Effective Product Images

effectiveimagesThe manner in which one displays and showcases products is extremely important. Potential customers and visitors may or may not be able to view a rezzed version of the product in-world, so the type of imaging used will make a tremendous difference. Taking a few things into consideration will help make sure that the product images are always making the best impact.

To ensure one is using the best product images, one might consider taking the extra step of hiring a professional photographer. While it might be an expensive initial cost, it can be well worth it. Even better is finding a photographer who is just starting out that can do the work at a fraction of the cost or willing to help in exchange for free items to build up their portfolio. Professional photographs for product images can make a tremendous difference.

If a professional photographer does not fit into the allocated budget, one can still get effective product images as long as the right techniques are used. Take the time to look at how other products are displayed for inspiration to recreate similar effects being careful not to copy their exact design and style. In addition, take the initiative to go the extra mile to photograph products from multiple angles in order to offer a variety of views to prospects.

Proper planning, professional pictures and an eye for what will draw in customers will be the best way to utilize effective product images.

Product End Of Life Issues

productendoflifeEvery product sold has a life cycle of support. For some products, it can be much shorter than others. For instance, some scripted objects such as proximity sensors, resizers, communication tasks, and others can have a life cycle that is limited as a result of new scripting functions being made available.

Typically, there will be a successor product that one will try to steer customers into that replaces functionality with improved efficiency. However, there is always the problem of maintaining older versions of a product that is still being used by an existing loyal customer base. Ways to support older products, at least for a period of time, might require occasionally releasing bug fixes to adapt to a new environment.

Nobody wants to support an older product because they usually are not generating any new cash flow into a business, so they are a drag on the bottom line unless the product’s existing business model includes reoccurring revenue. Some businesses direct customers to a web site or pass out note-cards that has all of the pertinent information and then provide an upgrade path for users to obtain new versions at a discount or sometimes even for free.  For many businesses, the expense of supporting existing products whose life cycle has ended can be quite costly. The number of customers who are using an outdated product will dwindle over time as more and more of them switch to the latest technology.

Writing Effective Product Manuals

productmanualsIt goes without saying that the right amount of research is required when trying to put together helpful user manuals. Take the time to make sure that all of the documentation is accurate and if possible have another set of eyes double-check the work, preferably someone that isn’t as familiar with the product as the creator is. In addition, it will also be extremely beneficial to find out all of the various ways that customers might use the product so that all proper scenarios are covered should there be a need to troubleshoot.

Make sure when writing product manuals that the structure or base of the manual is outlined first. Then begin filling in all of the pertinent information for each step of the way. If at all possible, it will help a great deal to include pictures or textures along with the instruction process. Many like to work in a visual manner, so having the added pictures or textures will help them there are questions.

While there are a number of avatars that manual writing could be outsourced to, writing product manuals as an in-house project might be more cost effective. This way one really has the most control over the layout and how the information reads to customers. In the end, writing product manuals can be a great way to give customers the quality information that they need in regards to products.

Let Customers Give You Feedback

click2leavefeedbackCustomer satisfaction is a factor that can make or break a business. Satisfied customers can potentially recommend products and services to others and become repeat customers. On the other hand, dissatisfied customers may never or rarely provide repeat business, and might even tell others about their dissatisfaction. This is why to alleviate things that irritate your customer, one should solicit product feedback.

The need to identify the areas customers may be having a less than satisfying experience is very important. How satisfied customers are with a particular physical characteristics such as functionality, prims, script load, and aesthetics of the product that they purchased? Identify the functionality that the product provides and have customers rate each aspect of its functionality separately on an even-numbered scale so that there is no neutral option available. Some businesses will create a notecard with a series of check-off boxes in it for this purpose, others might use an in-world survey kiosk or a web site.

Soliciting product feedback when the product you require feedback on is not really a physical product, but instead customer service and support offerings, is not quite as straightforward. One must examine sales and service to identify areas where customers may be experiencing a degree of dissatisfaction. It is difficult to ask open ended questions to identify these areas from customers, since most customers will not take the time to answer open ended questions, even though this type of information is the most useful form of feedback for a business.

Business Advantages to Holiday Planning

holidaydecorIntegration of the various holidays that occur throughout the year can benefit a business in many ways. Recognizing that many customers are looking for specific holiday themed merchandise can draw prospects toward your products and once they are in the door or visiting your web site additional interactions either directly or indirectly (such as through social media) will commence. Bundling related products together and offering seasonally-colored merchandise makes it easy to target holiday shoppers who are ready to purchase such items at an impulse.

