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So, Merchants...what do you love about being a Merchant?

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Job satisfaction - the rewards, the appreciation, doing something that makes hours feel like minutes, working with my partner on something we both love, making the decisions that lead to a successful business and knowing you did it.

All the things I don't get in my RL job. And the money? Well, my RL job pays me more in an hour than I make in a week in SL - but give me the week anytime.

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I customized it all in a way that allows me to maintain the OTP website (view individual pages for some of the newer products, you can see the set options--it's all done the same for older products, too, just they don't have as many options) AND my product inventory, plus the posts on Marketplace. Just all in one place, so I am never redoing stuff, or flipping windows or, the database admin's nightmare, DUPLICATING DATA. The same entries that control what shows up on the site, I can pull a drop-down (built only so that I can see it) that gives me options for updating or creating Marketplace posts, gives me all the data fields I need in one spot, separated, so I can just grab them.

I have often wondered if I should make some tweaks to this for the public to be able to use it on their own accounts (for a monthly fee, I guess?). Or maybe offer to host people's company websites, and offer my custom tool as an add-on. It used to take me HOURS to enter all new products from a set to the Marketplace/XStreet. I really LOATHED those days. It now takes me under an hour (more like 30 mins) for the "entering it all into MP" stage, and that's a 10-product set.

 

Wow great stuff. I could see it being really useful for the sort of merchants who upload new products every week.

I like the sound of the hosting package idea. Well both could work actually.

I guess the challenge in marketing it is for merchants overcome the hurdle of "stress of learning new system" vs "huge time saving in the long run".

That's something I've found with my own stuff - ppl are so busy, that learning something new is avoided unless the benefits overwhelmingly warrant it. Back when I used to do product demonstrations (which I should start up again) I found that half the crowd would buy on the spot, because they'd just learnt how to use it and that challenge was out of the way.

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I have enjoyed some of the same things about being a merchant that others have decribed - the unsolicited compliments, which I always appreciated, cashing out, and actually creating stuff. But those things are on the wane now, due to LL intentionally moving the population away from inworld stores. Because of that, the interest is gone for me, and making something new is now a rarity, so I can say that there is no longer anything I love about being a merchant.

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Oooh yes, THAT is a definite challenge, and a REALLY big selling hurdle. 

I have to remind myself a lot, even with clients, that most people don't speak "tech." And many people do become afraid of new systems. It's the same as German-speaking, though. If a person is new to speaking it, or doesn't speak it at all, but wants to learn, I need to take it slow. Though I could be thankful that, at least, the backend of their site would be familiar to many. You wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the frontend that it is (which was the point of my extreme modifications), but most merchants who already have a site are somewhat familiar with the backend.

Bigger hurdle, that I've run into in talking to others, is that the "blog" look is commonplace, even for most of the biggest merchants in SL. In my non-SL career, I've always seen that blog layouts are great for content. Not so great if you want people to explore your products on a large scale. Pretty much everything after the lastest two products (in most design cases) falls below the fold (requiring scrolling), which is a product-site design no-no. You want to give people as much as you can (in a pleasing way) without requiring them to click, search or scroll. Once they are required to DO something, follow-through drops off significantly. It's a big, big challenge to pull people away from the blog look, because it's just so common for SL businesses.

Two of my very close friends, who happen to run some of the biggest businesses in their target markets, still use the blog look. ON another level, I get it. It's easy to set up and no one has to help you do that. If you don't have my career background (which shouldn't be expected...I've just got more experience in that area), I can see why it's an appealing thing. There's been a common misconception for MANY years now that EVERYONE should know how to design a website, and everyone should know how to program all sorts of stuff. A cousin of mine actually got pretty offended when I offered to help him password-protect a portion of his site. It would have taken me five minutes. But he insisted that everyone should know how to do it, and was reading through a stack of five big tech books. His business had NOTHING to do with tech at all, though. His site was JUST to promote a totally non-tech business. I asked, why spend months learning about the inner-workings of programmed server security? He didn't even ENJOY learning about it. He just thought people were expected to know this stuff. I'd get it if he had any interest in tech, at all, but he didn't. As an afternote, I hacked his "security" in less than 2 minutes, using no fancy methods at all. I think his bigger problem was ego, really. "If I didn't do it ALL MYSELF, I WILL BE SHAMED! SHAAAAMMMED!" He didn't make his own products for what his business did. I don't understand why he felt he had to do so with a website.

