Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

The Long Tail of Consumers

I've finished reading Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. The book explains how the shift in retail sales from physical stores to the internet has caused consumption to move away from cultural hits to cultural niches. The hits cause a spike on one end of the retail sales chart. The niche sales cause a long tail along the rest of the sales chart, hence the title. With the internet driving niche sales, it turns out that the combined sales along the tail are greater than sales occurring on the hill of hits. Chris posits that retailers better get their act together and start paying more attention to the customers purchasing on the long tail.

Whenever I read a book that puts forth a new theory, I inevitably end up with questions. So it goes with this book. Marketers have broken customers up into groups based on age. You've heard of these groups, I'm sure. There's the Greatest Generation (those who lived through the Depression & World War II), the Baby Boomers (a.k.a. Boomers), the Gen Xers (a.k.a. Slackers), and the Millenials (a.k.a. Gen Y). The coveted demographic for marketers is the group comprised of 18-34 year-old males. (See pages 166 & 194 of The Long Tail) Even though this group is at forefront of using digital technology (the internet et. al.), and presumably driving the demand for niche culture, could this same group also be considered the "cultural hit" of demographics? Could it be that all the rest of us are considered the long tail and thus are niche consumers? The long tail isn't just about the products; it's also about the customers. Are you paying attention, marketers?

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