The long tail, or "long" nose?

"nose" or "tail" ?

It's been around four years since Chris Anderson highlighted the opportunities and changes in the market place by being online vs regular store space. His rationale was quiet simple, in a store you are limited by the space you occupy and therefore limited in the choice of tangible products you can sell, online those restrictions do not exist.

Demonstrating this through the now infamous " Long Tail " graph showing the tail as being the area of opportunity (albeit lower volumes) for online distribution channels through 'infinite choice' to the consumer.

By offering these huge online catalogues to consumers, this increased choice would lead them to purchase items which historically would not have been available through regular retail outlets, outlets that must concentrate on the most popular items to maximise there revenues.

Proof in the pudding?

So four years on, the online 'digital media retail' space firmly up and running is this actually the case?

A recent study of tens of millions of online music transactions demonstrated the tail as being not the place of infinite opportunity, but rather a desert island disc (with the focus being on ' desert ').

Apparently the head of the graph represented and area of opportunity which led itself to being more in line with traditional retail space than the new online outlets - so by having this infinite choice available online, consumers were still only purchasing tracks which were readily available in regular music stores.


So the long tail is just a myth, to be recorded in history as yet further evidence that traditional business models are required to be successful online?

I'm not so sure.

The study itself does not go into any depth as to the geographical nature of the study nor the identity of the online retailer - two key elements which would help understand the audience involved.marketing technology offers oppotunity.

In addition to this I can't ignore the huge success of many online music stores,the fact performing a simple search and being presented with huge back catalogue of choice and recommendations against these - surely with the level of detail the online retailers have into customer behaviour they would not be providing this 'out of the goodness of their hearts'.
marketing technology and it's use does offer new sales channels and routes to markets traditional retail cannot.
What this does prove though is there are more factors and considerations involved than simply putting all your back catalouge online and waiting for the sales to role in.....

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