Leveraging the Long Tail and Society6
Leveraging the long tail, while a bit of a mouthful to say, is extremely relevant to the topic of web 2.0 and has been categorised within O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Patterns. Originally introduced by Chris Anderson, in his economic model of the ‘Long Tail’, the concept, I think, is well summarised by O’Reilly who states that it is “the collective power of small sites that make up the bulk of the internet’s content”.
Essentially the topic relates to strategies that e-commerce and web 2.0 platforms can use to leverage the online market place in a way that is beneficial, not only for them, but for consumers and niche markets. Consumers no longer need to choose ‘mainstream’ or ‘one size fits all’ products or markets. The world of web 2.0 has allowed for organisations and brands to optimise on these capabilities and this means that niche goods and services can now not only be found, in markets previously too small to be able to capture great attention (whether it be because of physical limitations in stores such as ‘shelf space’ or popularity), but that these markets have the potential to be just as economically attractive and feasible.
Chris Anderson’s diagram of the ‘long tail’ assists in showcasing this ‘new marketplace’ and the fact that while niche markets are within the lesser part of the slope, the total number within that section represents significant market opportunities. Two prime examples of platforms that have been successful in leveraging the long tail include Amazon and eBay, due to their abilities to connect people with their specific needs and crowdsourcing capabilities.
It is obvious that the benefits surrounding this pattern are immense and allows for platforms and websites to have the ability to reach a broader range of consumers and to more accurately meet the needs of their target micro-markets. As a result, this means consumers have products and services targeted to their needs and wants more readily available.
The platform I am discussing this week that I feel exemplifies the best practices of leveraging the long tail, is Society6. Society6 is an online e-commerce site for consumers looking for original, new, artistic items and also a platform for designers to share and sell their designs on a variety of mediums, from iphone cases to shower curtains. The site prides itself on being founded by designers for the purpose of up-and-coming artists to be able to share and sell their pieces to consumers who are looking for something a little bit different.
One of the best practices of this pattern that I feel Society6 optimises upon particularly well, is the use of algorithmic data management to match supply and demand. All markets are competitive, even niche ones, and so platforms that utilise this function of helping consumers find products similar to what they have been looking at or targeted to their needs stand out from those that do not. Society6 demonstrates this feature on every product page, where users have the option to see more pieces from the artist they are looking at as well as the category ‘Items you may like’, based on similar categories and items to the ones you have been looking at. Society6 is using this algorithmic data management in a strategic manner to connect more people with more suitable products and is one I personally find is extremely helpful when browsing the site.
Society6 is also definitely demonstrating the best practices of leveraging customer self-service to cost effectively reach the entire web and the low-cost advantages of being online. Upon entering the Society6 site you are instantly in control of your entire experience. You can manage your own accounts and transactions easily, without having to interact with anyone, and you are not even required to sign up to the website to be able to make a purchase. This quick and easy, self-service approach allows for customers to quickly navigate their way in, find what it is they want and purchase it without any complications involved, while still having the support from the Help and Order Status pages. Not to mention, the fact that Society6 does not have any physical stores allows for them to be able to benefit from the low-cost advantages of being an online store as production and inventory costs are kept low from products being made to order, as well as the fact that support and training costs would be able to be minimised due to the previously mentioned self service and community support functions.
In comparison to other websites similar to Society6, I definitely feel that they are leveraging the long tail in a more effective and customer-orientated manner and that their growing success is a testament to that. Please let me know what you think about this topic; do you know of any other great examples of platforms that have successfully leveraged the long tail? What do you think the online marketplace will be like in a few years, will we be inundated with niche platforms all competing for smaller markets? I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions!
- Anderson, C. (2009, September 24). Netflix data shows shifting demand down the long tail [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2009/09/netflix-data-shows-shifting-demand-down-the-long-tail.html
- iKantam. (2014). Society6. Retrieved from http://www.ikantam.com/ecommerce/society6
- Larry, T. (2007). Video 2.0 introduces new breeds of PR content: leveraging the long tail of the internet. Public Relations Tactics, 14(6), 14. Retrieved from http://www.proquest.com
- O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is web 2.0. Retrieved from http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=5
- Society6. (2014). About Society6. Retrieved from http://society6.com/help/about
- Image Source: Google Images via Creative Commons