Friday, December 29, 2006

The Long Tail and Ice Bags

Chris Anderson's The Long Tail brilliantly describes the digital economy of near-infinite consumer choice.

Since certain types of e-tailers ( iTunes, for instance) incur virtually no inventory and distribution cost, they can afford to sell everything. What's more, people are buying all this everything, making the "Long Tail" of niche products a vast market unto itself. And Long Tail economics extend past purely digital products--Amazon and Netflix being prime examples.

Do you ever feel like we have too much variety with some products and not enough with others? Do we really need 84,000 styles of gym shoes? A look at this Top 10 list of ugliest sneakers provides the answer!

Yet at the same time, the world is SCREAMING for a wider selection of ice bags. They usually come in two dreary sizes--medium and large. I always wind up with too much ice or not enough. The ice bag market is a vestigial tail at best. Gimme the Long Tail!

One wholesaler, Uline, is on the right track by offering four sizes of ice bags in stock. Not exactly a Long Tail, but we're evolving.

Vivian, a company specializing in ice, offers 10 bag sizes and a self-service Handi-Bagger that gives the consumer total control over ice consumption. Now we're truly mutating into a Long Tail.

But do you know how much ice you need? The perfect solution would be an e-commerce site that sells customized put-ups on the fly, based on your ice-need input.

For example, I might provide the following information about my New Year's Eve party with 18 people.

1. Four are beer-swilling degenerates;
2. Three suck down scotch on the rocks like there's no tomorrow;
3. Three insist on oaky, full-bodied Cabernet slightly chilled;
4. Two guzzle cheap Chardonnay straight from the box;
5. Two throw back gin-and-tonics in a tall glass with extra ice;
6. Two nurse Diet Pepsi straight from the can and bore the preceeding 14 to death;
7. One slurps Tab from a 7-Eleven Super Big Gulp until his bladder explodes; and,
8. One chugs shots of tequila until going face-down at 9:30 pm.

Based on this data, the seller's software algorithms compute the precise amount of ice I need to chill bottles and ice up the drinks. Bag it, bill it, ship it!

Another free million-dollar idea from Funny Business to round out 2006.

Happy New Year!

Funny Business ... Word Sell

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