A brave new world

I wrote earlier about channel integration, but I suspect eyes might’ve glazed over because ‘multi-channel’ retail just sounds so much like a buzzword that it does not even bear thinking about.

But there is a fundamental shift happening in terms of what is possible, and this shift is described by the ‘long tail’. Read the back story here if you will  - or just trust me when I say that the Long Tail is creating opportunities for retailers. In fact the opportunities are created for everyone – the question is simply why retailers are not first to take advantage.

The long tail theory posits that there is a business to be had in (very) niche markets – enabled by the internet and such technology. The Long Tail is enabled by the internet but it is not about the internet. Examples of long tail businesses are:

  • Provide advice, tool and merchandise for Pre-WWI gun collectors

  • Run a fan club for an obscure form of the Blues hear only in the south-western parts of one state in the US

  • Sell 18th century porcelain dolls

I think you get the idea: the long tail redefines what we mean by ‘niche.’

But here is the KILLER: Even if you have a very small, single-site operation (say <$500k p.a.) then you already have a significant advantage over any website operator (start-up) in the same space.

Why couldn’t the…

  • Independent fast food joint also run the mobile hot dog stand at the local footy club?

  • Local fashion boutique not run a thriving internet business, selling 18th century belt buckles to a global audience?

  • The local jeweler run a direct mail catalogue selling precious stones into the Asian Market?

I could go on, but the point is not to identify every opportunity, but simply to encourage existing business owners to think about the countless niche businesses that already reside within their existing business.

These niches waiting to happen are typically exploitable through another channel – outside the traditional physical retail channel. These opportunities are ‘long tail’ opportunities and can effectively leveraged into entirely new businesses, using the skills, scale and access offered by your existing retail business.

The days of standing behind a counter and waiting for passing trade is long gone. Multi-channel is the new black.