As someone who wasted enjoyed countless playing The Sims in college (the process of (wo)man-handling a virtual world of eat-work-study-sleep-wait! catch the burglar - was oddly appealing when compared to say, finishing up my thesis, doing laundry, or even worse, planning for life after college), I have been keeping tabs on Second Life, (SL) "An online society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy."
The premise is that eventually, we will all have a presence on SL, the way many of us do already online - but in a kind of all-consuming, interactive otherworld beyond simple Simian-pretend. We will do our banking there, order a nice bottle of wine to bring to the party... conference calls will be a thing of the past as we meet our co-workers online for a quick meeting - imagine meeting your virtual boss in his/her chosen avatar to brainstorm for that next client meeting!
Actually, most of the above things are already happening, and according to a recent article in the The Wall Street Journal, many of the early-adoptors among us are already scoping SL as the latest way to waste time at work shop. American Apparel sold 4,000 items since launching its virtual SL boutique in June, 2006. If you don't have a WSJ subscription read the press release from the AA site.
Second Life's Business Communicators blog explains the appeal: "designers gain attention using advertising, websites and blogs – and Second Life style magazines are a key PR tool, as well."
Is this the future of shopping? If the amount of money these consumers are spending in SL is any indication, we should all start paying better attention to this new media channel.