December 05, 2009

Web marketplaces side by side comparison

A lot of people have written about alternatives to XStreet SL in the past weeks, most notably my friend Eloise Pasteur in her review series. There is also a good series of posts by Allegory Malaprop.What was lacking so far is a side-by-side comparison, so I took the effort of listing all of my 5 items on each of the available platforms. I focused on several aspects:
  1. Storefront
    This is the personalized page that only shows your items in an overview. Many merchants link to the storefront from their blogs. The more options the storefront offers, the better for marketing purposes.

  2. Individual item
    My item "Plywood Man" displayed in all available platforms. Please note that I tried to keep the same 1024-pixel window for all items. Screenshots that are larger had a horizontal scrollbar.

  3. Merchant backend overview
    This is the dashboard where you see all your items as a seller, and from where you can ideally make some adjustments already.

  4. Single item edit
    The edit page for a single item, showing all the available editing options

  5. Seller statistics
    What kind of logs and statistics are available to merchants.
Apez.biz
This site has been around for quite some time. Apez is probably best known for their vendor system, which offers comparable (and in some aspects superior) functionality to the popular Hippo system. The technology of Apez is from what I can tell very advanced, their marketing however leaves a lot to be desired. The webpage is basically unchanged for a year now, despite the fact that the Apez team intended to relaunch it shortly after LL acquired OnRez and XStreet SL. Among the almost unknown features of Apez is the fact that you can build your own personalized storefront with them, or that you can use it to schedule payments to any avatar. Eloise's report on Apez.biz.



meta-LIFE
Meta-LIFE is a strange mixture of affiliate vending system, vendor supplier, web shopping portal and community portal. One of the most interesting features is the ability to create a "meta brand" where more than one merchant participates. Meta-LIFE also offers an in-world HUD that not only facilitates shopping, but also has social community features and allows to recommend places and people. Eloise's report on meta-LIFE.






Metaverse Exchange (MVX)
The claim to fame for this platform is that they not only serve Second Life but also the Opensim-based alternative grid "Legend City Online (LCO)". However, none of the listed terminal locations in LCO could be found, and also LCO strikes me as a bit deserted right now. While setting up the MVX account was easy enough, the concept that item photo and price are separated from item description and category is something one needs to get used to. I also did not find where to edit the listing of an already established account. Read what Eloise had to tell about Metaverse Exchange.



MySLMarket
This platform comes from German developers and offers you to add listings in English and German. However the English translation of the site is - despite the operators claim it has been cross-checked by native speakers - a little bit odd. To add a listing you need to select "Insert announcement" - which kept me quite some time to figure out. What is interesting is the idea of a "flea market", where single used items can be sold. Eloise's post on MySLMarket.



slapt.me

Among all of the alternatives to XStreet SL, slapt.me is probably the youngest, but at the same time the most vocal one. I was unable to find a proper storefront link, but all the other essentials were there. During the time I listed items on slapt.me I had to manually update my dropbox three times. While this was annoying to a certain extent, it also shows the platform is actively maintained. My personal impression is that slapt.me will be the most likely candidate for leading competitor to XStreet SL. Eloise had some not so good initial experiences, but posted an update.



Vitty
Vitty is a platform originating from Japan, which makes it an interesting option for getting a foot into the (huge) Japanese market. The English translation is remarkably good, so the usage for non-Japanese shoppers and merchants is possible. Vitty allows you to submit listings in two languages, where you can decide what languages they are. For serious merchants I suggest to make the primary listing in Japanese though. I did not had a good start with Vitty as it did not want to send me the dropbox first, but that got resolved eventually. Eloise had the same problem, so no extensive review yet.



XStreet SL
We all know XStreet SL, so just for comparison purposes the same screenshots as for the other platforms:



What else?
Apart of those 6 alternatives, a 7th is about to launch mid December. Cariama has a pleasing webpage design, but so far one can not say a lot of things. It has yet to be seen how it will work.

My personal impression is that the three most interesting platforms are Apez.biz, meta-LIFE and slapt.me. I doubt a single one of them will "make it" and obsolete the others. All have different concepts and strenghts and weaknesses. Apez definitely lacks on the marketing side - something slapt.me is agressively pushing. If you want to tap into the Japanese market, Vitty is your best bet so far, but Japanese translation is a must (and incidentally I know a good translation agency :-).

I assume merchants will need to live with maintaining multiple platforms, and need to develop strategies and maybe even tools to update listings on all of them. Definitely there are good platforms that allow you to address a broad audience and not have your eggs all in one basket.
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