Honestly, if I didn't have the background I do, the DIY blog look would have been all I could do, BUT, once it got too big, I probably would have hired someone to put together a more product-centric site. Just say to myself, "it's beyond my skillset, gonna bring in a professional." I did use a blog look for the first year, in fact, but then I hired myself again (ha ha) to bring it into a more product-centric layout.

...I talk a LOT about this subject, ha ha. You're making me think, though. Perhaps of setting up an alt. Though make it clear in the alt's profile that it is me, as I do want people to understand I've been around for awhile. But, an alt can more fully market a single business. I wouldn't ever try to market SL business sites AND vintage clothing via the same avatar, haha.

Anyway, I yak, yak yak. :D

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First time posting since the forums went all wonky on us(read 'em daily though). But figured there's no better place than here to start, right?

 

What I love about being a merchant is the opportunities I am given simply because it's Second Life. I can create anything I want to(or, well, TRY to, hehe), with minimal to no cost. I can build for others, and fulfill their dreams, wishes, and desires. I can picture something in my head and, assuming I actually finish the project, I can make it a "reality" within this virtual world.

I'm a very small time merchant, most would call me a hobbyist. I happen to hold the opinion that most business people are hobbyists, in one form or another. We certainly don't go into business doing something we hate :) I tend to not stick to any sort of theme and simply build/create whatever tickles my fancy at the time. Usually products that get added to my store(s) are ones that spawned from a build request made by someone. I tend to do more of that, than anything. I wouldn't call it customs, because it's not so much in most cases. But I really like building for other people. I suppose I specialize in whimsical nonsensical..stuff. Sometimes it has a purpose, and sometimes not.

I love getting messaged by people who've bought my wares, it doesn't even really matter what the message is about. It could be a cry for help because something broke, or I didn't explain it well enough and they couldn't quite get it to work. It could be a simple thanks, or a "would it be possible for you to...". Heck it could be a rant because they hate something I made and they want a refund right now. Granted no one likes to hear those, but without them it would be hard for a business to grow. Have to take the good with the bad, imo. There's just an element of "wow, someone noticed", you know? It's really hard to put that into words.

In real life, the only folks I have to please, are my children, lol. I think I do a fair job at that, 90% of the time, like any other parent. But in sl, I've the opportunity to reach, help, assist, whatever, so very many people. I love it. Of course I love the money too, but again I'm small potatoes. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the money, though. It would be hard to pinpint what I love the *very best, because I love all aspects of being a merchant. My creative juices flow much better when I've not got so many restrictions(ie, real life). I can do so much more in sl with that creativity. Sure I've fifty million projects I;ve never finished, or work on a little bit and then put away. I still enjoy building now, as much as I did when I first started. Perhaps even moreso, as the years progress and I sharpen my skills a little more. Maybe someday I'll be a big name in sl-heh. But right now, I'm quite content being the little fish in a great big ocean. I've got way more room to grow, to explore, to learn, than a great big fish does anyway ;)

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You know, you made me think on something that should be very important to merchants but, sadly, isn't, to many. I'm sure those of us who care enough to post thoughtfully here actually DO care about this sort of stuff, but I've run into many across the grid who just don't.

Complaints!

Sometimes, as you've all heard me rant, a customer is complaining, because that is what they do. They start out hostile, and refuse to believe that it's no one's fault, or, worse, when it really is their own fault (I try to lay that blow as gently as possible, and help with resolutions anyway).

But seriously, if a customer comes to me and tells me that something they bought has a seam that's off JUST a tad, or whatever, I run right into action. I'm very **bleep** about making sure seams line up, to start with, because I've seen some godawful alignments out there, but really, if a customer brings that to my attention, and it's verified (sometimes, it's also just on certain avatar shape settings, so that's good to know), I am SO grateful that they took the time to let me know. Instead of complaining to high heaven to everyone they know, without bothering to ask me if I'd fix it, they came to me. That helps me grow my products and helps me look out for certain issues in the future. I use a very standard avatar to design with (same as in programming: use a standard system, so you know what the end user will see), quite on purpose, but, unfortunately, if I were to account for every single avatar shape possible, I'd launch only one product a year. I do my best (and my customers tell me, it shows) to perfect alignments, but I LOVE it when someone takes the time to tell me something was off. Or if they are having trouble fitting something to their exact avatar.

