New Internet Worlds are emerging online where users make a replica of themselves to live out life-like situations.
One major online virtual world is Second Life, which boasts 13 million users worldwide.
Users can buy land, go shopping in life-like stores, invest in stock markets with fake currencies and develop romances. Companies like IBM then develop “islands” or stores where consumers can actually see and buy products after viewing them virtually. Users can preview the products and then purchase them.
This poses the question of whether these innovative life-like virtual worlds will become the new facebook or myspace.
The advantages of virtual worlds for marketing:
- Brands can interact with customers
- Market researchers could host surveys
- Products & services can be showcased
But, there are several disadvantages. Among them are:
- Copyright infringement
- Identity theft
- Online crimes
Questions further remain to the effectiveness of these communities in achieving corporate marketing objectives. But given the success so far of these communities, it is important to entertain the notion that online virtual worlds could be a strong niche market in the future of retailing and advertising.