Ilan Tochner, CEO of Kitely, dropped me an e-mail on Friday August 30th to let me know the Kitely Marketplace is now open for business. There’s also an official announcement from the Kitely team on their blog as well, which is recommended reading for those interested in the Marketplace.
First announced at the start of the year, the Kitely Marketplace has taken eight months to reach the point of launch – and with good reason. The Kitely team have been working to develop an online experience which is initially available within Kitely, but which can be expanded in time to support other OpenSim grids.
The Market combines features familiar to those used to using the SL Marketplace or markets such as the (now defunct) Apez and Metaverse Exchange: items can be browsed on-line, then purchased (using Kitely Credits (KCs) or US dollars), prior to being delivered directly to the purchaser’s in-world inventory in a similar manner to SL’s Direct Delivery mechanism. Additionally, the Market functions more like e-commerce sites such as Amazon, where items can be searched for using attributes as well as a category hierarchy, making the search process and drill-down easier and more flexible for both merchants and consumers.
In addition, the Kitely Marketplace allows for multiple versions of a product to be listed as a single item, thus simplifying the listing, viewing and reviewing of products. So rather than having five individual listings for an outfit which is available in five different colours, a merchant can create a single listing for the outfit, which includes the 5 different colours, allowing consumers to buy any of the five from the one product listing.
A further aspect of the Marketplace is that demo items can be “built-in” in the main product listing, eliminating the need for additional, separate listings to deal with product demos. Where a merchant offers a demo (indicated in the product listing), the potential buyers can try it by adding the item to their Shopping Cart, where they’ll get a link called “Try demo”. When they click this link, the demo version is immediately added to their inventory.
There are other subtle touches as well, some of which may be familiar to users of virtual world marketplaces - such as the ability to click on a store name either in a list of multiple products or within an individual product listing, in order to display and browse the contents of that store. Other touches aren’t so obvious, but are nevertheless pleasing to find – such as rolling the mouse cursor over the thumbnails of any variations of an item to see each of their full-sized images displayed in the product listing.
In developing the Marketplace, Kitely have focused not only on the usability / functionality aspects of the system, but also on optimising the servers and putting in place strong automated capabilities and additional safeguards.
“We spent a lot of time optimizing the backend so it will be able to provide a snappy user experience even thou each page returns multiple dynamic counters (the number of results given the existing filters in each category and attribute that contains relevant search results),” Ilan informed me in announcing the launch. “Kitely Market remained fast even when we tested it on databases of more than 1 million different products and many concurrent bots (and this is without starting to scale up the hardware we use for the marketplace or distributing it to multiple servers).”