Secure Browsing and Better Hypergrid Support in Kitely Market

Secure Browsing using SSL

All communications with the Kitely website are now encrypted using SSL. This means that you can visit our website from anywhere, even over public Wi-Fi networks, and have your private information remain secure from eavesdroppers.

SSL

Simpler Delivery Options

We changed the Kitely Market shopping cart to make it easier to understand which avatar will receive the items that you purchase. Previously there were three delivery options: “Me”, “Gift” and “Other Grid”. This confused some of our marketplace shoppers, who thought that “Me” referred to their avatar on another grid, when in fact it referred to their Kitely avatar (we automatically create an avatar on our grid for anyone who signs up for a Kitely account).

Therefore, we’ve changed the shopping cart so that now it includes only two delivery options:

  • My Kitely Avatar – the items will be delivered to the Kitely avatar that belongs to the Kitely account that you are logged in with.
  • Other Avatar – the items will be delivered to a different avatar. That avatar may be a Kitely avatar (one of your alts, or another Kitely user’s avatar), or an avatar that belongs to a different grid altogether.

Market Delivery Options

Easier Delivery to Other Grids

We added a feature that’s intended for grid owners, and makes it easier for their users to buy from Kitely Market. The problem is that in order for Hypergrid users to buy from Kitely Market, their grid needs to be included in the list of grids in the Shopping Cart. Only a few widely-used grids are automatically included in everyone’s grids list, e.g. OSGrid. All other grids need to be added manually using the Grid Manager (you can see the link to the Grid Manager in the screenshot above).

In order to make adding a custom grid easier, it’s now possible to create links to Kitely Market that automatically add a custom grid to the user’s grids list. This is done by adding a parameter called “grid” to the URL. When we see this parameter, we find the specified grid; add it to the user’s grids list; and make it the currently-selected grid. The value of this parameter is the grid’s Grid URI (sometimes called the Home URI).

For example, suppose you want to buy items for your avatar in the OpenSimulator Community Conference grid. Now you can simply click on this link: https://www.kitely.com/market/cart?grid=cc.opensimulator.org:8002. Do this now, and you’ll see that the grid has been added to your grids list in the shopping cart. This works even if you’re not logged-in yet, and even if you haven’t signed-up! (The grid will be added to your grids list once you login and/or signup.)

We created an image that grid owners can use in order to help their users access Kitely Market:

kitely-market-metaverse-marketplace

To use this image, first open it in an image editing program and add your grid’s logo at the bottom. If you don’t have a grid logo then you can add your grid name as text. If you do that, and you want your grid name to appear similar to the rest of the text in this image, then use this font: typeface Meiryo; regular; size 18px or more; color #082e6c. If you don’t have the Meiryo font then use whatever else looks similar, e.g. Helvetica.

Once you’ve finished preparing the image, upload it to your website. Then, add a link in your website to Kitely Market, using the special URL that adds your grid to the user’s list of grids. For example (replace YOURGRID.EXAMPLE.COM:8002 with your real Grid URI):

<a href="https://www.kitely.com/market?grid=YOURGRID.EXAMPLE.COM:8002"><img src="kitely-market-metaverse-marketplace.png" title="Kitely Market" width="200" height="200"></a>

Please note that this will only work if the grid is already known to us and verified for use with Kitely Market.

Increased the Idle Visitors Timeout

We increased the Idle Visitors Timeout from 30 minutes to 1 hour. This timeout determines when we disconnect avatars who have been in-world for a long time without doing anything (i.e. without moving, chatting, etc.).

Please note that in some cases we use a longer timeout of 2 hours:

  • For World Managers, when they’re in one of their own worlds.
  • For users with a Premium Account or Gold Plan, when they’re in any world.

Better Error Checking of OAR Files

People get OAR files from many different sources, and sometimes those OAR files contain problems which prevent them from being imported into OpenSim. In order to help people handle these cases, we improved our validation of uploaded OAR files. We now detect problems in OAR files faster than before, and when we detect a problem we show error messages that are easier to understand.

Phasing Out Premium Accounts, and a Limited-Time Offer

Soon: No More Premium Accounts

Starting on June 1, 2015, we will no longer be offering Premium Accounts. Users who already have a Premium Account on that date will be able to keep it, but new users will no longer be offered this option: they will only be able to choose one of our Fixed-Price Worlds.

