The IT consulting group Gartner seems to develop a special interest in virtual worlds lately. What is especially interesting, is the fact that it is not just one analyst focusing on the topic but at least three different groups who come up with their analyses independantly (and don't always agree). The latest report, which I only found about on a Finnish (!) portal for press releases, is about retailing in virtual worlds:
By 2010, 20 percent of global Tier 1 retailers will have a marketing presence in online games and virtual worlds. [...] These virtual worlds and video games are emerging as places where consumers can shop and retailers need to be ready to respond to this growing demand. Gartner recommends that retailers:
- Expand your definition of customer touchpoints to include virtual worlds and online games.
- Develop trial criteria prior to launching a presence in virtual worlds and measure the results.
- Monitor innovation in retail activity in virtual worlds and online games, particularly if you are targeting a younger demographic.
- Target the right environment for your customer.
I could not agree more (not that it matters, that I agree.) ;) Virtual shopping will be one of the most important applications for virtual worlds. I believe in that for quite a while now. Maybe it will grow to be the most important application (from a financial point of view), soon.
BTW: This fits with other Gartner-Reports Findings: Retailers' Presence in Virtual Worlds Mirrors Evolution of the Web Channel and Predicts 2008: How Shoppers and Technology Will Change Retail.
What I find especially interesting is the focus on accountability (define KPIs and measure them!) Thats exactly our approach here at The Otherland Group.