Another complicated phrase right? What the heck is Leveraging the long tail?? Let’s start from the beginning… “The Long Tail” was a phrase first coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson, and later popularized as one of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 patterns.
“O’Reilly describes it as, “the collective power of the small sites that make up the bulk of the webs content.”
As mentioned this term wasn’t originally aimed at the web, but in recent times has been used to describe the strategies used by internet companies to leverage the online market.
Anderson defined “The Long Tail” as a statistical curve showing the advantage that website based companies with a mass amount of items have other the traditional brick and mortal retail stores with limited shelf space for the mass markets.
The idea is that your traditional retail stores have evaluated that the cost of stocking low volume items on their shelves is just not the worth the shelf, storage and labor cost required in distributing them. However a website doesn’t have this problem, there is no shelf space required, simply a virtual shopping center that can order products on demand. Imagine if say Target or Kmart could remove the costs of real estate, staff and inventory stocks and give these savings back to the consumer.
Another key factor and advantage online retailers have over the standard store front retailers is that when you purchase a product, you are generally offered recommendations with links based on your purchase that encourage looking at several others. Most notably the companies that sell book, video and music sales, where there is a vast supply of product, have benefited significantly from this approach. Amazon, iTunes, and eBay are great examples of this.
“In 2006 Anderson pointed out that the long tail accounts for between 25 percent to 40 percent of Amazon.com’s sales”
As one of the largest industries on the planet, the tourism and travel industry boast many websites that utilizes this Web 2.0 pattern well. With over five million visitors a month, Lonenlyplanet.com has been successful by offering a unique way for travelers to plan their trips. Providing detailed information on numerous countries and cities around the world, as well as forums and newsletters offering travel advice and opinions from other travelers.
Additionally they offer an innovate accommodation system with a vast range of options from hotels to hostels and finally they also provide flight bookings, travel insurance and ultimately anything related to catering to your travel needs. Now you ask what has this got to do with a Web 2.0 pattern?? Lonely Planet follows some of the best practices of ‘leveraging the long tail’ by offering travel services different than the countless other travel websites by providing users with a system that is not just based on entering dates and looking for prices to your destination, but by allowing users to choose the country they would like to travel to, and then search for an activity that interest them.
Lonleyplanet.com provides a service that most store front travel stores simply just can’t offer such as;
More selection –Lonely Planet offers books on top destinations
Lower price – less overhead (no storefronts for either store)
Scalability – Lonelyplanet.com can sell more ‘items’ by simply increasing the online ‘store’ – no extra shelving required, and they do not require any physical delivery or inventory to be held, they are simply selling a service or acting as an agent between two parties.
Wisdom of Crowds – By using this philosophy and encouraging user contributions in the form of feedbacks, reviews, rankings and user ratings.
Algorithmic Data Management – Lonelyplanet is great example of a site that helps customers find similar products based on their ‘clicks by endorsing their products in a ‘you might like…’ window based on the area of the world you are showing interest in.
In a nutshell, online retailers have a great advantage when “leveraging the long tail” of Web 2.0, due to the lack of inventory and additional costs required hosting a traditional store, and therefore can offer additional services and products to their consumers.
Anderson. Chris (2009) The Long Tail of Travel. Retrieved 4th May from,
Lonelyplanet.com (2012) Retrieved 4th May from,
O’Reilly. Tim (2005) What Is Web 2.0? Retrieved 4th May from,