The reason we’re making this change is to simplify our offering. Currently we offer two very different ways to get land: Premium Accounts and Fixed-Price Worlds. However, we’ve found that having two different pricing models is often confusing to potential customers. Once we explain the benefits of Premium Accounts people understand them and often choose to get them. But this requires a significant sales effort, and we don’t always get the chance to do that: our analytics, and the customer feedback we’ve received, show that often people become intimidated by the wealth of options that we currently provide and decide to just go elsewhere.

What are Premium Accounts?

If you’re reading this and you aren’t a longtime Kitely user then you may not be familiar with our Premium Accounts, so here’s a recap:

Kitely currently offers two main types of worlds: Fixed-Price Worlds and Premium Worlds.

  • Fixed-Price Worlds – the world manager pays a fixed price per month, and then never has to pay anything more to use the world. In particular, the world manager doesn’t need to pay when users visit the world. Fixed-Price Worlds have varying prices (starting at $14.95): the more expensive worlds support more regions, more prims and more avatars.
  • Premium Worlds – the world manager doesn’t pay a fixed price per month to use these worlds, but does pay a small fee for various actions performed on the world. In particular, when users who don’t have a Premium Account visit the world, the world manager pays 1 KC / minute for each such user. (Premium Account users can visit Premium Worlds without costing the world manager anything.) In addition to being very cheap, Premium Worlds have another advantage over Fixed-Price Worlds: all Premium Worlds have performance that is equivalent to the most expensive Fixed-Price World (the Advanced World, which costs $99.95/month): they all support up to 16 regions, 100,000 prims and 100 concurrent avatars.

Only users that have a Premium Account can create Premium Worlds. This allows them to have a lot of land very cheaply: a Premium Account includes 10 free regions (upgraded today; previously it was 5 regions), and additional regions cost only 300 KC per month.

The only downside of Premium Worlds is that they require the world manager to have some idea of how many people will visit these worlds, as that can affect the total cost of maintaining them. (But of course, you can always restrict who may visit the world.)

The Return of the Gold Plan

Hundreds of Kitely users currently have a Premium Account. You can join them by getting a Premium Account before June 1. Anyone who gets a Premium Account before June 1 will be able to keep it for as long as they continue to pay for it.

We’re also making two changes to make Premium Accounts even more attractive:

First, we’re bringing back one of our most popular options from the past: the Gold Plan. The Gold Plan is a type of Premium Account, but it includes 30 free regions, and costs just $34.95/month. This is the absolute best way to get a lot of cheap land anywhere! This offer, too, will expire on June 1.

Second, we upgraded all Premium Accounts to get ten free regions (instead of five previously). This change is effective immediately, for both current customers and anyone who gets a new Premium Account before the cutoff date of June 1.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is Kitely making this change?

A: Premium Accounts and Premium Worlds offer people great benefits, but their existence makes our offering hard for people to understand and explain to others. This means that we’re losing sales because of our flexibility. By offering fewer options we’ll help people understand the value of our service better, which will help increase our sales.

Q: Does this change affect me?

A: If you only visit other people’s worlds, but don’t own your own worlds, then this change doesn’t affect you at all.

If you do own your own worlds, and you have a Regular Account, then the only change you’ll feel is if you Copy one of your worlds, because the new copy will now be a Stored World (which no one will be able to enter) instead of a Premium World (which Premium Account holders can enter). But the copied world will still contain a snapshot of the state of your world, and you’ll be able to Export it, or upgrade it to a Fixed-Price World.

If you have a Premium Account (or one of its variations) then this change doesn’t affect you as long as you retain your account status. However, If you ever cancel your Premium Account after June 1 then you won’t be able to upgrade back to a Premium Account, and all of your Premium Worlds will be converted to Stored Worlds.

Q: Will Kitely still provide a free trial period to new users who want to create a world?

A: Yes, as today.

Q: When does this change take effect?

A: The Gold Plan is available right now. You can upgrade to it (or to a Premium Account) by clicking on the “Change plan” link in your Kitely Account Settings page. (You might need to refresh the browser in order to see the new plan.) The increase of Premium Accounts from 5 free regions to 10 free regions is also already in effect.

Q: If I have a Premium Account, can I still get Fixed-Price Worlds?

A: Yes. You can have both Premium Worlds and Fixed-Price Worlds in your account, and you can switch individual worlds between these two types. Of course, you must get a Premium Account or a Gold Plan before June 1 in order to have this flexibility.

