Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Look at Direct Delivery

Well, we've had the "trial" version of Direct Delivery up for a few weeks now, and it appears to have REALLY been a trial for quite a few merchants.  I have had no problems with it myself, but even if I did it wouldn't be a big issue, because I have only one item on the Marketplace, and that's a freebie -- a brochure about my rental property.

But others have reported a bewildering variety of issues.  Items from other merchants appearing in another merchant's listings.  Having the Marketplace suddenly forget that you ARE a merchant.  Incorrect pictures or descriptions of items.  Tons of issues with slow loading, slow delivery, or non-delivery.  When browsing the Marketplace today, I came across a fat pack of shoes that normally sells for about $L1600 listed at $L 0...I'm not sure if the merchant did that on purpose (because they are an older product) or if the Marketplace did it to her.

I'm not going to talk about any of these issues in detail.  That's being done in the JIRA bug reporting and tracking system, in the Merchant forums, and on plenty of other blogs.  But some time back, I wrote about how the Marketplace is causing more and more merchants to close their in-world stores, in the same way that internet commerce is putting pressure on Real Life "brick and mortar" stores  (Online vs. In World Shopping).  Aggregated together, all the recent problems of the Marketplace (whether related to Direct Delivery or some other cause), raise a couple of interesting questions.

Is the Marketplace a reliable substitute for an in world store?  If you ONLY sell your stuff on the Marketplace, people can't go in world to see the thing close up and personal.  Even if there aren't any delivery problems, your pictures and description might not show all the details that a prospective buyer wants, before she makes a purchase decision.  And what if the Marketplace data base gets even MORE messed up?  You have all your eggs in one basket, and that basket is being held by the Linden Lab Commerce Team -- a group not known for their skillful handling of either Marketplace technical or social issues.  If you are a small merchant with only a few items and occasional sales, a complete FUBAR* situation may not be a big deal for you.  But if you have thousands of items and hundreds of sales a day and count on those sales for part or all of your Real Life income, you could be in Really Big Trouble.

Is the Marketplace the best place to buy virtual goods?  If you are a consumer, every time you put more than two items in your shopping cart, you're risking non-delivery.  The time spent working that out with investigating your transaction history, notecards to the merchant, and support tickets to LL could far exceed the value of the items you wanted to buy.

Will continued problems with the Marketplace lead to a revival of in world stores?  That could be interesting, and could conceivably result in an uptick in virtual land values.  Do you suppose that Linden Lab has thought of this and the whole thing is a Machiavellian scheme?  No, probably not.  As Hanlon's Razor says, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

I hope the Lab gets this all sorted out soon.  But for now...excuse me, I'm off to buy some shoes.

*Military or engineering slang. "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair"

1 comment:

  1. The loss of in-world stores is a pet peeve; if for no other reason than I miss looking around the neighborhood when shopping --- I discovered so many things I did not even know I wanted :)