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Posts Tagged ‘Long Tail’

From the Long Tail to the New Normal

March 26, 2012 6 comments

In this next installment of my ‘connect the dots’ series I am going out on a bit of a limb. My objective here is to help people understand the importance of ‘New Normal’, in writing this I have a better sense of it myself. Working backwards, the ‘New Normal’ is very similar in concept to what Seth Godin calls “Weird”. The best way for me to describe ‘Weird’ is that it is the rest of the story, left out in most Long Tail discussions. The Long Tail, as discussed by Chris Anderson, talks about the outliers, the ones who live and purchase at the edges of the spectrum. In other words, the Long Tail does not talk too much about the rest of the distribution, at least not from the customer-centric perspective. While I have heard New Normal used before, I have not seen many illustrations of what it might look like (other than teenagers walking down the street texting from a mobile phone).

The value of the diagram is to illustrate to others, using specific examples and to talk about the ‘New Normal’, moving beyond buzzwords or hyperbole.

The New Normal has been and can be used to understand many of the changes and challenges many people have been talking about for a while now. Ideas such as; The Social Customer, The Collaborative Organization, Social CRM, Social Business  and more might be better understood with a simple illustration.  Think about the distribution of communication channels used 5 years ago, versus now. We simply have more choices. This is not only about customer communications, think about the ways in which you communicate with your peers now, versus 5 years ago. Would it be interesting to chart some this with your own data?

What exactly is ‘New’ about the New Normal

When applied to a business context, the bell curve is being ‘flattened’.  While Chris Anderson and peers talked about Amazon and Netflix –this is now about your products, services and your customers. The long tail is now the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Let’s bring this a little closer to home; the customer journey. What follows is an objective view, with some sweeping assumptions and data without research data as the foundation. For the purists among you, I am focused on the journey and channels of communication, not the product economics of weird, nor long tail.

Consider the number of modes of communication that a customer used from evaluation to purchase for your product 10 years ago (If you did not have a product 10 years ago, think of your own journey). There might have been a Yahoo search, then a phone call. Maybe an email and a website visit. For the sake of this conversation, let’s speculate that the number of channels used averaged 3 and for 70% of the customers they used between 2 and 4 channels. The rest likely used between 1 and 5 channels. This brings us really close to a pretty, normal distribution, though slightly narrow and steep.

How about today? What would the number of channels look like for the same (or similar) product purchase journey? Again, not scientific, but the data is likely available for your business – Could we guess average of 4 channels? This is just one channel more, on average, but it changes the game. Based on the flattening of the curve, to get to that 70% of your customer base it is likely something like “70% of the customers use between 2 and 7 channels; a pretty big range, not as simple as it used to be. The key point here is that you need to dig in deeper and understand what they are doing on each channel. How many channels would we need to include to get to 95% of your customer population (the -2σ to 2σ in the illustration above)?

The important part of the flattening is not only the reduction in the middle, it is the increase on the edges. I want to be clear on a few things. The new Normal for your customers is dependent upon where they have been. The pace of change is determined by you and your customers, not by a consultant or analyst. Just for fun, if you want to see a Normal distribution in action, take a look at this graphic of the snow in Vermont, as it careens off the bell curve in 2012.  All I can say is, I hope this does not represent the ‘New Normal’. There is a whole lot more to this story – just think about it. As always, the time Sword Ciboodle allows me to think through these concepts is greatly appreciated!

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The Long Tail of Knowledge

October 14, 2009 19 comments

This might be one of my more esoteric posts, but it has been bugging me for a couple weeks.  Putting my thoughts down may help me get past it. Possibly, a couple of my online friends have some advice.  It started with this Tweet

@rotkapchen: RT @business_design: the more you know the less you understand -I then added “Long tail of knowledge? Is trendy though”

and sent it back into the ether that is Twitter. As an aside, apparently this phrase was also stated last night at OOW09.

Most who might come along this blog likely understand what the Long Tail theory espouses, but I will not assume.  You can check Wikipedia for details, but the summary version is a businesses strategy that works to sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. If you think about this, it goes against the mass production model, and it is not easy to accomplish.

What is bothering me is a concern that as a culture, especially with the likes of Twitter, we seem to be ‘skin deep’ on too many topics. What does the Long Tail principle do to knowledge systems? Is that a good thing or not? Do you agree with the statement, “The more you know, the less you understand” ?  Do we get caught up in proving what we know (ie Blogs) and not spending enough time really digging in and making sure that we think through that which we are saying? It is possible that this is really two issues;  the first what we know, the second what we are willing to state that we know.

This does play into the topics we are all discussing, the leap is not too big. There may be a difference between speaking or writing beyond what we truly understand and thinking out loud, but that difference is subtle. I am personally cautious as are many of us…sorry if this was a bit of a ramble, but I do feel better now 🙂

Anyone willing to offer some advice? Give an opinion even…