I got it when I discovered the virtual world, my avatar. It’s like jumping into an uncomfortable spacesuit and then free-falling from the physical world into the digital world. This is a world full of zeros and ones, to which they answer only yes or no, which should be only right or wrong. How on earth can we ever comprehend this abstract environment? We need to digitize ourselves. Hence may avatar and me…
What is an avatar?
Your Dictionary defines an avatar as something visual used to represent non-visual concepts or ideas. Or it may be an image that is used to represent a person in the virtual world of the internet and computers. Peachey and Childs, (2011)1 suggest that taking on the form of an avatar within a virtual world is resembling a literacy of crossing down from the real into the digital. Consequently, many of us created our first avatars when we start playing games online.
With online gaming, virtual worlds are three dimensional environments in which you can interact with others and create objects as part of that interaction. How do you do that? You appear as an avatar in the virtual world: an avatar is a virtual representation of you (a ‘virtual ego’) which can take on any shape or form as you so wish (Virtual Reality Society). Just like my avatar and me…
My avatar and me going shopping
Now we move from gaming to shopping. How will my avatar help me shopping in the virtual world? It can be done with the help of your online retailer… According to De Mesa, (2009) 2 brands can, by being three-dimensional and interactive, move past the ‘show me’ paradigm of other media and get into the ’touch me’ world of true interaction.
Take for example shopping online for clothing. From the start this was a potential minefield. “The issue of getting the correct size remains a serious drawback for buying clothing and footwear online. Sizes vary from brand to brand, and since you can’t try out the products before buying them, selecting the size is always a gamble”, says Tarun Mittal, YourStory.com.
However, the industry is pouring millions of dollars into developing and trying technological solutions. Augmented reality, avatars and algorithms that approximate your size based on measurements you provide are already in the marketplace (CBC News).
So, my avatar (and me) can now click on an app to select my body shape and click on a piece of clothing I want to try. My avatar will appear in a 3D image wearing the item in the comfort of my own home. That’s really cool, isn’t it!
How can using avatars help retailers?
Just as we are using avatars to ease into the virtual world, so retailers use avatars to target their audience better. They call these avatars personas. Retailers, for example, create personas to help them understand their customers better. “It’s not who comes to your website that is important it is how they behave when they get there that is key to your success”, say Jackson (2009) 3.
Jackson (2009) 3 also suggests when designing personas, retailers should look at a number of different sources of data to define how to get to their role models. These are:
- Demographic data – age, gender, geography (data acquired from customer surveys, CRM data or other sources).
- Customer psychographics – what the customer does in the pre-purchase phase found by looking at a number of different sources in addition to the demographic data, such as web analytics keyword data.
- Market data – such as how the branding and market place effects the decisions of the persona. Web analytics keyword data, Google Trends and data from doing a competitor analyses are good sources of information.
Once a retailer has all the data about her customers, she can create an avatar or persona for customers that are interested in a specific product or product line. Below is an example of a completed buyer persona.
The advent of the internet and technological advances thereafter have plunged us all in a new world. It’s a new world with a new economy and new rules – for most an exciting though scary space. By creating avatars and personas, machines and humans can meet on common ground – each wearing a spacesuit to make sense of one another.
1Peachey, A. and Childs, M. 2011. Virtual worlds and identity, In: Reinventing ourselves: contemporary concepts of identity in virtual Worlds, 1-12, Springer London.
2De Mesa, A. 2009. Brand Avatar: Translating virtual world branding into real world success, Springer.
3Jackson, S. 2009. Chapter 6: Developing and Measuring Motivational and Behavioural Personas, In: Cult of Analytics: Driving online marketing strategies using web analytics, Routledge.
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