Take One Moment to Consider Perceived Quality

parcelsettingsThe perception of how much effort is used to create a quality store environment can affect whether prospective visitors turn into a paying customer or whether they teleport away never to be seen again. Three of the factors that may apply to store quality include the arrangement of prims (i.e. textures, sizes, and organization) in the store, information visible on signs (i.e. pop-up notices and store policies), as well as parcel settings (i.e. name, media, restrictions).

The arrangement of prims can set the tone of the store depending on whether they appear to be rezzed in an organized fashion or scattered around the store at odd angles. Textures used in the store should be something other than the default of plywood and plain at a high enough resolution to show details, but not so high that it takes a long time for the texture to come into view. Alpha textures can be viewed from all angles to ensure there are no glitches and non-alpha textures at the same level overlap with each other resulting in the viewer randomly toggling between the two (sometimes referred to as flickering).

The purpose of signs in a store is to be informational without being too intrusive meaning landmarks and notecards are to be offered to the visitor only once, not every time they happen to walk into the sensor area. Store policies such as return, custom orders, post-sale support, and gifting options need to be clearly visible and available. Finally, any vendors that dispense a product needs to include not only the price of the item, but also the number of prims required and permissions allowed.

Parcel settings can either enhance the shopping experience or hinder it. For example, if the parcel is set to no-scripts then the chances of lag affecting avatars is minimized, but setting no-scripts might also disallow visitors from using their favorite HUD. Media settings such as music and sounds cannot conflict with each other, if there are sounds that you want the visitor to hear then a music stream playing at the same time may result in them not hearing the intended sound. Finally, the name of the parcel and description should be informative enough so that if the visitor decides to create their own landmark (rather than accepting yours) it will be informative when they are looking through their inventory window later.

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Making the Most of a Themed Location

themeareaThe purpose of theming a location is a form of multi-sensory marketing intended for the visitor to potentially leave their every day own world behind without having to travel very far. Examples of themed areas might be indoors (i.e. a dance club featuring pirates and ships or a performance area such as a stage telling a story), outdoors (i.e. oversized plants in an amusement park that reduces the relative size of tourists to ants), and even underwater (i.e. a submarine ride that passes by sharks and tallking fish) through the use of music, lighting, props, and smells.

The tempo of the music and sound effects can set the mood of a themed area such as ghostly sounds in a cemetery scene or whimsical tunes in a cartoon area. Colored lights can also contribute towards the sensory experience which is the case when lightning strikes appear randomly in front of the visitor while drops of water fall onto them to simulate a rain storm. Finally, props are the most common elements of a themed area and are most effective when they are unique and memorable only at that particular location. Props should be time-period consistent with the intended theme and contribute towards telling the story without overwhelming the visitor nor saturating the area.

The use of props should enhance the intended focus of the area and not detract from it such as the case when large props improperly positioned or are overlapping each other. Questions such as why a particular prop is being used should be asked throughout the setup and/or performance time to determine whether that particular prop is really needed. Observation of the initial visitors are key in determining the effectiveness of a prop as their visit time and actions (i.e. are they distracted with personal tasks such as instant messaging with others or interacting with the props) should provide sufficient clues whether the excess or lack of proper theming has occurred.

What’s the Catch when it comes to “Best in…” Contests?

In an effort to attract visitors some venues and business areas, such as a mall, have a dance area with a live host and either a live DJ or a streaming radio station that hold “Best of… ” contests. These contests invite visitors to wear outfits that fit a specific theme similar to costume contests in the real world during the month of October. The contest has a specific starting and ending time and the rules tend to be fairly loose in that a themed outfit may either be created by wearer or obtained elsewhere. It is not uncommon for pictures to be taken during these events and posted onto a nearby wall as a memory of the event.

The incentive for visitors to attend such events typically includes a cash payout to the winner(s) of the contest. Some hosts will collect the votes manually via instant message or notecards while other hosts will utilize a scripted voting board where participants can both register to be voted on or they may vote for others. Throughout the event the host will encourage everyone to convince their friends to attend the event which increases traffic in the area and has the side effect of potentially higher sales for local businesses or additional tips received by the venue and host.

Voting criteria is generally a popularity contest with no specific guidelines on what should be considered when voting which means if sometimes the winner is the person that teleported the most loyal friends to the event. However, that is not to say those who are truly selecting the best outfit is not basing it on attributes such as visuals, authenticity, and how closely related it is to the contest theme. Many contests are for individuals, but some places also hold competitions for couples or will divide the contest prizes between the best male avatar and best female avatar.

The extra traffic to an area as a result of these competitions has the potential to benefit not only the host and value, but also businesses renting a shops and stalls near the dance area. However, with the concentration of avatars in a single location within a sim means an increased chance of lag due to the server having to process all those avatars and the client viewer software having to load lots of textures into cache. The risk is that visitors may teleport away from the area as a result. The primary method to address this is by reducing the number of scripts used by vendors and other objects as well as requesting that visitors remove unnecessary HUD’s and attachments in order to improve the experience for everyone.

 

The Real Kicker when it comes to Music

There is no doubt that music effects our emotions, whether it be positive or negative, to some extent. Music has even been used by healthcare providers to assist with the treatment of diseases and other ailments. Our stress, social, and activity levels is influenced by music of which for some the purpose is to calm us down while for others the songs are meant to increase excitement. In a business setting some stores have used music to influence buying decisions of prospective customers.

Words within a song is one of the primary influencer whether it promotes good behavior, wrong doings, religious beliefs, anger, love, praise, or even just telling a story. Whether it be children grow up listening to nursery rhymes, teenagers listening to the radio, or adults attending concerts we are all stimulated by the lyrics which affects our memories. Everyone has a favorite jingle either because they heard it during a memorable event as well as a least favorite song because it was played during a low time in their life. This might explain why some businesses may choose to feature only instrumental music by less-popular composers in order to reduce the potential of negativity. Another attribute of music that affects us the speed of the song. Songs with a fast beat are more likely to increase excitement and happyness while those with a slow beat in contrast usually results in a calming effect. The speed of a song is measured in beats-per-minute of which some of fastest are well above 1000bpm while the slower are less than 100bpm. There are even some songs without a specified beats-per-minute such as “As Slow as Possible” by John Cage.

There are three sources of music within a virtual world; audio files played by a prim, streaming music configured on the parcel, or the audio syncronized to a video clip. Localized music can be projected from objects in-world which are scripted to play an audio file that has been uploaded to the server. The object typically will either play it on repeat or will play a series of audio files back-to-back segments if the complete piece extends beyond predefined technical limits. Streaming music can configured on a parcel by opening the land settings and copy/pasting the URL to the stream into a designated field. Video clips are configured within the parcel settings in a similar manner as streaming audio with the video itself visible on a specially configured prim in-world. For obvious reasons it is best not to use two or more of these three methods at the same time as it can be confusion for the avatar trying to enjoy it.