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Do Shop Looks Matter?


Dustine Underwood
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Disclosure: I am a store owner in Second Life, and my store has been in operation since late 2006.

I think store looks DO matter, but not in the ways you outlined.

If the products are good, and the word of mouth is there.. ANY store can succeed. The classic example is Marine Kelly's "Real Restraint" store. For years it was little more than a glorified bus-stop shelter with 3 walls, and a handfull of arrow-vendors. I point this example out, because it runs contrary to everything instinct says about a what makes a successful store.

For the most part, store looks evolve over time. People gain technical skill, a personal sense of style, and/or enough money to hire someone with those things. I've seen super rudimentary stores evolve over the years into posh, pseudo-realistic stores, and I've seen big posh realistic stores evolve into relatively simple box-shaped warehouses full of vendors.

In the end though, it's the products that matter.. and having enough prims available to support all the store's vendors, signs, and whatnot.

While a classy store can be an indicator of a successful store, it is quite possible to have a successful store that is super nooberiffic.. likewise it's possible to have a store fail that looks amazing, but is full of products that nobody wants.

I've always tried to adhere to the concept of "build the store you need"... but lately I've been wishing for something a bit smaller, and more "posh". Unfortunately, posh tends to also mean "primmy"... so we'll see. I don't know if I'll be able to manage it, but if past history has taught me anything, it's that the store itself isn't so important as making sure that what's for sale IN the store, is easy to find.

In a world with teleports and bugged vehicle crossings, location is a lot less important than it used to be. An isolated box in the sky can be just as good a store as a roadside attraction with a lovely view and landscaping. In fact, it may be better and easier to build an isolated skybox store, because at ground level, there's so many distractions.

Size is another thing.. and it goes back to the rule "build the store that you need".. namely, if you have 12 products, you don't need your own sim. Honestly I don't think a store should worry about buying it's own sim in this day and age, when it's much more desireable to open several smallish stores in General, Moderate, and Adult sims.. assuming you have enough products of those types to justify dseveral store facings.

For me, it made sense, because I have adult items (bondage furniture, fetishwear, genitals) as well as items that appeal to kids and teenagers (robot avatars, jetpacks, etc). Having a store in each land class meant that there would never be a customer turned away because they didn't have access.

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Yes and no. As Winter pointed out, shops with outstanding products will get sales, no matter what.

 But the others who sell more average products in competition with others, better beware of making their shop confusing and slow to rez. If I know I can find the same product elsewhere, like a pair of jeans, I am much less patient.

My RL income allows me to spend 20 000 L a month in SL, some times the double. That may sound like much, but in reality it equals renting a couple of movies. I do have a hard time buying the best of an gamer machine, that load SL in seconds. I simply need to use my money on other things first. My computer isn't awful, but it isn't good either.

I am the kind of customer you loose if your shop takes forever to rez. Store signs and teleporters should always have small texures that load fast. If your furniture, plants and other decorations are loaded before your signs and vendors, then you do it wrong. This is really inportant for big shops.

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Marianne Little wrote: If your furniture, plants and other decorations are loaded before your signs and vendors, then you do it wrong. This is really inportant for big shops.

To be fair.. there's not actually any way for a store owner to control which items rez first.

 

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Dustine Underwood wrote:

Does how a shop look define it? Do you leave shops that dont have a good design or layout? What is important when your out and about on shopping excursions, do color, shop size, and location REALLy make a difference?

 

everything makes a difference.

imagine you are the customer, what would you want?

quick rezzing, clear layout,  2 min build, (maybe your cusomers would like to unbox their stuff),  no fixed tp.

they are some of my criteria.

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I'll answer as a consumer first.

