Canada Post founds virtual city on Second Life

Among the shops in 'Maple Grove' are SkyMall, Toys 'R' Us and the Shopping Channel.

Yesterday, Canada Post announced that it has boldly gone to perhaps the last place anyone would have expected it to go: Second Life.

Canada Post has founded the virtual city of Maple Grove, an online community where this holiday season’s online shoppers will be able to browse in the 3-D cyber stores of the national mail carrier’s retail partners. While visiting the cyber locale, consumers can order gifts and merchandise from the Canadian and American retailers who are featured in Canada Post’s annual lookbook catalogue. They include SkyMall, Toys ‘R’ Us, the Shopping Channel, Brookstone, Red Canoe and Everything Olive.

The official launch of Maple Grove will be celebrated tomorrow, November 3, with a six-hour virtual live music festival. As well, throughout the holiday season, the virtual city will host concerts, film screenings and shopping events.

To augment the inaugural festivities, many retailers are offering incentives for Second Life visitors. SkyMall, which recently entered the Canadian market, has a ‘ship to anyone in Canada’ option, allowing Canadian and US shoppers to send gifts to families and friends in Canada. The Shopping Channel will broadcast its special offers throughout the holiday season. Niche retailer Everything Olive will give eco-friendly gift totes with purchases. And Brookstone will take $15 off all purchases of $100 or more.

Why did Canada Post choose to set up shop in Second Life’s worldwide virtual community of more than 8 million registered users? ‘Today’s net-savvy consumers value convenience and relevance, and there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians in Second Life,’ explains Laurene Cihosky, SVP for Canada Post’s direct marketing division. ‘Maple Grove is our way of meeting those expectations; a virtual place for friends to meet, shop and enjoy the culture that Canada has to offer.

‘The post office is the centre of many communities across Canada,’ notes Cihosky. ‘And just like your local post office, visitors to Maple Grove can visit Canada Post and send packages, buy stamps, cards, gift cards and send them to anyone, anywhere in Canada.’

No paid advertising is planned for the Maple Grove venture. Instead, Paulina Sazon, of Canada Post’s direct retail strategies division, tells MiC, ‘A buzz marketing campaign will take place within Second Life, across social media networks and directly through the mainstream media.’

The initiative will include a series of live entertainment events, discussion forums and a virtual scavenger hunt, all promoted through Second Life’s events calendar, group notices and blogs. Maple Grove will also be similarly promoted on other social media sites including MySpace. As well, says Sazon, ‘We expect extensive media coverage about the initiative from mainstream media, which are already expressing great interest’ in the venture.

Promotional activities are being handled in-house at Canada Post. Development of the Maple Grove initiative was done in collaboration with the mail carrier’s US reps, French West Vaughan, of Raleigh, NC.