Act Now!

We encourage you to take advantage of our limited-time offer to upgrade to a Premium Account or Gold Plan before the end of the month, and get the long-term benefits that will be provided exclusively to those plan holders. This offer will not be available after May 31, so if you want these benefits you should order now.

We believe that Premium Accounts offer by far the best price-performance anywhere in the OpenSim metaverse, and Kitely is the only company capable of offering them because we’re the only ones who use on-demand cloud-based simulators. The only reason we’re discontinuing Premium Accounts is due to their complexity. But for people who understand their benefits and want to take advantage of them, there is no better choice.

Resize Kitely Worlds Using a Graphical Tool

One of the reasons that Kitely is a leader in OpenSim hosting is that we provide our users with the ability to easily manage their account on their own, with a feature-rich control panel. Today we’re happy to announce the latest addition to our lineup of advanced tools: you can now change the size of your worlds using a graphical map.

How to Resize a World

In the past, the size of a world was chosen when the world was created, and couldn’t be easily changed afterwards. However, we have now added an easy-to-use dialog that lets you change the size of an existing world.

To resize a world, click on Change world size in the Manage World dialog:

Change World Size

This opens the Change World Size dialog:

Resize World

If you’re making the world bigger then select where in the bigger world the existing regions should appear. The rest of the regions will be filled with empty land.

If you’re making the world smaller then select which of the existing regions to keep.

Resizing a world is free for fixed-price worlds, and costs 150 KC for Premium Worlds.

Removing Support for Facebook Groups

Currently, World Managers can choose to restrict access to their worlds so only people who belong to certain Facebook Groups can visit it. Unfortunately, Facebook has decided to stop allowing external programs to get the list of groups that a user belongs to. Therefore, we are forced to remove this feature from Kitely. This will happen on March 27, 2015.

If you are currently using Facebook Groups for access control then you should switch to a different method of restricting access to your world: e.g., using OpenSim groups. Otherwise, once we’ve updated the system your world may become accessible to more people than you had intended.

Kitely Market on Your Phone

Our mission is to evolve Kitely Market into the central marketplace serving users of all open virtual world platforms on the Metaverse. Part of our strategy involves making Kitely Market accessible to potential buyers on all platforms. Today we’ve taken a big step towards achieving that goal by making Kitely Market accessible on smartphones.

To access Kitely Market on your phone, visit kitely.com in your browser. The current Alpha version can be used for searching the market and viewing products. We’ll add additional functionality, such as purchasing and wish lists, in the near future.

Kitely Market is designed to provide an App-like experience: transitions between screens are instantaneous; data is preloaded in the background to minimize waiting time; and animations make the app fun to use. Due to the use of advanced HTML5, the web app works best on modern browsers such as Chrome and Safari.

The web app is optimized for mobile devices. For example, search results are shown in a single column (vs. 3 columns on the desktop); the search options are accessed via a slide-in window; etc. We also use high-resolution icons, which look great on phone screens (since they often have far more pixels per inch than desktop monitors).

The web app also displays product images in a higher resolution than on the desktop. Again, this takes advantage of the superior screens on phones as compared to desktop monitors. This means that even though the images are smaller than on a desktop monitor, they appear sharper. Since we first opened Kitely Market in 2013, our product guidelines have recommended that product images should be uploaded in a very high resolution (1600 x 1200 pixels), precisely in anticipation of this day. Kitely: we’re all about the long game!

(Before you rush to see insanely high-resolution images of your products, however, we should note that in order to balance image quality vs. download speed we don’t yet display the maximum possible image resolution. We increased the resolution that we use up to a certain point, and we intend to increase it further after we get some feedback.)

Please check out Kitely Market on your phone (go to kitely.com), and let us know what you think.

Here are some screenshots of the new Kitely Market mobile web app:

Mobile Homepage

Mobile Front Page

Mobile Search Options

Mobile View Product

Import VarRegion OAR Files, and Started Ad Campaign

We updated our system today with an OpenSim security fix and with support for automatically converting VarRegion OAR files into Kitely Advanced Megaregion worlds. We also started advertising Kitely Market on third-party websites, and have seen a sharp increase in marketplace activity as a result.

Security Fix

This release includes the security fix in OpenSim 0.8.0.4. See Justin Clark-Casey’s announcement here.

