Monday, December 15, 2008

Canada Post delivers (part 2)

Last night I blogged the first part of this blogpost, Canada Post delivers, in which I described the sim in general, to summarize it, Canada Post has build a retail city in Second Life housing not only their own shop, but also 10 of the most prominent retailers in Canada including Toys R Us, Skymall and Brookstone. As a dozen companies in one blogpost would be a bit too much, I stopped at the general introduction in the previous blogpost and would like to zero in on Canada Post itself in this one.

Canada Post setup shop on the corner of Maple Street and Hudson Avenue on the venture called Maple Grove which can be found on the Solar sim. The modern office houses a postoffice on the ground floor and a lounge on the 2nd floor.

The postoffice has a welcoming desk where you can design your own stamps and the walls are lined with lockers. Point of focus in this shop are four large adscreens on which Canada Posts advertises its services. Being in business of mail delivery, this off course means stamps. In the virtual postoffice you can buy a set of holiday stamps, the 2008 collection or a stamp collecting starter kit and the 2008 Holiday Commemorative Coin Gift Set.

In real life stamps and stamp collecting are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. In the Netherlands stamps aren't what they used to be anymore. Nowadays we just have stickers and ordinary stamps which you have to wet the glue have become a niche thing.

Stamp Collectors are usually regarded as old men who live in the past, generally a type you won't see in Second Life. This image of course isn't true. A wide variety of people collect stamps, including tech savvy metaversians, though they will probably be a minority in Second Life. In the real world, stamp collecting is a big hobby with over 20 million collectors in the United States alone (according to wikipedia).

Especially to small and exotic countries, stamps are an important source of revenues, just like selling their TLD's like .nu and .tk. Often the stamps are colorfull, elaborate designs produced in limited edition for stamp collectors and the production far exceeds the domestic postal needs.

I myself might be one of those very few metaverse explorers who loves stamps as well. Though I'm not a dedicated collector of Canadian stamps I do have a few pages filled with Canadian stamps and wouldn't mind getting my hands on the 2008 set or the holiday set. I do have a few christmas stamp sets from Canada, and they're actually quite lovely. As a collector I focus on Dutch stamps, trying to complete the collection. Keeping up with new productions is quite easy, just subscribe to it, but the sport usually is in collecting the older stamps. Often series of stamps from before 1920 can get very pricey, for example the Dutch series of 1899-1921 featuring Queen Wilhelmina.

An overview of the history of Canadian stamps can be found in the Canadian Postal Archives and starts with the collection of the Province of Canada, 1851-1867.

In short, since I like stamps, I like the shop Canadian Post has set up, but doubt it will become a top attraction in Second Life. Perhaps more can be expected of this presence in combination with the other shops featured on this retail sim, but I'll get to that in a later post.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Canada Post delivers (part 1)

Just like airliners in Second Life (see Brussels Airlines and Air France - KLM) a mail company in Second Life could be seen as a 2008 Metaverse Oddity, for surely, you don't need a mailman in a virtual world like this. If you buy virtual goods, they don't need to be delivered as they appear in your inventory immediately and can be rezzed anywhere you like. You don't need a mailman either to deliver your postcards to the ones you love, as Second Life has a built-in service which delivers your snapshots through email. Yet Canada Post isn't the odd one out in Second Life.

Canada Post Corporation (French: Société canadienne des postes) is the Canadian postal operator operated as a crown corporation. The Post Office Department of the Government of Canada was founded in 1867 and was rebranded Canada Post in the late 1960s though it officially remained the Post Office Department until October 16, 1981 when the Canada Post Corporation Act came into force. The Act set a new direction for the postal service, creating more reliable service and ensuring the postal service's financial security and independence. [Wikipedia]

Or maybe it is, in a positive way. The Canada Post presence in Second Life is one of the second wave corporations to explore the metaverse, and like the German Volksbank, they have a different approach to things than most of the first wave explorers had. Like the Volksbank they don't have a dedicated sim which is destined to lay bare once the 'grand opening festivities' are over, they bring a variety of shops on their sim.

The Canadian Post venture is called "Maple Grove" but won't be found on the island called maplegrove but on one called Solar. The sim is a heavily built urban sim which makes it rather slow to render, especially if you use 'ultra detail' settings like me to take some nice pictures for you folks. Once immersed at the center of the sim you'll find yourself amidst a variety of builds, one of which, obviously is the Canadian Post postoffice.

Aside from the Canadian Post shop you'll find a variety of retailers which are Canadian Post's 2008 retail partners, i.e. they ship their real life products with Canadian Post. The notecard you can pick up in front of the postoffice gives a good overview on what you can find on the sim:

Welcome to Canada Post's Maple Grove!

Canada Post is proud to showcase its 2008 partner retailers. Explore Maple Grove and discover the largest collection of real-life retailers sharing one sim in Second Life.

In the city centre, you can visit Toys R Us, Sky Mall, The Shopping Channel and Canada Post. New this year, we are introducing the Bright Spark Lab. The Lab is a virtual marketing agency designed to assist Second Life entrepreneurs. You will find free tools to make you Second Life business more successful. You will also find valuable information for creating a direct mail campaign in real life!

On Maple Street, we have a busy schedule of live music events at the Telus Theater. Be sure to check out Brookstone and Red Canoe. Don't forget to stop in the Green Cafe which has information about keeping your mail "green". Blackberry Lane is home to Sears and the Canada Post garage where you can get your own free mail truck.

On Hudson Avenue, you will find the Everything Olive store next to the Tower.

Thank you for visiting Maple Grove and be sure to leave us some feedback at the Canada Post office in the city centre.

I won't go into a detailed description of these companies in this post, that will have to wait untill later, but here's a few piccies to get an idea of the entire build

Most shops present on the sim put on a showcase of a number of items you can buy in their webshops and have the items delivered to you by Canada Post at home in the real world. I think this type of presence will work better than a sim dedicated to one brand only, as it kind of works like the old fashioned way: You go downtown to visit one store, you walk past another one and walk in on impulse.

I can understand Canadian Post offering this selection of shops, as they are real world partners in shipping, but I wonder how many virtual shoppers this particular combination will draw. Perhaps it would have been better to mix the real life companies with popular inworld shops.

There is a downside to this type of presence though, as it is quite a heavy urban build, it is very slow to render if you use a higher graphics setting. I don't think you can blame Canadian Post for this, but rather an unavoidable feat if you're working in Second Life. If corporations slowly start to work out their act in the Metaverse and start doing sensible business, companies and customers alike would like (and rightly so) a better performance from MSP's (Metaverse Service Providers) like Second Life. If performance can't be boosted to have a decent shopping experience, then maybe Second Life isn't the place to be for shops.



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