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Could not agree more! There is stuff I miss that without the keen eyes of my kind customers, would not come to my attention for a much longer time -- so I am grateful, esp when they are so very nice about it. Most trust that whatever needs fixing, I will drop everything an fix right then.

The mean ugly ppl -- I wish I could prevent them from buying my stuff.

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I think some merchants take it REALLY personally if you complain about a seam. For me, it's usually, one designer to another, if I spot a very obvious seam problem, I want the designer's products to look even better, so I say something! But the designer spent hours and hours and hours on it and, sadly, the other side of that coin is that some designers get really offended if you mention it. THAT may be why a lot of customers are afraid to say something. I try to be as delicate as possible about it, but there's no approaching some people.

But seriously, to all of my customers, please say something! I spend days and days on a single release, it's true. I stare at colors, seams and wrinkles for days on end, trying to be perfect. But I'm not. It's possible to miss things!

For the first several years of my business, my good friend and I shared a workshop. We have entirely different businesses, but we're good friends. Sometimes we'd be working at the same time, sometimes not. We'd try on each other's stuff, offer advice or criticisms, where appropriate. I appreciate that from all of my customers, when it's necessary.

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I have a friend that comes and looks over a house when I finish. He looks at every prim from every angle and sends me pics of things I missed -- really a great help!

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That's so very true. I take complaints, well actual ones, a bit more lax than most do, I think. It takes a lot for me to complain about something. Mostly because I know how much likely went into creating it. But also because most creators do *not want to hear they've done something not right. I'm not real sure why merchants feel insulted. Personally for me, I am *never insulted when someone has an actual complaint. I recently got a review on one of my products from someone that was, well, entirely false. But had that person actually contacted me(or if they chose to *now contact me), or even actually stated what the issue was, I would have fixed it. I can't fix what I don't know about. That was actually the first complaint I've ever gotten like that. I've gotten people who contact me with "HELP", and similar messages though, lol. Usually it's because they rezzed something and moved it wrong(playsets for example, they need to sit a certain way for my swing script to work right), or re-textured it accidentally, or sl is just being **bleep** retentive and mucking up the performance, things like this. Easy for me to fix in most cases, but a headache when they happen for the customer I'm sure. I've helped lots of people when marketplace fails to deliver, who wants to bother with the ticket system, when it's easier for me to just hand it to them. In one instance an empty box came, really not sure how that happened at ALL.

I'm always happy to help people with things that go wrong, if they do that is. Even if they did get negative or even hostile with me, I'd likely just smile, take their words at face value and continue trying to help them as best I can. But then I have rl experience with customer service and, imo, people can be way more brutal in person. In real life you can't just click the x ;) I don't take it as a personal insult, even if someone hated my product, I wouldn't. There's no point in doing so, imo. I'll get a lot further if I simply fix what's broken, wrong, not working and do my best to keep the customer happy. I don't think I'd be able to give my all to the customer when trying to rectify the issue if I was sitting there feeling insulted.

There has only been one product since I came to sl that I have ever had an issue with and *not been satisfied with the results when I complained, though(not that I complain very often, it's a rarity). I had a pretty lengthy exchange with the creator. Several of us in his group had an issue with the exact same product(part of it being simply sl and the way it works, the rest being the way the product was created, it boasted things that it actually does not do properly). He promised a refund, which never came. That is probably the only negative review I have ever left. Now had the creator actually made a good faith effort, I would have put that in my review, and subsequent follow up-part  of it *is in there. That's really all it takes, show me you care about more than my lindens and you won't get a negative review from me. Even if you *can't refund, just tell me you can't, don't promise it and not follow through. But this person seems to have a track record I have come to find out from others with similar experiences. Such is life. Just as it's possible to run into a "bad"(if you want to use that word) customer here and there, it's possible to run into a "bad" creator here and there. This one has been my first, and only not so good experience with a creator.