Importing VarRegion OAR Files

It’s now possible to load OAR files that were created on VarRegions outside of Kitely into Kitely worlds. The resulting worlds won’t be VarRegions, instead they will use Kitely’s Advanced Megaregions technology.

Regular OpenSim megaregions have some limitations which VarRegions help resolve. Our Advanced Megaregions have much of the same functionality as VarRegions, but while VarRegions are limited to using the BulletSim physics engine, our Advanced Megaregions support both the newer BulletSim physics engine and the more mature ODE physics engine.

Converting megaregions into VarRegions is a non-trivial process with regular OpenSim, but it is now done automatically when you upload VarRegions OAR files into large Kitely worlds. After you’ve created such a world you’ll be able to export it to a Megaregion OAR file. Alternatively, if you disable Advanced Megaregion mode for that world then you’ll be able to export it to a Multi-region OAR file.

Started Ad Campaign

We’ve started the Kitely Market ad campaign that highlights products that our merchants sell in Kitely Market. You can already see these ads on Hypergrid Business and SLUniverse, and we intend to advertise in additional websites over time.

The ad campaign resulted in an immediate increase in sales volume and in the number of items listed in Kitely Market. Kitely Market has now delivered purchased items to over 70 OpenSim grids! If you sell content to grids outside Second Life then there’s no better way to do it than to list your items in Kitely Market.

Added a Video to the Homepage

We added the Kitely Market video to our homepage. This video is also displayed to people who click on the ads in the ad campaign.

This Video Can Help Get More Content to the Metaverse

Kitely Market is an advanced marketplace for virtual goods. Currently Kitely Market serves all Hypergrid-enabled OpenSim grids, but our ultimate goal is to serve everyone in the Metaverse. We already announced that Kitely Market will support delivery to High Fidelity once that platform matures sufficiently, and we intend to broaden our marketplace’s reach even further as additional virtual reality platforms become available.

The more people use Kitely Market, the better it works: more buyers lead to more sellers and more content, which lead to more buyers, and so on. Therefore, spreading the word about Kitely Market helps everyone. To help promote Kitely Market, we created a short video that shows how it works for both buyers and sellers. Please Like this video; share it in as many places as possible; embed it in your blog; etc. If you’re willing, please go to the video’s YouTube page and write a rave review before you share the link to it. 😉

Analytics for Product Prices

Today we added a new feature to Kitely Market: a way to analyze the relationship between product prices and revenue. If you’re a merchant, this will help you optimize your product prices so that you can maximize your earnings.

Prices in Analytics

The Analytics pages now contain a new tab: Prices. This tab shows how products’ prices affect revenue. This information is useful for setting product prices, and for choosing the level of discounts to use in Sales Campaigns.

Analytics Prices

The Y Axis (labeled “Full Product Price”) shows various prices at which your products have been bought. For each price point, the X Axis (labeled “Total Revenue”) shows the total revenue that was derived from products that had that price.

If you’ve sold products using a discount (in a Sales Campaign) then the revenue bars will be subdivided to show how much revenue was made at each discount level.

How to Use This Information

This page can provide insights about how much users are willing to pay for your products. Perhaps you see that low-cost products sell best; or perhaps the other way around. This can help you set prices for your products.

This page is also useful for deciding whether to use Sales Campaigns, and which discount levels work best. For example, if you see that selling a product at a 70% discount generated more revenue than a 40% discount then you’ll know that the higher discount works better.

Note that in order to effectively analyze the effect of different discount levels you should view a single Product (and not the entire Store). In addition, remember that the selected time range affects the revenue shown: e.g., if the time range is 3 months but the product was only on sale for 1 week then you should take that into account when you evaluate the effectiveness of putting the product on sale.

Sales Campaigns in Kitely Market

We’re excited to announce a major new feature in Kitely Market today: sales campaigns! Sales campaigns let merchants offer discounts on their products. Discounts have been shown to be extremely effective in increasing sales in other digital platforms, and we expect them to do the same in Kitely Market.

Are Discounts Really Effective?

Absolutely! The most important source of information about the effect of discounts on sales of digital content is Steam, the online games store. Here’s what Steam’s executives and game developers say:

“Valve co-founder Gabe Newell announced during a DICE keynote today that last weekend’s half-price sale of Left 4 Dead resulted in a 3000% increase in sales of the game […]”

(Source)

“We find that we get several thousand percent increases in units and revenue on the days of the Steam sales, and unit sales are usually about double the normal for a few weeks after the sales are over,” he says [Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer].