 

Shops with too many walls, too much decor(that are *not items being sold), and require a hefty amount of walking just to get around, lose my business. I know when shopowners hear this they often come back with "well good, I don't want lazy people as customers anyway".(which then tells me my choice was a-ok anyway, but I digress). It has nothing to do with being lazy, or that I somehow think my time is more precious than yours. It's mainly about sheer frustration. More often than not stores that are set up like this not only take forever to rez, but lag the heck out of me. Yes the lag is *mostly my fault, as it's client side and not server side. That doesn't mean I enjoy it. I expect some lag, but I also expect shopowners to take into consideration as *much as they possibly can with regard to how easy their shop is to navigate. Ginormous buildings with a ton of walls and stairs , plants, seating, decor etc...often seem more like a distraction from the products on the walls than it does a presentation of their work and ability. If you've tons of products a bigger store might be beneficial for you. If you don't, odds are you need to scale your build(s) down a bit too. You can always expand when/if needed. There are some stores I love visiting, that are huge as well. But their decor is minimal, at best, the stores are very easy to navigate and don't have a ton of different rooms. The areas that are up(or down) stairs are easy to get to and everything rezzes pretty quickly. I love stores like that. I don't mind stores that take a bit to rez, necessarily, but I do mind if the *reason for the slow rez is that the store owner took longer to "beautify" the area than they did to set up their sale items. A good shopowner will not only take *their system into consideration when building their location, but also the system of all their shoppers(as best he/she can). Catering only to those with higher end graphics is not the best solution. But I don't think we see nearly as much of that as we used to. I do leave shops that are inherently difficult to navigate, out of sheer frustration. If I really wanted something from them, I might look on marketplace to get it, otherwise I likely look somewhere else. I'm just not fond of shops that look like they tried way too hard to make it  "pretty".

 

As a shopowner I take into consideration what I am selling and who will be likely stopping by. My shop is tiny, probably always will be. It's up in the sky on a platform, with one giant wall on the back where some of the items are listed in flat, unscripted boxes. I sell a lot of breedable animals and their accessories so those items are on kiosks/stalls in the store. A lot of the sculpted decor I sell is not only used in display in one area of my store, but is listed for sale. It seems to work for me, as people can see what they're buying and just buy it right there. Plus, it works as decor too-kill two birds with one stone.

Could my shop be better? I'm sure it can, anything can always be improved upon. But because some of the items I sell I *know take a little longer for low-end systems to rez correctly I try my best to keep rez times down. I'd rather compromise my decor so people can freely shop, browse and walk around without a sea of grey. But that's just what works for me. It goes along with what I'd look for in other shops so it's something I wanted to make sure I always took into consideration. Less is often more, imo. If you have products people like and you at least put some sort of effort into your design that shows you care about those dropping in.. your atmosphere/decor won't likely make much of a difference. If it even *looks like you put more effort into atmosphere than your actual products, its likely folks will think twice about buying there. It's not too hard to overdo it in sl, especially with primmy unnecessary decor. Because it's often very well made, beautiful even. But sometimes beautiful is a bit too much and you need to scale back to nice, instead.

 

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Dustine Underwood wrote:

Does how a shop look define it? Do you leave shops that dont have a good design or layout? What is important when your out and about on shopping excursions, do color, shop size, and location REALLy make a difference?

 

Yes.

Your products will be interpreted in the light of the environment in which they are seen. A good environment can help drive a sale, a bad one can help deter a sale.

This is also true for imagry that shows off the products. Show outfits worn on models that look well shaped and textured. Consider mixing up the variety of models. Especially in terms of ethnicity. But also in terms of species - How's that going to look on a furry with digitigrade legs for example? Or on a Na'vi? Or on a Neko? Or on a human...

You can never have too much ethnic diversity in models. Its very rarely going to drive someone away. But a start lack of diversity can drive away even people of the ethnic group you use for models.

If you're not selling clothes - this is also true for gender of models that appear in product displays. In the Real World this tends to mean include more women in the imagry, in SL I'd say it means put in some men.

 

Layout of the shop is critical too. Make it easy to get around. But also don't put things together that squick their respective buyers. If I'm shopping for your garden plants, you might not want to sell those on the same wall as your 'forced XXX RP kits'... o.O (not to say you sell those lines - just by way of random clashing examples).

