Grant Linden today blogs that the new SL Marketplace is now officially open. This replacement for XStreet has been the source of much gnashing of teeth for merchants and not a few consumers. Decisions made by LL to make the experience more “professional” meant that all merchants were faced with the need to completely re-work listings that – in many cases – had seen many hours of hard work put into them through the use of BB and HTML code to format and lay-out individual pages – with both BB and HTML being “banned” from the Marketplace. Equally as upsetting was the decision to alter the image format for posting to SLM, requiring more time spent by merchants re-cropping images to suit the new requirements.
All told, the beta of SLM caused more heartache: many popular features from XSL had been ignored in the development of SLM for reasons quite unfathomable: the “Buy Now” button for rapid-fire purchases (which, let’s be honest are probably the major type of purchase made on XSL) was absent – as was the ability to buy an item as a gift. The entire migration method was further muddied by the fact that further migrations of information from XSL initially ran the risk of overwriting work merchants had already sorted through in order to make their new stores browsable.
But it wasn’t all bad news. To be honest, even in beta, the new SLM offered a much cleaner, easier layout than XSL, and the meme of managing an online store – common to most commerce websites was logically implemented and the tool set offered a welcome improvement over XStreet – the aforementioned code restrictions and lack of a “Buy Now” button notwithstanding. So to were the new features contained within the store – the ability to cross-link products, the improved image upload, the ability to link to formatted PDF files and to include machinema videos into a product listing were all very welcome additions.
Since the launch of the beta, LL have been working to implement much-needed missing functionality – and kudos to them; “Buy Now” is back, for example, as is the option to purchase an item as a gift – even if it has been burried. And again, it has to be said that the overall look and feel is much better than XStreet and the use of stores makes it much easier to bookmark specific content creators; things that are all to the good. I really rather like it, despite the fact that as a merchant, LL made me jump through hoops on a number of occasions (including wiping my entire store at the end of September) to get to this point.
Doubtless, wailing will continue and people will grumble over some of the changes: hiding the “Buy as Gift” option away in the Shopping cart / “Purchase review” page, for example is going to leave people used to clicking on an option within the listing somewhat mystified and under the mistaken impression that one can no longer buy items for others (indeed, two people have already contacted me on this matter).
I’m also personally confused by the fact that the “Test Delivery” button merchants can use to ensure a newly listed item or an item someone has indicated they are having problems with is being delivered – has apparently vanished, and it appears that the only way a merchant can test an item is to physically purchase it from themselves - a process that implies LL taking their commission – hardly fair if one is simply testing one’s listing. I’ve looked for a “Test Delivery” option on both the listed page for a product and the merchant’s Preview page – and I am darned if I can find one.
Doubtless more functionality will be forthcoming, whether or not it is simply page blindness that is preventing me from working out how to test deliver a product. For now, however, I hope Grant and the others involved in SLM continue to listen and engage with the community. When all is said and done, they soon more responsiveness in listening to and addressing a plethora of concerns than has been evidenced from LL during other major upheavals to people’s Second Life experience in recent history – and for that they are to be congratulated.
Of course, as I have a vested interest in SLM, here’s a shameless plug (link).