The Internet marketplace allows companies to produce and sell a far wider range of products than ever before. This profoundly changes both consumer behavior and business strategy.
Dozens of markets of all types are in the early stages of a revolution as the Internet and related technologies vastly expand the variety of products that can be produced, promoted and purchased. Although this revolution is based on a simple set of economic and technological drivers, the authors argue that its implications are far-reaching for managers, consumers and the economy as a whole. This article looks at what has been dubbed the “Long Tail” phenomenon, examining how customers derive value from an important characteristic of Internet markets: the ability of online merchants to help consumers locate, evaluate and purchase a far wider range of products than they can typically buy via the traditional brick-and-mortar channels.
The article examines the Long Tail from both the supply side and the demand side and identifies several key drivers. On the supply side, the authors point out how e-tailers’ expanded, centralized warehousing allows for more offerings, thus making it possible for them to cater to more varied tastes. On the demand side, tools such as search engines, recommender software and sampling tools are allowing customers to find products outside of their geographic area. The authors also look toward the future to discuss second order amplified effects of Long Tail, including the growth of markets serving smaller niches.