“According to indie developer and Super Meat Boy co-creator Edmund McMillen, these promotions can increase sales to an almost staggering extent. His 2D dungeon crawler The Binding of Isaac, for example, saw sales multiply by five when it was marked down by 50 percent, and once it hit the front page as a temporary “Flash Deal” (for 75 percent off), sales multiplied by sixty.”

(Source)

Another source of information is Amazon:

“We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.
The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%.”

(Source)

Based on these reports we expect products that are put on sale to increase their revenue, possibly by a very large amount. We don’t know exactly what the result of various discounts will be, because the content that is sold in Kitely Market isn’t exactly the same as games (Steam) or e-books (Amazon), but we’re very excited to find out. Once we have some meaningful insights we’ll share them on this blog, so that merchants have a better idea of what types of sales work best.

How Sales Campaigns Work

To put products on sale you need to do two things:

  1. Create a Sales Campaign in your store. The Sales Campaign determines the dates in which the sale is active.
  2. Add products to the Sales Campaign. Each product may have a different discount, from 10% to 90%.

If you’re familiar with Steam sales then you might be a little confused right now. That’s because most Steam sales are created by Steam itself, and not the merchants. Steam chooses when to run the sale, and which games to include in the sale. It then contacts only the merchants that it has chosen to include in the sale. In contrast, the sales system in Kitely Market gives control to the merchants: each merchant chooses when to create her own sales, and which products to include in the sale. (By the way, Steam now also has these types of merchant-controlled sales, but they’re not as well known as the Steam-controlled sales.)

Sales Campaigns can last between 1 and 14 days. They start and end at midnight GMT. While a Sales Campaign is active, the products that are included in that Sales Campaign are shown with a big green discount icon:

Products with Discounts

Create a Sales Campaign

The navigation menu contains a new item for visiting the Sales Campaigns page in your store.

Navigation Menu - Sales Campaigns

The Sales Campaigns page shows all of your Sales Campaigns.

Sales Campaigns Page

This table also shows how much revenue you made from the sale, i.e. from products that were purchased while they were in this sale.

Add Products to a Sales Campaign

After you’ve created a Sales Campaign you need to add products to it. The Manage Products page lets you select products and add them to the Sales Campaign.

Add Products to Sale

In the “Add to Sale” dialog, select the Sales Campaign and the discount amount. Each product can have a different discount.

Add Products to Sale

You can change the discount amount later by selecting “Add to Sale” again, and you can remove products from the Sales Campaign.

The Manage Products page has a new filter that lets you view the products that are included in a Sales Campaign. Here’s a tricky bit: when you use that filter, the “Price” column changes to show the discount that will be in effect during that sale. This is useful because it lets you see all the products and discounts in the sale even before the sale is active.

Show Products in a Sale

Discounts can make product prices drop below the usual limits (which are 10 KC or $1.00). Our sales commission will also be lower, but always at least 1 KC or $0.01.

Promoting Sales Campaigns

So far, the Sales Campaign that you had created is sort of “hidden”, in the sense that users can see the products on sale but they don’t know the name of the sale, and they don’t have a way to see all of the products in the sale. Sometimes this is what you want: perhaps you just want to put a few products on sale, and that’s fine.

However, a sale is more effective if people know about it. This means that you will want to promote the sale. There are several ways to do that.

Promotion Idea #1: Product Ad

You can create ads in Kitely Market for the individual products on sale. This ensures that people will see that the product is on sale. This is effective if you’re only putting a few products on sale.

Promotion Idea #2: Related Products

You might want to put all of the products that are on sale in the same Group. If you do this then in the Related Products section of each of the product pages, the other products that are on sale will also appear. This works because when we choose which products to show in the Related Products section we choose products on sale first, and only then do we show products that aren’t on sale. This means that you don’t have to remove your products from their existing Groups; just add them to one new Group (e.g., “On Sale”).

Related Products on Sale

Promotion Idea #3: The Internet

This one is kind of obvious, but you should let people know about your sale! Tweet, Facebook, IM or blog about it. In order to help you do this, we have a feature that lets you share a Sales Campaign. In the Sales Campaigns page, select “Share” in the “Action” menu. You’ll see this dialog:

Share Sales Campaign

 

You can press one of the Share buttons to share to several popular social media websites. Or, you can copy and paste the URL to other places: blogs, forums, etc.

The URL that you see in this dialog leads to the Sale Page. That’s a page that shows the name of the Sales Campaign, and all of the products that are on sale. This is the only place where users can see the name of your Sales Campaign. So if you share your Sales Campaign URL, make sure to pick a good name for the sale: e.g. “Holiday Sale”, and not “My Sale 3″. You can reuse these names, so you can e.g. have a sale called “New Moon Howl” every month. If you choose not to share your Sale Page URL then it’s okay to pick any name you want for the sale, since users won’t see the name.

Sale Page

Promotion Idea #4: Sales Campaign Ad

You can create an ad that leads directly to the Sale Page. To create such an ad, select “Create Ad” in the “Action” menu. You’ll get the “Create Store Ad” dialog, because a Sales Campaign Ad is a type of Store Ad. Make sure that the dates when the ad is active are the same as the dates when the Sales Campaign is active.

Sometimes you might not be able to create an ad on the same dates as the Sales Campaign, because there’s a limit on how many ads can be active on each day. If that happens then you have two options. First, you can move the Sales Campaign to dates that still have advertising slots available for creating an ad. This requires canceling the old Sales Campaign and creating a new one using the new dates. The second option is to create the ad on slightly different dates than the Sales Campaign: it might start a little later, or end a little sooner, etc. This is safe because we won’t show the ad unless the Sales Campaign is active, but it wastes a little money. This option might be useful if it’s very important for you to have the Sales Campaign active on specific dates: e.g., on Christmas.

As a bonus, when you create a Sales Campaign Ad the image that is used in the ad will also appear in the Sale Page, which is nice for branding the sale. (Otherwise only the name of the Sales Campaign will appear in the page.) Note that this image will appear in the Sale Page for the entire duration of the sale, regardless of the dates during which the ad from which the image was taken is active.

If you aren’t a graphics designer then you might want to hire someone to create the ad for you. If you are a graphics designer who can do this type of work then please add your name and contact details in the comments.

This is what the Sale Page looks like when it’s showing an image:

Sale Page with Image

Restrictions

Discounts are effective when buyers can trust that they’re a true bargain, and not a trick. To ensure that this is the case, we’ve put a number of restrictions in place.

First, each product can only go on sale once every 60 days. This ensures that products aren’t perpetually on sale, because that would mean that the discount isn’t a real reduction in price.

Second, Sales Campaigns can last a maximum of 14 days. Again, this ensures that products aren’t perpetually on sale.

Note that it’s okay to create many sales campaigns, even covering every day of the year if you want, as long as you put different products on sale each time.

Third, if a product raises its price then it can’t go on sale for 60 days afterwards. This ensures that unscrupulous merchants don’t raise prices and then immediately put products on sale.

Fourth, merchants may not create “rogue sales”, i.e. sales that don’t use this system. This ensures that products that are shown as “On Sale” have met all of the restrictions described above, which is important in order to keep buyers’ trust.

Wish List Sale Notifications

The Wish List has become much more interesting with this release, because when products go on sale we send an email to users that have these products in their Wish List.

We have a number of restrictions in place to prevent these emails from becoming annoying. First, we send at most one such email per day to each user. Second, these emails will never include more than 10 products; if more than 10 products go on sale at the same time then some products won’t be mentioned in the email. However, users can always check out their Wish List page to see which of the products are on sale:

Wish List with Discounts

Analytics

The Analytics pages now have a new column, “Discount”, which shows the discount level. This is useful to show the effect of discounts on sales.

Analytics - Discount Column

As mentioned previously, the Sales Campaigns table includes the revenue that was generated by the products included in each sale.

Thoughts on Sales

Sales Campaigns open up a huge opportunity for savvy content creators to increase their sales. But with great power comes great uncertainty: how best to use sales? Since today is “Day 1″ of this feature on Kitely Market, we don’t have data that can help merchants decide what to do. But we do have some information from other sources, and we’re not afraid of speculating.

Virtual items in OpenSim (and Second Life) have some differences from games on Steam or e-books on Amazon. Some of these differences may make sales more effective, and some less.

The first difference is that games and books take weeks to finish, so there’s some resistance to buying more and more of them too quickly. Speaking personally, I probably have 20 games I bought from Steam because they were on sale but haven’t had time to play. In contrast, virtual items can usually be used immediately (to wear or to rez), so their benefit comes shortly after the purchase. Advantage: virtual items.

