For example, 30%-40% of Amazon's book sales are of titles that wouldn't normally be found in a retail outlet. Other markets where this 'long tail' phenomenon has been identified include music, films and the media. Lower stock-keeping costs, lower initial cost hurdles from made-to-order production and the ability to deliver some products electronically have driven its development.
Meanwhile, the internet's ability to aggregate demand on a global scale has delivered the necessary business scale. The danger is that consumers can become overwhelmed by such choice (and may reduce purchases as a result), so it is critical that retailers provide tools to discover products.
From niches to riches: anatomy of the long tail,
Erik Brynjolfsson, Yu 'Jeffrey' Hu and Michael D Smith,
MIT Sloan Management Review, summer 2006, Vol 47 No 4
Review by Steve Lodge