Monday, November 12, 2007

Problems with vendors in-world

For anyone who has spent any real time in Second Life, regardless of whether you're running a business there or not, you know that one of the biggest challenges is its steady stream of technological hiccups.

Today, for example, Linden Lab announced on its blog that there is a new problem associated with selling multiple items at different prices through multiple vendors that cropped up after a recent viewer update.

Essentially, the blog post said, the problem arises when someone with a bunch of vendors pulls all the for-sale items back into their inventory and then puts them back out for sale in a different location.

Instead of maintaining their original sale prices, as intended, the new bug reverts all the prices to a single price-point. And that means that you'd have to do a bit of extra work to make sure that everything costs what it's supposed to.

Now, the point here isn't to focus on this specific incident. Rather I want to talk briefly about how this kind of thing is something that any newcomer to Second Life business will have to be prepared to deal with. There is no end to the glitches that pop up in the various software updates Linden Lab does, and there's nothing you can do about it except persevere.

And that's really what this post is about. To remind folks who are interested in running an SL business that it is something they really need to be devoted to. In other words, you can't really get your business going and then just leave it alone without being eagle-eyed about how the various technical bugs might be affecting your business.

To be sure, some shops will continue to run just fine in perpetuity with no maintenance, but would you want to bet some income that yours will be one of them? More likely, you'll return from an absence to find that something, perhaps something small, but you never know, is broken. And that might well mean that your customers can't buy your products, or that your customer services processes are broken. Or something.

One business owner I interviewed for my new book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, talked to me about how he was excited by the fact that products he created for his store would continue to produce sales, and therefore income, for the foreseeable future, even without him having to do much to maintain the business. That wasn't to say that he wasn't going to keep on working on his store, but that he was aware that he could put down his tools and enjoy the recurring income if he wanted.

The truth is, however, that while he's probably right, he might find one day, if he had stopped paying attention, that he would return to find his store empty and not producing sales due to the vagaries of some recent software update.

All this just goes to support the central thesis of my book and my position on running businesses in SL: That in order to succeed, you really must treat it like you would treat any business. You wouldn't set up a real-world store and then disappear, expecting everything to just run smoothly. So why would you in Second Life?

The thing to do, then, in addition to going to your store or business location frequently to make sure everything is working, is to read the official Second Life blog regularly, to watch the forums and to talk to people about issues that may be new.

Only then can you have the best chance of staying abreast of these kinds of technical problems and making sure that they don't adversely affect your profits.

One final note. This isn't to try to scare you off of creating and running an SL business. Not at all. It's just to help you understand a little bit more about what you have to do if you want to be a success there. Everyone else who's doing it has to contend with this, and for those that do, the benefits can be substantial.

No comments: