Forester Research: building engagement in virtual worlds

In the past week, Forester Research have released a paper titled ‘Consumer Engagement In Virtual Worlds’. The report was commissioned by a consortium of virtual world companies including Metaplace, Inc., Doppelganger (vSide), Gaia Interactive, Inc. (Gaia Online), IMVU, Inc., Linden Lab (Second Life), Donnerwood Media (Meez), PHD, Sony Computer Entertainment America (Home), Sulake Corporation, Oy. (Habbo Hotel), MTV Networks Inc. (Virtual MTV), Vivaty and WeeWorld.

The 19-page report covers some familiar ground around brand awareness and engaging audiences in virtual worlds and actually provides some guidance along those lines, differentiated by the types of virtual worlds (gaming worlds, structured worlds and unstructured / open worlds). Reported negatives from those initial marketing forays into virtual worlds included low numbers of users and inappropriate brand associations. Positives included the global reach, internal enthusiasm for initiatives and tapping new creative options.

The three conclusions drawn by Forester are that

  • The period of experimentation and ad hoc virtual world marketing is over
  • Engagement, community, and tapping creativity should be the virtual world mantra
  • Planning and measurement are lacking

The findings of the report won’t be a surprise to the commissioning consortium but it does provide a useful overview of the ROI challenges for business in virtual worlds and some broad strategies on developing effective engagement strategies.

Virtual worlds are big: market research

US-based market research firm In-Stat have released a research paper entitled ‘Virtual Worlds and Web 3.0: Examined, Compared, Analyzed‘.

To see the 58-page report in full you’ll need to pay US $2,995 (that’s only $51.64 per page folks!), but the overview is:

  • virtual world businesses earn nearly 90% of their money from sale of virtual items
  • The number of registered virtual world users will have exceeded 1 billion by 2012, with a total revenue of US $3 billion.
  • Ten criteria were used to rate virtual worlds, with the social networking aspect coming out as the strongest hook. On the face of it, none of the findings seem earth-shattering for virtual worlds observers. For more traditional businesses, the revenue projections would certainly draw some interest. Market research on virtual worlds in becoming more and more frequent as business sees the potential opportunities – market research businesses in particular.

    The projections put forward by In-Stat don’t seem that unrealistic given the current revenue and registration numbers – what do you think?

    The psychographics of avatars

    The group ‘Business Communicators in Second Life’ have a fascinating transcript up on their site. It involves market research firm ‘Market Truths’ who have done some research on avatars and have divided them into six psychographic groups: Team Players, Entrepreneurs, Competitors, Connectors, Chameleons, and Apprehensives.

    It’ll cost you $200US to buy the full report but interview transcript is worth a read. What do you think – do you fit into one of those six categories?

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