The Long Tail in Email Marketing

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What exactly is “the Long Tail” in Marketing?

The Long Tail in marketing is the concept that, outside the mainstream, exists a large, diverse and potentially underserved market. For a growing number of products and services, reaching the underserved market is increasingly becoming the primary goal, and online marketing appears to be coming out on top as the way to get the job done. (Evans 2007)

According to Anderson (2004), “everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them.” Anderson speaks of the amazement in the sheer size of the Long Tail; speaking about music as an example, he exclaims, “Combine enough non-hits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits.” This is basically describing the rising demand for an obscure product or service. Anderson sums up the Long Tail in the article title itself; “Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bit stream.”

Is Email Marketing an Effective way to market to the ‘Long Tail’ of customers?

Anderson (2004), in his article regarding the Long Tail in marketing, differentiates between the world of scarcity and the world of abundance. The scarcity he describes is that of there not being enough shelf space for all of the CD’s and DVD’s; there not being enough screens to show all the available movies. His belief is that now, between the likes of online distribution and retail, we are making our way into “a world of abundance.” In other words, it is possible that a market could be twice the size it appears to be, provided we can overcome the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws reports: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."

Email marketing is described simply as the promotion of products or services via means of email. The main problem posed by email marketing is spam. O’Connell, (2008) describes an interesting dilemma regarding email marketing in her article, “Email Marketing can work even with a spam-struck audience.” The question: “When is an e-mail a nuisance and when is it an inducement?”

Email is an effective tool for communicating and building relationships with consumers online. The following are the advantages of email marketing as outlined by Chaffey et al (2009, p. 550). •Low cost: the physical costs of email are substantially less than direct mail. This also enables options for testing, meaning it is relatively easy and cost effective to test different email creative and messaging. •Response rate: direct response medium encourages immediate action. Email marketing is a form of push media. It encourages click-through to a site where something such as an offer can be redeemed instantly, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of an immediate or impulsive response. •Easy to personalise: the process of personalisation is easier and cheaper than that of physical media. •Faster campaign deployment.

So is email marketing an effective way to market to the “Long Tail” of customers? Personally, I think online marketing in general is the most effective way to do so, however I feel email marketing alone is not an effective enough way to market to this bit-stream. Combining the advantages and opportunities of email marketing with the likes of search engine marketing and optimisation, social media, and other online tools, effective marketing to the “Long Tail” may flourish. Anderson (2004) reported that the most successful businesses on the internet are based on aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. For example, Google makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail also- niche and one-off products, more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale,...
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