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My Blogger Friends
With my web analytics association social media hat on, this week I was at the Virtual Worlds Conference, there was much talk of what brands are doing in these worlds such as Second life, Habbo Hotel and There.com. These worlds are constantly and quickly adapting given the competitive landscape, the nature of the internet and other services competing for visitor time.
The CEO of Habbo Hotels Timo Soininen when asked what’s new in Habbo Hotel, didn’t talk about new features, star appearances or new contests. His main point was monthly consumer updates to Habbo Hotel based on what’s going on, metrics and user feedback. Their main focus is to make the user experience as easy as possible and make it as easy as possible to get into the world.
“We’ve moved into a Scrum development process and agile development,” Soininen explained. “We like to think we know where we’re heading and sort of the big picture, but the road map really is only up to four months. We look at what’s going on and the metrics and the user feedback that we get and sort of go in monthly consumer update. We release something to the world, back end changes, navigation changes, item updates, on a monthly basis. We’re able to respond quickly.”
“We used to have a really traditional approach where you sit at a drawing board and spec it out and then hopefully after a few months, what you predicted back then is still valid,” he continued. “Given the nature of the Internet and the whole competitive landscape and other services competing for kids time, you have to do (a faster development process). I think you get much more meaningful results.”
The one plan Soininen could lay out for 6-8 months from now was a goal to dramatically simplify the website for Habbo Hotel. There will be some changes to the world itself planned in, but the majority of changes will apparently be to the Web interface to make it easier to actually get into the world.
“Basically what we’re going to do, in the spirit of simplicity is to make sure the first user experience is as pleasant as possible so that when the user enters the world, he or she has as easy a time as possible finding like-minded people,” Soininen said. “I think the really important thing for these casual worlds is to make the joining as casual as possible and not to go into a cumbersome registration process. We’re looking at that, but really focusing on the virtual world. And also giving users a sort of dashboard about their status in the virtual world. So the next time they come in, they see automatically what’s going on and what’s happened.”
Mike Wilson, found of Makena Technologies, creator or 3D virtual world There.com, mentioned about the successful engagements they have created for brands on their world. They built a special area for Capitol Music Group artists such as Beastie Boys, Korn and Lily Allen to make live appearances, for the entire record brand, not just one band. They are having success with brands because their world is PG-13, so brands don’t have to worry about dubious content appearing alongside them. Also, There.com can take the brand and put them where the highest traffic is, rather than being on their own private island.
Second Life founder, Philip Rosendale, waxed lyrically about the ability for virtual worlds to involve customers and have them join in the creative experience within a social context. For exmaple Toyota Scion and Pontiac offere fully customisable cars in Second Life. Similarly, for a CSI episode filmed in Second Life where visitors can solve their own murder mystery in Second Life. The episode went live this week to the total potential audience of CSI and can handle 20,000 players. See the CSI Second Life episode on the CBS website for a demo here.
To conclude, interesting and engaging things are happening in virtual worlds (have you designed your avatar yet?). Worlds like Habbo Hotel are admitting to using metrics and user feedback to create fast one month turn arounds on consumer updates of the world (virtual worlds analytics). Others spoke of the how virtual worlds allow audience and fanbase to go to the next level of immersion with the brand, so that they can step into the brand and become part of it. Brand immersion has been undervalued in the last five years. We see it as moving on the engagement from conversation to an actual relationship with the consumer, hence the interesting brand experiences such as CSI, Toyota, Renault Formula One and other stories.
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