Make it easy for people to get around too. Let them teleport about your shop. If I want to come to you regularly to buy your do-hickeys, let me LM the spot right to your wall of do-hickeys. Don't deter a regular shopper by forcing me to land at your landing point half a sim away... :) The landing point is where your first time buyers go.

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Wildcat Furse wrote:

I am only interested in the product, not in the package......*meows*

 

Everyone believes this about themselves. But very few of us are immune to being human beings subject to human psychology. ;)

If you're one of the lucky Vulcans, grats. But you'd be pretty rare if so.

 

 

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Dustine Underwood wrote:

Does how a shop look define it? Do you leave shops that dont have a good design or layout? What is important when your out and about on shopping excursions, do color, shop size, and location REALLy make a difference?

For me, appearance is less important, but if it is badly built with texture glitches etc, I will have my doubts about the product.

 

What matters to me is availability, what is practical. For instance, a huge shop area with products spread out, and double-click tp off is not very customer friendly imo. My hands get achy and then having to run around a store is a bit of a pain. Some stores have big fancy posters and whatnot and look ever so posh, but if I have to spend time looking for the actual products, or where to find the different categories of products, I'd rather just spend my time differently.

I do appreciate shops with that extra touch in build and decore though.

Oh, and please please, don't use clothing models in freebie skins and shapes doing those old freebie poses. I sometimes come to stores that have mostly female clothing and some male stuff, and find that the female models look nice, while the male model looks like... well, a wreck. Very off-putting.

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As an avid shopper and lover of hunts, I must say, the look of a shop will or wont appeal to me for various reasons, depending on why I want to be there.

 If I am there to find something that I saw someone else wearing and have to have a look at, I want to be able to find that particular item.

 If I am there because its the latest rage, I don't want to feel like I've been lured into a trap.

And if its the type of place that I want to share with my friends and say, " This? Why, I got it at..."  I don't want them to show up there and be like, wow she really shops at trashy places.

So the answer to the questions, does how a shop look define it, is, No. Its products define it and the customer service gives it life. The way it looks depends on who is looking and why.

Do I leave shops that don't have a good layout? I enjoy exploring, but if forced to navigate my way through a maze while I am shopping for a product that I don't know that I am looking for, i.e. browsing, then I wont likely come back. Again, depends on the product.

To me its pretty much like how you see on TV in RL, prestige, feeling important, or just having a pleasant experience.

Wow. I hope that didn't come out sounding all snobbish, I'm just giving my perspective from a shoppers point of view. I totally respect the effort in designing and decorating that a shop owner puts into their store, and like everything else I suppose, taste is subjective.

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I think a good shop are the ones with partitions in it. I'm not sure if anyone notice the difference but I find textures loads faster if my point of view is somehow blocked by a wall. Probably that's because my viewer isn't trying to load thousands of textures (or 'compute' the next avatar near you) at the same time.

I like a shop that is illuminated nicely. Bright enough for me to see what's on the wall.

It is always a plus if I could see an avatar using/wearing the products I'm about to buy. Sometimes I looked at certain furniture of tools and I wonder how it is used. Definitely a must if you are in the sex business.

Live models ... in RL I prefer to be left alone by the shopkeepers or assistants unless I summoned for their help. A talking model un-nerves me in SL. I really don't like my name to be announced in the public no matter how friendly it may seem.

Ditto with Loren on the male model... if you have a male model that looked as if he was made in 2006, it will probably imply that your product is outdated. Think the Kabuki guy male model... or if anyone can still remember Sextan Shepherd, I think he's got the best looking male avatar in SL as far as I can remember. Not only he sells products but his attention to his avatar tells you how detailed he is in his creations.

But I also am with Wildcat in general... sometimes you can have the best shop but a lousy products. Too many things going on at the same time will distract you sometimes.

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If the shopping experience is comfortable and pleasant then of course I will stay around longer.  I will say one thing I see often and it always gives me pause are stores with lines of products on the walls, or rather in front of them, on them, in them, rotated in some slight angles all looking proper as long as you are standing in one spot.  but looking down the length of the wall they are just haphazardly scattered along the way.  It makes me wonder about that builders attention to detail. If they can not take the time to line the products up neatly against the wall should I even expect the shirt seams to match up? 

