Imagine you own a DVD store and you wanted to sell all your favourite movies so everybody could experience the magic you have, then you realise you should also stock movies that you really want to watch but have never gotten around to, then you decide to include documentaries and every old western movie ever because you want to try and appeal to every demographic, this imaginary DVD store is really not going very well for you. Picture how big the store would have to be in order to compensate for how many DVDs you would have to stock, imagine how hard it would be for the customers to physically sort through, this is a super impractical store.
People faced this problem before online shopping was a possibility, as they were limited to how many products they physically and practically could fit into their store. In order to remain open and successful the store had to stock products it knew had a high demand, therefore limiting those who were looking for more obscure or specific things. As Anderson states;
“For too long we’ve been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching – a market response to inefficient distribution.” (Anderson 2004)
However this is no longer the case as online streaming and shopping have made it possible to have an almost infinite choice when it comes to buying the product that you really want. An example of this is Netflix, which is currently at 29.2 million users and made a 2013 Q1 Profit of $3 Million. Netflix allows for customers to stream or rent hundreds and hundreds of television shows and movies, which is far more than could ever fit into a store. This allows Netflix to have a vast selection and offer more, therefore more and more people are turning to the internet for their movies and shows, almost making physical stores obsolete.
It’s not only DVDs we’re turning to the internet for as I recently experienced while helping my Father set up his online bike store. Similar to DVDs there is almost an endless choice when it comes to bicycles, bicycle parts, accessories etc, making it impossible to stock all the items in the store. My Father realised this and recently started an online store to offer not only the convenience of online shopping but also a larger range of products.
There are countless examples of how online stores have changed what we consume by offering more choices and this has only become possible due to the internet. The times of being restricted by the physical size of stores is over and we are left with infinite choices.
Anderson, C. 2004. The Long Tail. Wired, (online) October 2004 available at: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html (accessed: 12/09/2013)