Third Places Take First Place in Second Life: Developing a Scale to Measure the ‘Stickiness’ of Virtual World Sites.
The objective of this study is to examine what drives visitor retention in successful businesses operating in online virtual world environments. The study draws motivation from increasing anecdotal evidence reporting on high profile corporate brands withdrawing from operations in Second Life - citing low visitor traffic as their motivation. Early adopter corporations that established business operations in Second Life did so anticipating benefits from the new technology akin to the quantum leap made when they embraced the World Wide Web. While disappointingly low visitor numbers left many virtual world operations looking like desolate ghost towns, there are businesses enjoying active repeat customers. Drawing on Oldenburg’s Theory of Third Place, this study seeks to quantify the reasons for high customer retention in successful virtual communities. To this effect, a questionnaire is developed and administered by a team of avatar researchers who interviewed over 250 avatars in Second Life. Website stickiness measures are reviewed and applied to virtual world sites. Conclusions are drawn and future research directions proposed.
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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org