Selling from the edge of the Long Tail

I am a big fan of Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail (so much so that I recently emailed Chris to ask if there was a pdf copy of the book available for sale ‘cos I am constantly lending my hard copy to people! – there isn’t).

One of the principles of The Long Tail is that, the larger your inventory of goods for sale, the more you will sell, all other things being equal.

In the realm of books or music, for example, the more titles you stock, the more likely you are to make a few extra sales. Even some of the slowest items to move, will move given time. Maybe one a quarter, or one a year, but they will move.

Thinking about this, this morning, I was wondering if those slow sellers could be ‘helped along’.

What if iTunes put a link to the slowest 10 selling tracks in a genre? Would people spend 99c just out of curiosity? It wouldn’t hurt them to try and they might succeed in picking up a couple of extra sales right out at the extreme edge of the Long Tail!

7 thoughts on “Selling from the edge of the Long Tail”

  1. I think the Pandora website (mentioned in Chris’s book) does something similar to this – you identify a genre you are interested in, and it sets up a playlist of tracks customised to suit your taste.

    The whole idea is to get us “conventionals” to start searching deeper into the tail.

    From what I can see so far, it’s got an extremely intuitive user interface. I could get addicted to this..

  2. Some years ago my roommate was watching a series “50 worst movies of all time” (my favorite was ‘Attach of the Killer Tomatoes’). There was a reasonable following for this. It showed once a week, fairly late. So maybe there would be a market for “10 slowest selling”, although I would give it a different title, such as ’10 least popular’ or even ’10 worst’. That would be more interesting than 10-slowest selling.

    In any case, there are advantages to having low-volume items. One is that it makes the site more comprehensive. If I go to a bookstore, I don’t want one that has only the best-sellers, I want a wide range. Same with other products. The value of low-volume items isn’t just in terms of the small amount of sales they bring in, but also in terms of positioning one’s site as being comprehensive.

    Furthermore, one must see the knock-on sales from low-volume items. If I have to go to 10 sites to get what I’m looking for, when I finally find it I will bookmark that site. Next time I’m looking to make a purchase I will go there, not to the 9 others that previously failed to have what I needed.

  3. This is our goal with Trax2Burn, a niche music download website (indpendent / electronic music). we live and breathe the long tail, because of the sector in which we operate. for us a “hit” might only be a few thousand downloads, whereas a “miss” might be ten downloads (compared to Amazon where a miss probably outsells our biggest hit!). Our goal though is to be comprehensive within our sector. If a customer is into electronic music (whether it’s house music, or techno, or drum & bass, or something more downtempo) we aim to become a one-stop shop for that customer – where they can rely on finding the music they want regardless of its obscurity. We’ll be the online equiavalent of your local record store, but with an Amazon-sized warehouse out the back.

    For us the value is definitely in those niche products – and the same applies for the record labels whose content we stock. We can help them sell back catalogue items that wouldn’t be cost-effective to manufacture now that they have run out of physical stock. We can also help them sell to customers who couldn’t afford to buy the physical products previously, notably customers in overseas territories for whom music buying has become infiniitely easier in the last couple of years.

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