The Long Tail…Dell vs. Amazon.com

When I first encountered customization, I was in my last semester in undergrad. Believe it or not, I managed to make it through my entire life at that point without having a computer to call my own. My search began and ended at the same place: Dell.com. The idea of being able to create a computer to my specifications was novel to me.

Fast forwarding to my first semester at Georgetown (my MAC is now an essential part of my life) and I was again introduced to a novel concept while exploring Amazon.com. I wondered to myself “How did they know I needed that book?” The answer of course being that they didn’t know it would be me, but they figured at least one person would.

This very concept is considered in Chris Anderson’s book, The Long Tail. The idea is that aggregated niches can make up a very significant portion of the market.

Going back to Amazon.com, the foundation of this web site is “mass customization.” Selling millions of different products in quantities of ones and twos has a greater impacts sometimes than selling millions of one product.

Why does it work? Well, because it HAS to! For more than 50 years, consumers have been told what to buy and when to buy it. As the consumer begins to reject traditional marketing/traditional marketplaces and express explicit wants and needs, the companies have no choice but to respond. Truly innovative companies found a way to please everyone at the same time.

Amazon.com, (amongst other web sites) represents a revolution in the shopping experience. It is a combination of the mom and pop record store (which always had rare music) and the neighborhood consignment shop; all at the click of a mouse.

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