Virtual goods is a rapidly growing market, proving a revenue-generating opportunity for many site publishers an social networks alike. But with all the experimentation that’s been going on, what have we learned so far? A survey conducted by WeeWorld on 4,000 of is users gives us some insight to virtual goods consumer behavior.
Having started out as an avatar creation service, WeeWorld has expanded to become an entire virtual world for its users, having added on several features and integration options with other sites, networks and services as a virtual application. Below is an interview with WeeWorld regarding its recent survey, which even broke down user behavior based on gender.
Kristen Nicole: For WeeWorld, teens are the core demographic in your space. How do you see teens as driving the virtual goods market for WeeWorld?
Teens are flocking to WeeWorld to do what teens do best – evolve their identities, socialize and express themselves creatively all in a safe environment for teens. WeeMees are a reflection of their identity and our users actively purchase virtual goods to better express themselves and have fun. Whether it be adding the newest clothes and accessories to their avatar or decorating their Rooms with the latest items, our users not only purchase these virtual goods but they are constantly asking for them as well. Many of our users send us messages asking for the latest CoverGirl make-up or newest summer trends.
Kristen Nicole: Based on the survey conducted on your users, it seems like the conclusion you reached is that “Fun Equals Money” when it comes to virtual goods. How is that?
Fun starts with the WeeMee! More than 75 percent of users surveyed like having a WeeMee avatar “because it is fun.” Teens also report to gravitating toward “anything fun” when spending their money online. While the definition of fun changes all the time, the rules for creating a successful virtual good remain the same. Virtual goods must be seen as worthwhile to the user, they are most successful when the goods inject playfulness and integrate well into the community.
Examples of popular fun virtual goods:
- Animated 4th of July fireworks and sparklers
- Box of popcorn with creepy hand reaching out (movie launch for Drag me to Hell)
- Animated skateboard
- Scene styled hair with colorful highlights
- Shutter shades
- Animated monkey eating a Popsicle
- Taylor Swift sparkling guitar and animated pink design highlighting your WeeMee from behind
Kristen Nicole: You also mentioned that there’s some interesting differences between boys and girls when it comes to virtual environments. What does your survey reflect in this regard?
While many virtual worlds are either very girl-centric or very male-centric, WeeWorld has been solidly 60% female and 40% male from the beginning. One of the more fascinating findings from our survey was the powerful influence girls have in the Weeworld community. They heavily influence the communication style and spending habits of males on the site.
A majority of girls (50 percent) use messaging on WeeWorld or AIM, Windows Messenger and Skype primarily to gossip with friends, while boys use those mediums to talk with their girlfriends. When purchasing items like virtual goods most girls (29 percent) note their friend’s opinions as most important, whereas boys note their family’s opinion most (27 percent), followed by a tie between girlfriends and friends. Most girls spend time on WeeWorld communicating with friends while boys spend a majority of their time playing games. However, one very surprising finding was that more girls play games on their mobile devices compared to boys (42 percent vs. 38 percent).
Kristen Nicole: For a company to rely so heavily on teen spending, do you have to appeal to their parents at all or is the teen spending market pretty solid when it comes to virtual goods?
The economy may be struggling, but teens don’t seem to be feeling the pinch. Our survey found that despite the declining economic forecasts, more than half of teens claim to have the same or higher allowance than before, while only 11 percent noted that they are getting less allowance now than in the past. WeeWorld virtual goods revenue is growing by an average of 27% per month.
Kristen Nicole: When it comes to the virtual goods market overall, what are your thoughts? Any plans to develop WeeWorld’s’ virtual goods market beyond your own destination site?
I think the virtual goods market has tremendous potential. It is an exciting time for WeeWorld as our community recently topped 29 million WeeMees worldwide and 2.1 million visitors per month. Beyond our partnerships with AIM, MSN, Skype and USA Networks, we have plans to expand in the mobile device space and as well as other branding opportunities.