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 logoSociety6 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!

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10 responses to “Leveraging the Long Tail and Society6”

  1. lisajaynie says :

    Hi Brittany

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and introducing me to a great new platform – Society6 is a great example of an online retailer leveraging a distinctly niche market. They have created a unique platform to connect global buyers and sellers of quirky, fun and artistic products.

    Society6 offers its community a distinctly unique opportunity – the production of artistic products based on designs created and submitted by a community of up to 300,000 artists looking to see their work produced in various forms. The site is similar to Etsy in that it provides the opportunity to purchase handmade, artistic artefacts that are distinctly authentic. For me, a lover of all things beautiful and artistic, these are the greatest successes of web 2.0 platforms, changing the face of retail, and providing opportunities to be apart of global marketplaces.

    Society6 has successfully leveraged the long tail by creating a community built on a model of retail that is vastly different from traditional retail as we know it – this platform not only connects buyers and sellers, but gives users from around the world the opportunity to produce and sell their own designs. Society6 is thus growing their database of sellers in the community, while becoming known as a platform that enables designers and artists to produce their work, and selling awesome, unique products that can’t be bought form anywhere else.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs 🙂

  2. brittsmith2014 says :

    Hi Lisa!

    Thank you for your comment- I really appreciate it! I agree with you that the site is very similar to Etsy and I am sure it won’t be long until Society6 also has a mobile app just as Etsy does. What do you think?

    I didn’t know that there were over 300,000 artists on Society6, so that is really interesting statistic to hear. I somehow got on the Society6 bandwagon quite early and it is really amazing to see the vast difference in the volume of artists who are now adding new designs on the platform. I look forward to seeing how this progresses over the next year or so.

    Thanks again for your comment! 🙂 Brittany

  3. mjeed2009 says :

    Hi Britteny,
    Great and informative blog post as always. They have some good collections with reasonable price I love it. Society6 defiantly is applicable in the best practise of customer self-service to cost effectively reach the entire web, and also the low-cost advantage $22 for a t-shit this isn’t bad at all. But what worries me always the most are the clothes quality or the product quality, I like to try it before I purchase it lots of things looks great in pictures but once you receive it you would be disappointed. Great feature they have is purchasing things without the need to sign up I think this can be good and bad at the same time because it could cause security threat to the website and to the customer information as well.

    Thank you for the post

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi there!

      Thank you for your comment and ideas! I am glad you like the look of Society6 and happy I could introduce it to you. I really enjoy the fact that the self-service features on Society6 are so easy and clear, it means I can get in and find what I want without any unnecessary interruptions.

      There is always a worry when purchasing on a new website for users about the quality of the products, sure. I do like, however, the description Society6 uses about their t-shirts, for example, “American Apparel Organic Fine Jersey T-shirts are made with 100% USDA Certified Organic cotton combed for softness and comfort.”. To me, knowing that they use an already well known and trusted brand, American Apparel, for their t-shirts and that it is 100% certified organic cotton, this really helped and I can definitely tell you I was not disappointed by the quality- but that’s definitely a good point to raise from the perspective of a new user.

      What kind of threats do you think the website is opening themselves up to when a customer does not have to login to purchase? I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts about this.

      Thanks again for your comment 🙂 Brittany

  4. mjjfeeney says :

    Society6 does look really compelling–even if it competes directly with something like Etsy. I think it’s an interesting feature of the long tail that two directly competing marketplaces such as these can co-exist without disrupting each other. Fundamentally, long-tail economics support this because, given time, all these niches are able to find an audience.

    For the micro-producer or artist though, it can go one step further. In the days to come, when 3D printing and fabrication becomes ever-more ubiquitous, it will be interesting to see how these ‘physical’ platforms evolve. If the actual manufacturing can take place at the end-user’s location, then the economics of scale change dramatically. If something is infinitely replicable–at no cost to the producer–then the value of these platforms increases by orders of magnitude.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi there!

      Thank you for your comment. Society6 is a lot like Etsy, I agree, and it is likely that they are targeting very similar niche markets.

      What you have said about 3D printing capabilities in the future from an end-user perspective is definitely relevant to Society6 and probably something that they should be preparing for strategically. I have even noticed that at shopping centre’s now there are booths where you can take any image you want from your phone/ pc and have it printed onto a shirt, right there and then. It’s not exactly the same service that Society6 provides, but definitely very similar and competing for similar market share.

      Thanks again for your comment 🙂 Brittany

  5. Nathan Merry (@NathM88) says :

    I really enjoyed your post Brittany. I had never heard of Society6 before but I love how the internet gives artists an opportunity to have their work delivered to an audience they might not otherwise have had.

    Another type of service worth considering if you are interested in this are sites like Kickstarter and Patreon, which also leverage the long tail in order to help people find an audience. The difference being that rather than a store it’s more like a donation service.

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi Nathan!

      Thanks for your comment- I really appreciate it. I never even considered sites like Kickstarter to be an example of leveraging the long tail, but they certainly are. Do you know of any ways that these types of sites might use algorithmic data management to match supply and demand? Are you recommended to contribute to other users or artists based on what you already have? I haven’t used these sites very much, so I am interested to hear your ideas and what you know.

      Thanks again 🙂 Brittany

  6. mohammedbadhurais says :

    Great post, you have given a clear understanding with effective explanation about a new online retailer platform which is Society6. It is a global market that allows purchasers and suppliers to share products. I believe, as you have mentioned that Society6 is leveraging the long tail in creative ways in order to achieve their goals and success. The first effective and brilliant way is that matching supply and demand throughout algorithmic data management. The second way is that user flexibility in order to purchase products without signing up to the Society6 website. Finally, it is a great online platform that you have introduced to me.

    Nice post and I would love to read more new posts 🙂

    • brittsmith2014 says :

      Hi there.

      Thank you for your comment- I really appreciate it and I am glad you agree with many of my points surrounding their use of algorithmic data and flexibility and self-service. Were you already familiar with Society6? It is interesting to hear different perspectives of the site from people who have and have not heard of it before.

      Thanks again 🙂 Brittany

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