Planning for an upcoming holiday should start a few months in advance so that appropriate merchandise can be created, decorations can chosen, and prospective customers know that you are recognizing their interests. The specific holidays that you participate in will depend on the demographics that you are trying to appease. Some holidays are specific to religion (i.e. Christmas) while others are regional specific (i.e. Fourth of July in the United States). There are even specific shopping events surrounding some holidays (i.e. “Black Friday” for in-person store visits and “Cyber Monday” for online purchases). However, be aware that advertising too far in advance of a holiday can be a turn-off for some customers.

Finally, when it comes to decorations for a holiday one will want to keep it new and fresh rather than rezzing out the same old decorations year after year (some of which might be utilizing inefficient scripts that does not take advantage of the new mono LSL scripting).  Also be sure to establish a budget and stick to it when shopping for new festive decorations to ensure the business maintains a profit that still covers tier and marketing otherwise any additional sales as a result of the holiday will become a burden rather than a benefit.

Taking a closer look at Business Strategy and Competitors

forumsWriting a business strategy and marketing plan is not required in order to start a new business, however it will challenge you to answer important questions regarding every aspect of your business. The business strategy should provide, at minimum, both short-term and long term goals and can be used as a blueprint when making decision during the course of business. One of the most challenging, yet very important, areas of the plan to investigate is potential competition. Such investigations of competitors may include lessons learned from failed competitors from the past, current competition, as well potential competition in the future should a non-competitor decide to expand their business into your market.

Many consumers will compare competitive products on price alone, therefore your marketing strategy should also determine it’s pricing position. The three common pricing methods are undercutting, matching, and premium. Undercutting the competition by pricing your products at a lower price has the potential of increasing market share, but could also suggest to potential customers that your products are cheap and low quality. Matching prices set by the competition requires including a similar feature set as other’s products, however it can be very difficult to stand out and gain market share if you are both selling the same similarly-priced quality items. Premium pricing allows you to stand out from the competition by highlighting exclusive features and an impression of high quality, however due to the higher price the competition might gain a higher market share in the short term.

Every business is unique in how they include social marketing in their long term e-business strategy, however the general goal is to increase interactions with both customers and prospects. Potential prospects will want to submit inquiries about available products including how they compare to the competition. Existing customers will have support inquiries on how to best utilize their recent purchase to benefit them and/or will request new features to be added based on advertisements received from your competition. It is important to reply to these inquiries and monitor review boards and discussion forums for communications between customers and prospects. Fortunately, many product review places allow a follow-up reply to be posted for all to see as a demonstration that the business owner cares about their customers.

Considerations when Setting a Price

priceconsiderEstablishing the selling price of an item requires research into environmental factors in order to support the final decision. Such research identifies which customer base to target and further determines what are the expectations of those customers at different price levels. The current status of the economy can affect this too because if the economy is on the upswing then prices might be tolerated at the high end , conversely if the economy is in or recovering from a recession prices are likely to be at the low end since customers are likely cutting back.

Sales promotions such as discounts and coupons may result in a quick sale or two, however they should be reserved for products at either the beginning or the end of their existence. Once the standard price is determined utilizing a lower “introductory” price for a limited time period after product release is reasonable as long as the limited time period is honored resulting in a higher price later. Another benefit of offering a product at the lower price is it increases market share for the sell against competitors. At the opposite end of a product existence are “close out” sales which in the real world the purpose is to sell remaining stock and free up shelf space while in the virtual world it generally means the product will no longer be offered for sale through an automated vendor or web site. However, nothing prevents the content creator from selling virtual goods on a case-by-case basis upon request unless the creator closes their account and no longer logs into the virtual world.

Premium product pricing, on the other hand, can project value to the prospective end user if it is apparent that the post-sales service and support of the product is better than the rest. This is similar to generic versus name-brand products in a grocery store. For example, some who have worked in the hot dog industry have revealed that the same exact product is being packaged with a generic name on the outside as are the name-brand and yet the former sells for a much lower price than the latter. The latter benefiting from their established brand name and service justifies the higher pricing. Another example is in the computer industry in that while you can buy a computer from a competitively priced small business at the local strip mall that is only open specific hours and closed on the weekend, there are also similarly-equipped computers selling for much more that make available a dedicated 24/7 toll-free call center staffed with knowledgeable service technicians held to strict performance metrics.

Unlike products resold in the real world, merchandise sold within the virtual world are generally only available from the creator themselves. While it’s true that some creators allow franchise stores and others to rez an affiliate vendor the price is generally locked and the commission structure is usually at a fixed rate. Some items sold in the virtual world can be manufactured from supplies offered by the creator and then a levelling system is used to determine the cost-of-goods. Those who have higher experience at manufacturing have the advantage of having a lower cost and therefore can offer the final product at a reduced price.