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Not only that, but the mouth owner in the "word of mouth" phrase (freind, review on blog, or random person you edit the goods of) might really have been influenced. Maybe you are influenced by this person, some things are hard to quantify as "good" or "bad", so you point here is actually deeper when you explore it. I mean, we do not get to know something exists sometimes unless via word of mouth or seeing it in use somewhere.

Advertising is easy to avoid and we can fly around and explore with no need for directions.  A quick LM from a freind or a profile view from a edited object and we can be in another place. No need to keep up with trends in magazines, no worry about failing products hurting us and the items don't cost hundreds or thousands, so non need for consumer watchdog style reviews in magazines and newspapers.

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Of course it matters.

I hate shopping, I don't visit shops unless I have to.

But when I visit a sim and find shops on my way that appeal to me from the outside, I may pop in.

If I am actually looking for a certain item I may be tempted to look around a bit more if the shop looks nice and functional.

But when I am looking for someone and the shop has way too many items, is hard to navigate, is killing me with lag or just looks horrible, I'll eventually just leave, if need be without the item.

And I've just visited a roleplay sim but was so put off by the mall where I arived, with all the horrible stuff, that I decided to leave pretty soon.

In short; a customer should be able to find what they are looking for fast and easy.

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I dont often get time to browse, Im always on a mission...so when I do find some spare minutes to shop for myself and not for the blog..I love the whole "experience". I find the japanese sims to be very appealing and also functional. Beautifully built and arranged , simple but gorgeously landscaped.

I will often leave a store if its overly large and Im not landing by a teleport system...if your store is huge...please land me someplace I can tp to the dept Im after.

I will tolerate lag & slow to rez areas IF I know what I want is there..I do research a little on the market place and then go visit the store..if Im merely browsing or window shopping and its a lag fest & grey..I will leave.

Yes, for me what the store looks like really matters. It doesnt have to be fancy or plush..but nicely laid out..brightly lit..and well executed. Like others have mentioned before,if the store doesnt look well cared for / maintained, are the items any good?

Overly photoshopped photos of the items dont lure me..I just wonder what your hiding with the blur & glow on high.

I do like to see clothing on live models...I dont like my entrance broadcast ...or feel I need to respond  to a welcome when Im having a little "me time".

 

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I think that a look is a matter of taste. All what counts is a good layout. I did see shops where the shopowner nails jeans, shoes and heads on one wall with picture prims. On the other hands I´ve seen shops where is a great layout with sections and labels "Shoe Section"... and so on.To have this good layout so that a customer can find easily what they are looking for. That is importend!

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Willow Danube wrote:

I think a good shop are the ones with partitions in it. I'm not sure if anyone notice the difference but I find textures loads faster if my point of view is somehow blocked by a wall. Probably that's because my viewer isn't trying to load thousands of textures (or 'compute' the next avatar near you) at the same time.

 

 

You're right. I've researched proven ways to reduce lag in SL, especially in stores and this is one of the ways to do it. By putting up partitions to seperate items or display them, you are giving the computer a chance ot focus on one set of items in front of you, so it doesn't have to load everything behind it. Stores that are one large box with stuff lining the walls seem to be laggier because your computer is working hard to load everything on said wall and you're surrounding view. A good way to combat lag in in a store that does not have partitions is to focus on the wall you want to start with, zoom close so you can see a few of the items displayed, and then move your camera from one end to the next to view everything else. You can cam up floors as well and do the same thing, all while standing in one place. 


A store should reflect the items being sold in one way or another. If you sell grunge or goth clothing, I'd expect the store to be dark and gloomy, not super modern with asain architecture. I think the way the store is set up says a lot about the products being sold. If the look of the store and the products contradict eachother, I have a hard time believeing products are genuinely inspired. It is definelty ok to be simple and leave decor to a minimum, but you can still reflect your theme of products with the build and textures on the walls. A lot can be said for a low prim store with great texturing. Not only will the themes be believeable, but the shopper experience will be satisfactory when they don't have to spend ten minutes walking around to rezz excessive furniture, sitting areas, plants, etc. 