Games and books are usually more expensive than virtual items, so discounting them provides a bigger benefit to buyers. Do buyers look at the dollar amount they save, or the percentage of discount? We don’t know. But we believe that in this case, advantage: games/books.

Game publishers and book authors typically have only a few items that they’ve created. This causes problems when they decide whether to put their items on sale: if they do lots of sales then people might figure this out and stop buying their items when they’re not on sale. On the other hand, it’s tough to forgo sales altogether. This dilemma is easier for creators of virtual items because they often have a much bigger portfolio of items, so they can realistically put each item on sale only once or twice a year, and still have something on sale all the time. Advantage: virtual items.

Should products be on sale often, or rarely? While they’re on sale they’re shown with the nice big green discount icon, which should increase sales. But if users realize that a merchant does lots of sales then they might stop buying his products for the regular price, which could lead to an overall decline in revenue. This would also have a negative effect on the entire Kitely Market, as it would desensitize buyers to sales so sales will become less effective.

How long should sales last? We allow 1-14 days. Longer sales make it more likely that users will find out about the sale. But shorter sales might create more of an urgency with buyers. We currently think that the average duration for a sale should be a week. This also lines up nicely with Ads, since the minimum duration for an ad is one week.

One particular type of sale is a full-store sale. You could advertise it as, e.g. “40%-80% off everything”. A major sale like this should occur only once or twice a year; last a full two weeks; and use an ad to ensure that people know about it.

Another type of sale would be on a subset of items. E.g.: “Winter Clothing Sale”; “Valentine’s Day Couple Animations Sale”; etc.

And finally, you could try to create some one-day sales that offer big discounts on a single product. This type of sale has been very effective on Steam, but the challenge is to get people to find out that the sale exists before it ends.

Although we believe that discounts will increase total revenue, it’s worth using discounts even if they occasionally result in lower revenue than selling for full price. That’s because the buyers become your customers, and they’re more likely to buy from you again. (In the future we might add ways for merchants to contact everyone who bought from them, e.g. to let them know about new products, updates to existing products, or special offers. We might also let merchants offer discounts or coupons that are only usable by people who have bought from them in the past. Please let us know if you’d like to see features of this type.)

Each product in a sale can have a different discount. You can use this to experiment with different discount levels: e.g., 30% for some products, 50% for others, 80% for yet others, etc. Over time you will learn what works best. One of our planned features (not included in today’s release) is an Analytics mode that lets you easily see all the price levels and discounts that you’ve used, and how much revenue was generated from each one.

If you want to be even more rigorous then you can try using different discounts for the same product. This is more of an apples-to-apples comparison than using different discounts for different products, but it requires long-term planning. In order to get useful statistics you shouldn’t change the discount level for a product in the middle of a sale. This means that you’ll need to use different Sales Campaigns (which must be spaced at least 60 days apart) in order to get such information.

Happy Holidays!

We’ve been working towards the Sales feature for quite a while now.  Even some of the previous big features, such as Analytics and Ads, were created with the Sales system in mind. So we’re glad that we’re finally able to make this feature available, just in time for the holiday season. Let’s make December a month to remember!

Search Kitely Market Sales History

We updated the system today with a couple of improvements to merchant tools and some bug fixes.

Search the Sales History

In Kitely Market, merchants have access to a page that shows their Sales History. One of the most-requested features by our merchants has been the ability to search the sales history in order to find particular transactions, and we’re happy to announce that this is now possible.

You can search for sales in two ways: sales of a particular product, or sales to a particular user (buyer). You can also combine the two options.

Search Sales History

To perform a search, start typing the name of the product or user that you’re looking for. These text boxes use autocomplete, so once you type a few characters the names of possible matches will appear. Click on the product or user that you want to search for.

Show Prices in Manage Products

Another page used by merchants is the Manage Products page, which shows all of the products in their store. We’ve added a “Price” column to this table, to make it easier to differentiate between products at a glance. The price shown in this column is the price of the default (first) variation of the product.

Manage Products - Price Column

Other Changes

We fixed a number of bugs related to analytics, and how search engines see the website. These are subtle changes, so most users are unlikely to notice anything different. However, If you advertise in Kitely Market you may see changes in how sales are attributed to your ads.

We also added support for the upcoming ad campaign for Kitely Market.