be easily adapted to Gorean play. I will say I am proudly on the 25LT subscription list, and not because I'm only going to pay so much for things. That's not it at all. I have found a ton of stores I really, really like--and go back and buy things full-price from--and I wouldn't have found them if I hadn't been on that list.

Treasured Cove Sculpties, for instance. I never would have known they existed had it not been for 25LT. Last October I ran a scavenger hunt through my haunted house and all the pumpkins I made--both for hunt objects and decor--came from Treasured Cove, from sculpts to final textures.

Or take the case of people new to the Gor lands, who maybe don't have a ton of Lindens--having smart camisks, smart bondwench outfits, for cheap doesn't hurt the makers of more expensive outfits--because women will save for beauty, at any price.

It's only harmful if it's treated as the norm. Right now, it's not. Right now, it's still a handful of stores, and most of them are doing one or two of these--the occasional hunt, the chosen day. But keep in mind, right now, the grid is a highly competitive place. And, as with any economy, the market will bear what the consumers will, not what the designers will. If a designer can survive asking L$600 or more per outfit--and some do--then do they really need specials and sales? By the same extent, if a merchant is involved in every discount day there is and nineteen hunts on the side, that's the mark of a bad merchant, not a bad system.

In the meantime, a new lingerie store has opened. It's called Voluptia, and they make rather nice after-hours numbers. I had a goal--I heard tales of new seamed stockings--so that's all I went in for, but...well, look:


See why I walked out with a sacrificed group slot? They're just stockings, but they're wonderfully well-done. There's a bit of pattern unevenness on the very top, but I'm starting to think that's really a flaw of the template and mesh, not the maker, because just about everyone has done this at certain lengths. Beyond that, they're flawless, give a great impression of being sheer black silk, and the curving flower/vine "seam" is executed brilliantly.

(Plus, handy tip--I would have joined anyway, but after I joined, I discovered that if you join before Friday, January 14th, LadyVanir Dragovar will send you a gift voucher on the 15th in appreciation. I am more than willing to be so appreciated.)


Serenity Semple said...

Right on with this post Emi! I liked the original one you linked to, but I felt it was a bit one sided. I enjoyed how you presented both sides of the coin in this. Especially LOVED the bit about proper stores joining the right hunts. Since I organized 2 hunts of my own, I know how important it is to try and get them to fit a theme. Yet with hunts I think it surprised a lot of creators when I went to them and asked. Usually hunt organizers want just people to come to them, or just offer the same stores over and over again in repeat hunts. Yes, I'm talking about Sour Pickles or whatever that store is who organizes a hunt almost every month and it's usually not that well done. You know me, I used to do every hunt all the way through when I had the chance - back in the day. Now it's too much with too little effort. If you're going to be in a hunt, put forth effort or step out. It's so frusterating to the people who still do hunts to endure a store just putting forth things that don't represent them and is plain garbage material. That will make me specifically not go to a store, so hunts can have adverse reactions - which some still don't realize.

On the sales things, I think naturally there's too many going on but I have seen some neat things come forth from them - so I can't complain too much. I know I'm an oddball when as a furry, I'm always checking out the gorean sale days. Why? Generally their stuff is overpriced but it comes down during sale days. I think I'm more prone to buy during those days BECAUSE they become more reasonable. Would I buy from them if they generally lowered their prices? Yes! Definitely would! Ah well, rambled too much again. XD Thanks for a great post.

Fogwoman Gray said...

I would like to chime in as a different sort of customer. I don't do hunts and don't have a lot of time to shop.
With search being pretty useless, I typically start *sigh* at the Marketplace. It is frustrating, but I can do preliminary leg work while doing other SL stuff.
So I discover your store has what I need - I already know what I am going there for.
Help me find it. I enter your store (where I generally ignore your freebies tbh) with a goal to find the item I have seen you carry.
I am presented with dozens of signs that have to rez, only to discover umpteen hunt signs, several group signups, and often huge posters all over the store that have nothing to do with content nearby.
Despite what offline retailers claim, making me wander through your entire store searching for the item I am seeking will not make me buy a bunch of your stuff.
When I get frustrated searching (especially if you have vendors with dozens of different items I have to scroll through) I look back on Marketplace and go to the next place that looks hopeful.
Just my feedback, and I am likely not a typical shopper.
BTW this applies as much to builders supplies and landscaping as it does to frocks and shoes.

Emilly Orr said...


See, I can't really argue with that--that's part of why I finally gave in and joined Curious Kitties. I can only afford her stuph on rare occasions, but if I can get the inside track on sales, and group-only benefits, I'll be much more likely to spend more at her shop.

I'm not Gorean, either, but I admit, there's a lot of makers on 25LT that sell pieces I can use with other designers' work (oddly, mostly Bare Rose and Kouse's Sanctum gear), and I've quickly learned which makers I can always rely on, and which I can ignore if I don't have the time.

That sounds callous, but seriously--between working in-world, running my own business, blogging, and trying to jump-start the writing career have a real life away from the grid...damn, there just aren't enough hours in the day.

Emilly Orr said...

Lady Fogwoman,

Actually, that's an excellent point. I think of this as the Organica/Botanical controversy.

Don't mistake me; both are gorgeous builds, both are well worth wandering around. But Aki's build a sprawling plane that can be easily traversed by walking, hovering or flying, and she works in several distinct zones that are both easily identifiable at all distances, and easily understood--small plants and decor pieces in the house; the floating mountains float; the trees are at ground level. Simple, right?

Botanical is also laid out in (somewhat less easily understood) zones, but there's so much there at this point that it's become chaotic, the land positively overburdened with prolific virtual life. And while it's beautiful to stroll, and great for photo ops (as long as you have your own poses), if you want to easily find something? It's near to impossible unless it's new, because new items are *always* near the bridge.

Two different ways to do business. Bare Rose does things the Botanical way--throw everything at you at once (but with an excellent external search engine to help you along), and in really large quantities, while someone like Raudf Fox does things the Organica fashion at her DiamonX Studios. She's had the same basic layout for years, now, and while she makes new pieces, and premieres new pieces, she fits them in within the rest of her business, and manages to keep things clean and simple.

As I said, neither's wrong, per se; but folks relying on quantity for their sales are discovering, if they get involved in a lot of hunts, that they're going to lose business in the long run. It's just too much trouble to rez things in and wait around.

Shockwave said...

I dunno. Maybe I'm an oddball, or just merely a male. But when I shop I go in to get what I want to get and maybe scout the place a bit to note what's there for future needs. I don't look for the freebies because they don't pay the story tier, I won't be around (probably) on the discount day, and hunts don't interest me in the slightest. Get in, get shirt, get going.

Emilly Orr said...

Fair, but by that same extension, I'm sure it bugs you to go to check out a new store and have to wait ten minutes for all the hunt signs, hint givers, group boards and the like to rez in. When all you want to do is get in, find your item, buy it and leave, that's irritating too.