DX Exchange offers SL Marketplace alternative

DX Exchange, the Linden Dollar authorised reseller has launched a new on-line marketplace for  SL goods.

The new DX Marketplace is intended to offer SL users the opportunity to “shop on the internet, order your virtual goods and pay and collect them in SL at our pay-and-collect terminal”, the new marketplace has set itself some pretty big goals:

It is our ambition to create a special place for Pro designers, who make good quality goods, of their own creation to display their collection. A place for them to stand out from the crowd of products and designers inSL.

For the customers, it has to be a tidy, well organised place where they can be sure to find only goods of ‘good standing’.

The site itself is gaining interest from SL merchants – the list of stores is growing almost by the day, although content seems to be slow in appearing in some cases.

The DX Exchange home page
The DX Exchange home page

There are some important points to note about this site when compared to something like the SL Marketplace. In particular, the engine used to power DX Exchange is Magento, and the stores within it are pretty much self-contained e-commerce sites contained within the DX Marketplace “wrapper”. This is important on two counts:

  • Merchants have access to virtually the full range of Magento e-commerce tools. These include not just product listing and sales reports, but options such as customer tracking, , creating and generating custom reports, running a store newsletter and / or blog, a range of CMS functions, setting custom search terms for product finding, and so on. In fact, far too much for a review such as this to cover
  • Each store actually stands as its own e-commerce site, with its own dedicated URL (if people want to use it), its own shopping cart and its own checkout.

This latter point may be confusing for people used to the SL Marketplace. Perhaps the easiest analogy is that while a visit to the SL Marketplace is like a visit to department store, where multiple items from multiple designers can by put into your shopping cart and paid for when you reach the checkout, a visit to the DX Marketplace is like a visit to a mall containing individual shops, where goods must be paid for at each store.

A couple of incentives have been offered to those wishing to use the site:

  • For merchants, all goods can be sold at 0% commission for the time being (commission will eventually be 4%)
  • Shoppers signing-up for the DX Marketplace newsletter get L$100 of a single purchase made via the DX Marketplace.

The Merchant’s Perspective

I don’t intend to cover all of the options available for merchants – as noted above, they really are extensive (and the chances are, many may well end-up not being used). The Magento site provides comprehensive contextual help pages for those who want to delve deeper into things,  all accessible directly from the various admin pages, and I recommend yo take a look through them; I’m only going to look at the basics of creating product listing and provide a few other pointers.

To become a merchant, the first thing you need to do is submit an application form. In return for this, you should receive an introductory note card with details on how to access the admin page for your store and various other notes, an invite to the Merchant’s support group, and a copyable dropbox.

Getting products onto you store listings is a familiar – if slightly more involved – pattern of:

  • Rezzing a dropbox somewhere safe in-world (and leaving it there)
  • Dropping your prepared items for sale into the Contents tab of the edited dropbox
  • Touching the dropbox to upload the details to the website
  • Switching to the website to create your product listings.

This last part requires logging-in to your store’s Admin page and then selecting Catalog > Manage Products from the menu, which will display you list of uploaded items. Once again, it is worth looking at the other menu options that are displayed at the top of the dashboard; Magento offer a huge range of tools and options, so of which may well prove useful to you.

You items will be initially displayed in the listing page under Catalog > Manage Products. To edit an individual item's listing, click on the edit link to the right of the item's entry in the list (circled). Also note the help option to the top right of every page (also circled) - this will take you to Magneto's comprehensive contextual help
You items will be initially displayed in the listing page under Catalog > Manage Products. To edit an individual item’s listing, click on the edit link to the right of the item’s entry in the list (circled). Also note the help option to the top right of every page (also circled) – this will take you to Magneto’s comprehensive contextual help (click for full size)

The first thing to note on the listing page is the sheer number of options available from the Product information menu on the left side of the page. these really are extensive.

For example, not only can you define your products in terms of categories and with tags to make browsing your store and searching it easier for customers, you can also set SEO meta data against products if you wish, making them more visible to web search engines. Be aware that some of the options – such as those within the CMS menu – may affect how your store pages behave.

DXE-4
Creating a new product listing presents you with a plethora of tabbed options – not all of them may be required, but it is worth familiarising yourself with them

You may not need to use all of the options listing in the menu (a couple are actually unavailable, at least at this point in time); however, I do recommend you look through them and their associated help pages to get a feel for them and what they might offer you.

