Defining the Long Tail
Long tail refers to the edges of statistical distributions. For example, think of a simple bell curve of customers based upon shirt size, with the basics being small, medium and large. The bell curve distribution would have a peak over medium, with smaller but still significant numbers for small and large.
However, if you visualize the bell curve at the right and left edges extending almost infinitely – on the left to XS, XXS, XXXS and on the right to XL, XXL, XXXL, and so forth, the areas to the left of small and to the right of large are the long tail. There are fewer customers, but still a desire among a small subset of customers for the feature.
Now suppose that in our example of shirts, we superimpose on this a variety of features, such as color, cloth, sleeves, buttons, collars, fit, and so on. There is a nearly infinite set of possibilities for people to fall within the long tail for one feature and maybe smack in the middle for other features. The bottom line is that customers in the long tail want to be serviced, probably are underserved and are very numerous! The challenge is unlocking the opportunity and serving them better at a reasonable cost.