Sometimes I think creators believe their products can stand on their own. Or their products are so very good that the loss of one customer means absolutely jack. Personally I think that it really doesn't matter how good your products are. If your customer service stinks, that alone will speak for you, in many ways. Bad word of mouth travels a heck of a lot faster than good.

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Tari, you are right!

Many customers just shut up because they fear confronting a merchant in case their complaints are taken defensively. If customers felt that their concerns would always be met with helpful support then they would be less likely to look for other ways to get even - like giving 1 star ratings etc. Therefore we should encourage them to contact us with complaints, and treat every complaint with respect.

The way I see it is like this - the customer is paying me money therefore the customer has a right to complain. When I get an unreasonable customer, which is very rare, I suck it up because this comes with the job. If you don't accept unpleasant customer complaints then you should find another pastime, job, hobby that doesn't involve customer service.

I really don't know why it is an issue at all when I can count on one hand the number of unreasonable customers I've had.

I get feedback (I don't call it complaints), and whenever I get feedback on a genuine problem or error I give the item free to show my appreciation.

If you are a successful merchant then you should be grateful for every single customer you get - polite or otherwise.

I often wonder how many merchants actually spent a year or two in SL before they started making money, just enjoying SL and using RL money to fund it, because some merchants just seem to have no insight into a customer's perspective. Many merchants probably came to SL with the sole purpose of making money - and so they lack the understanding.

 

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That's exactly how I feel as well. All too often merchants look at things through their merchant glasses and forget that they too, are customers, in one form or another. At some point in sl, we've all had to "pay" for something and we've all been a consumer. We've all also been new at this, that, or the other. Which is something people even nonmerchants lose sight of way too often.

That's not to say all merchants think about is money. They just lose perspective sometimes, in some cases not so sure they ever had it, lol. I try to look at everything from more than just my own pov. Even if I don't agree with the other person, it helps a heck of a lot to at least TRY and understand their pov too.

Certainly makes fixing silly mistakes people make much more fun. When I can recall instances where I too, have done the exact same, or worse, to something. Often times it ends up turning into a "ok, this is how you'd do that if you wanted to" lesson. Can't say anyone has ever been offended when I've offered advice that way. Guess they would if I put it out there in a condescending manner. Which is something that happens more often than some people seem to realize. Don't think it's always intentional, or even that the merchants realize they are doing it. But it's a big reason, imo, why people refuse to make any sort of comment-complaint or otherwise. You never know how the person will take it.

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Heheh, had to share.

Just got verbally abused by the same customer I was talking about last week.

I was very polite to her (though she seems to take EVERY instance of politeness as some weird attack). I did remove her from the list last week, as she asked. But server glitch or whatever, her name didn't come off.

So when I blasted out today, she signed on to scream at me about all of this. I explained, I did remove her, but server stuff happens, no big deal. I removed her again. She screamed about how she NEVER bought anything from me. I told her the date of what she purchased, as well as the object. She glossed over the fact that she did, in fact, have prior business with me, and went on ranting.

According to her, she's made it her JOB to abuse "spammers." Except she glossed over the fact that we had prior business. Then she told me I was crying because she was being mean to me (heh, really?).

And she just continued the verbal abuse. Goodness, people. Not everyone is out to get you. Crackpot.

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Great thread Tiffy! 

I suffer from a god complex and am addicted to the ability to wave my hands, make the earth move, the waters part and object appear right out of thin air. 

Truthfully, I am a business professional in the internet business and spend most of my day with clients, technicians and in front of a PC looking at facts and figures. For me, to create is to be able to expand my mind and use talents I don't get to use with my day job.  Simply put, I love to design and create.  Having a store feeds my ego and helps me to continue with my pursuit as it generates enough income to pay for all of my internet and computer needs including my world of warcraft play time.

Providing the ability to help others decorate their homes and businesses is a real high for me and seeing my things in someone's home or business, really excites me. 

One day my old friend Baccara Rhodes came to my store and bought a lamp.  I was jazzed for weeks because Baccara is one of the oldest residents in SL and has been a creator for many years including a partnership in a very successful home store. For her to find something I made worthy enough to be in her home reminded me of why I do this.

 

 

 

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