At the very least, you’ll need to use the General, Prices, Images, Categories, and Product Tags options, and quite possible the Inventory (for limited stock offers), Related Products and Gifts tabs as well, depending on the item you’re selling.

Note that in order to edit any fields in the various tabs in the Editing listing page, the [Store View] Use Default Value must have the check boxes unchecked. This, I understand, should be automatically in Chrome, but in other browsers, you may need to manually uncheck them.

You can save you updates as you make them – such as at the end of editing a particular tab – using the Edit and Continue button, or you can update an entire listing when you’ve done, via the Save button.

Do note that in order to make a listing “live” in your store, you must set the Status field to Enabled in the General tab.

Elsewhere in the Admin page menus (such as under the System > Configuration menu and the CMS options) are various options to upload your own store logo, modify your store page layouts, use alternative store templates, etc. However, not all of these are obvious in how they work, and may actually be a tad temperamental  (while I could upload a store image, I couldn’t actually display its URL in order to set it against my store, for example), so I’d advise seeking help through the Merchant Support group or directly from DX Exchange staff before playing with some of them.

A completed store listing, as it appears in the default store layout
A completed store listing, as it appears in the default store layout

The Customer’s Perspective

From the customer’s perspective, DX Marketplace differs from the SL Marketplace and PrimBay in a number of ways, such as:

  • Purchasers do not have to have a Linden dollar account with DX Exchange – items are paid for and received by going to terminals located at the DX Marketplace head office
  • Stores within the DX Marketplace, as already noted, are very much individual entities within the DX Marketplace “wrapper”, each with its own shopping cart and check-out for selected goods
    • This mean that clicking on the DX Marketplace logo on pages won’t return you to the DX Marketplace home page; the logo is simply a placeholder for the store’s logo
  • However, some functions within the Marketplace function across all stores – such as search and the account log-in.

The default design for stores is, I have to say, bland. The grey background to pages gives store a dreary look (see the image above). Worse than that, it results in some pages  – such as the checkout pages – being bad for those with colour vision issues: black text on a grey background really is not a good idea. Some merchants have attempted to use alternative page layouts / templates to alter the appearance of their stores, but frankly, more could have been done up-front.

From a shopper’s perspective, store operate like the SL Marketplace: home pages list goods (the listing can be set to 9, 15 or 30 items by shoppers), and details on products accessed by clicking its thumbnail. Items include a BUY button, which adds it to the store’s shopping cart (displaying the cart in the process), and a COMPARE button, which I think is used via the My Account button at the top of the page (you’ll have to register an account).

Individual item listings are compact and designed to be displayed without having to scroll down the page. Tabs provide quick access to essential information, and include some interesting additional options – such as being able to e-mail a friend about a product or signing-up to receive pricing alerts about it.

The check-out page for a store - enter your details on the left
The check-out page for a store – enter your details on the left, and optionally create an account for future use (so you only need to enter your first & last name when placing orders), place your order and hop in world to the DX Exchange HQ to pay & take delivery.

Obtaining the goods you’ve selected is a case of using the checkout pages. Remember, you’ll have to do this on a per store basis if you’ve been on a bit of spree. On displaying a checkout page, you can adjust item quantities, if required, and then enter your details (user name or user name and e-mail if you’ve not registered an account), and then click the PLACE ORDER NOW button. Then it’s just a case of teleporting to the DX Marketplace HQ, making your payment at one of the terminals and receiving your goods. It would be nice if the SLurl to the latter were a live link, but I suspect that’s a limitation within the website software.

Also as noted above, there are some functions that operate entirely across stores. Search, for example, operates on a cross-store basis: click on the search option in one store, and results will be listed in terms of the store in which they can be viewed / purchased.

Stores in the DX Marketplace exist somewhat independently of one another, which separate shopping carts and checkouts. items selected within a store will only go into the shopping cart for that store, even though search may take you across multiple stores as you look for items. Therefore you may need to keep track of what goes into various carts if you don't select and purchase as you go
Search from any store (in this case LookAtMe) (top left), ill display results in terms of the stores in which they can be found – clicking the View Detail link for any item listed by search will transfer you to the relevant store

Click the View Detail link for an item listed in your search results will transfer you directly to the store where it can be found. Remember that if you add it to your shopping cart, it will be added to the cart for that store, not the store from which you started the search; if you had any items in your shopping cart for the previous store, you’ll have to return to that store (browser BACK button) in order to complete required purchases.

