Back in June, the amazingly capable Reena Jana who writes and edits for the Innovation & Design channel, did a terrific story on how American Apparel was using Second Life to get close to its customers and design its clothes. The trendy t-shirt maker opened a virtual store and people can outfit their avatars. That gives American Apparel and inside look at what they want in the real world.
Now W Hotels is opening a virtual hotel in Second Life to test out "virtual architecture" for ALOFT, a new hotel idea. I think Starwood, owner of the W brand, will be testing out how people interract with different hotel concepts and that data will inform the company on just what and how to build the rooms, spaces, etc., of ALOFT.
This is important and fascinating stuff. Testing out ideas, and getting close to your customers in Second Life is a whole new step in designing better consumer experiences.