Think about it, how less anxiety do you have in RL in a store that is clutter free compared to a store that is buzzing with boxes and stacks and stacks of random items? This rule also applies to SL, and even more so, as in RL we don't have to "Rezz" items to see them, but in SL we sure do. You never know the graphics limitations of your customers, so it is best to keep things simple yet artistic. Easier said then done : ) especially considering the plethera of amazing items in Second Life one could decorate with.


 

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I'm glad to read this thread because I've also started setting up a small shop of my own, rather than just renting shop space, being limited in my prim use, & having to pay rent whether I sell anything or not. I was lucky to have unused tier in my land group, so owning another lot will only cost me the Show In Search fee & whatever advertising I do.

Since I enjoy landscaping & decorating, I'm using a few 1 prim plants to create an over-grown garden around a small low-prim building. (My theme is Sleeping Beauty's castle, since my shop name is Briar Rose.) The garden area gives me a place for larger & outdoor items. I might use it for a few No Copy yardsale items too.  Inside the building is for furniture. Copies of the building are for sale if anyone wants it. - I love the idea of the decor being for sale whenever possible, though my plants are my own & not for sale.

I like to give away freebies, but I'm going to have most of them inside only a couple 1 prim objects.  I'm tyring to make my prims count as much as possible.

The traffic in the region seems good so far. Even unfiinished & undadvertised, I've sold a couple items already. 8-)  

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No, but I can take a guess that the TP board had a large texure when I zoom in on it and reduce draw distance to a minimum. Still it was loaded after the potted plants around it and the floor texture.  I learnt early that things close to me rez faster when I reduce draw distance, and also that clicking on things make them load faster. I can also get the name of the item up that way. Can be useful to name your Teleport board  "Teleport" and Store map "Store map" instead of "Object".

Same goes for malls and sims with a fixed TP point. Your shop name should be easy to read from a distance. Try in RL when you design your store sign, stand up and walk a bit from the computer. Then look at the screen. Can you read the writing?

Time is really the issue here. I started to shop more from the Marketplace, just so I can reduce the time spent on looking around. It is nice to do shopping and exploring in beautiful sims, but in a limited amount of time it is just stressful.

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For me it does...the shop need not be elaborate but it must be well designed.  I first assume the products sold will be of same quality as the shop; if a shop looks horrid I often dont even wait until the products rez. I have seen bad products in nice looking shops...the shops have been built by someone else.

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Dustine Underwood wrote:

Does how a shop look define it? Do you leave shops that dont have a good design or layout? What is important when your out and about on shopping excursions, do color, shop size, and location REALLy make a difference?

 

If it takes too long to rez, I usually go. If it's too huge and the owner has disabled flying, I usually go. If it's too hard to navigate up and down its floors, I sometimes go. I'm not really a fashionista anyway - finding all the pieces to an outfit is too time consuming and expensive. But I might represent the average shopper.

 

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There are a couple of things I hate... I don't like being bombarded with offers to join the group, take a landmark, read a notecard.  There was one store I really liked to shop at but when you first arrived the landing area was small, crowded with signs, avatars and worst of all.... PARTICLES!!  It would take forever for things to rez and meanwhile you were being bumped constantly by arriving shoppers.  I finally sent an IM to the owner and she actually made some changes that make the arrival far more pleasant. I dislike it when the first thing I see are multiple warnings/disclaimers about permissions, theft, mis-deliveries etc.  Some stores seem downright unfriendly!

I like having a large, obvious teleporter so I can get to what I am looking for quickly and I like it when new items are displayed prominently near the landing area or front of the store.  I also wish that vendors would name their signs so if I mouse over them before they rez it would say "SHOES sign" or the name of the store (if i am in a mall).  It seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for the signs to rez.

eta: I also hate stores that are very dark... a medium grey floor would be better than pitch black (same for walls etc.)

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