The Account log-in also works across all stores as well: log-in for one, and you’re logged-in for them all.  However, actual details on the My Account dashboard remain store specific (so the shopping cart display in the lower left corner is only specific to the current store you’re in, for example.

Feedback

I could write a lot more, but at almost 2200 words, this is enough for now, and hopefully gives a flavour of things. That only leaves one question: do we actually need another marketplace for the sale of SL goods?  Sure, the SL Marketplace is a PITA at times, whether you’re a merchant or a customer or both. Nevertheless it has the lion’s share of use, and despite issues over management tools and search, etc., it gets the job done for most of us. So going up against it is a tough proposition.

The DX Marketplace, while offering a huge suite of tools and oodles of reporting for merchants is, I feel, going to find it hard to make a mark – not least because of the payment / delivery methodology. Compared to the sheer convenience of having a BUY NOW button and direct delivery to your inventory (which SL Marketplace and PrimBay both have), DX Marketplace feels like an antiquated shopping experience. As such, I think it is going to be hard pushed to encourage shoppers to use it. But, PrimBay has managed to carve a little niche for itself over the last 12 months; so it might be interesting to see what is the case with DX Exchange in a year’s time.

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8 thoughts on “DX Exchange offers SL Marketplace alternative

  1. Not sure if that will boost sales. Unless marketplace schrinks. Better place a shop inworld then. Cannot believe that people go shop on more sites for Secondlife. most people only know marketplace. and im sure in short time i forgot the dx marketplace.

    We need to see.

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  2. As indicated by the phrase: “only goods of ‘good standing’” in the description you cite, I might expect they are aiming to act as curators for a particular class of content.

    The analogy that comes to mind is the highly successful Etsy, that (until very recently) acted as a curator for only “handmade” objects made by individual craftspeople. When I shop at Etsy, I can reasonably expect that the goods in their collection will be handcrafted objects made by individuals. These same products might also be available on Amazon, for example, but given Amazon’s hugeness, they might be harder to for me to find. Further, I might buy an item from Amazon that I think is individually handcrafted, because it was marketed to look and feel that way, but is made in an Indonesian sweatshop manufacturing line.

    This is only one example among many I could cite of curated shopping experiences that exist and thrive, as the sheet glut of objects for sale online becomes unwieldy to sift through, there is significant added value in a shopping experience where some of the hard work of selection has already been done for you.

    However, If they were indeed acting as curators of goods that were of “higher quality” (how that might be defined is a whole other debate) or from only “Pro designers, who make good quality goods, of their own creation”, then I would have expected you to have mentioned some kind of vetting process?

    Did anyone inspect your goods to ensure they are of “good standing” before you posted them? How can we be assured they are of “higher quality” (and what do they mean by these terms, anyway?) Did anyone ask you to submit your “Pro Designer” credentials at any point, before dropping them in your dropbox? I can only guess this did not happen, or you would have surely mentioned it in your review.

    Perhaps they have another plan up their sleeve – perhaps they vet them after the fact? If not, then I tend to agree that this might be another “me-too” offering that will effectively be a smaller, more limited SL Marketplace. All things being equal (and the inconveniences you mentioned make them less than equal), why would I shop at a smaller, more limited marketplace, where the only difference I can ascertain is that I will have less chance of finding what I am actually looking for?

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    1. There doesn’t appear to be any direct vetting of goods – as you say, I’d have mentioned it had there been :). The upload / listing process is as described – drop, list, enable, sell. Whether there are any checks after-the-fact, I’ve no idea (I took my items down shortly after posting the article, while I mull over whether or not to use DX Marketplace, as a very *small* creator of content I’m not sure I’d get traction there). However, I’d say after-the-fact checks would be unlikely, as it would only serve to annoy merchants.

      PrimBay actually manages quite well as a “me too” offering. However, it has the advantage of using a vendor system alongside of dropboxes, and it has the convenience of delivery to your inventory – not pay-and-collect via a central in-world location.

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  3. I can’t seem to find any merchant documentation on their site so couldn’t find an answer for this: in the above you talk about a dropbox rather than dropboxes. Do you happen to know if the system works with and allows for multiple dropboxes with duplicate content? When these sorts of systems deliver from the inventory of in-world objects it’s pretty vital that you can duplicate dropboxes on multiple regions to allow for general region issues as well as to survive rolling restarts.

    The old XS/SLMP dropboxes handled this and so does PrimBay (it being fed by the CasperVend dropboxes).

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