Thousands of IBM employees have developed avatars, and these avatars go to virtual meetings in a virtual IBM conference room in Second Life and conduct actual IBM business with other avatars in this virtual world. While not a money-maker in itself, this type of attention and the resulting proof-of-concept from big-name companies is spurring a new type of Second Life commerce: building Second Life presences for real-world companies. Reuters, Nike, Sony-BMG and Toyota are just a handful of the companies that have built storefronts, billboards or news tickers in Second Life. Some of the storefronts are just marketing tools; others are selling products to avatars. An avatar can go to a Toyota dealership in Second Life and buy a virtual car.
But Toyota and Sony are not building these virtual properties themselves. Second Life is not the easiest world to navigate, and experts in building Second Life properties are suddenly in great demand. There are now technology companies that specialize in developing a real-life company's virtual presence in Second Life, and many of them are turning to long-time avatars to do the heavy lifting. Electric Sheep Company built Second Life presences for Nissan, Starwood and Ben Folds, and they recruited their employees inside Second Life. From job search to resume to interview to hiring, it all happened between avatars in a virtual world. A company called Crayon brought Coca Cola into Second Life and also hired entirely from the avatar pool.
Many experts hypothesize that the next step in this trend is for actual sales to take place in Second Life. In other words, your avatar could walk into the virtual Nike store, buy a pair of sneakers priced in Linden dollars, and wait a week for the actual, real-life sneakers to arrive via UPS on your actual, real-life doorstep.
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