Fat Tail Product Placement, So Many Choices!?

A while back I saw the TED talk about the paradox of choice (see video below). A very interesting talk in which the speaker, Barry Schwartz talks about how we the consumers are being bombarded with evermore choices and how this “freedom” is actually impairing our happiness.

Interestingly enough this view is in stark contrast with the current trend of long tail product versioning/marketing. Product (hyper)differentiation is becoming the norm where niche products that appeal to a smaller market share are being pursued for the increased profit margins. In theory this sounds logical but how far will the long tail eventually go? Will we be seeing smartphones with bottle openers in the future? (Actually that’s not even half bad of an idea, patent pending).

The selfie camera
A prime example of this long tail, product differentiated approach is the ‘HTC Desire Eye’, which has been dubbed ‘the selfie’ camera. Sporting not one but two 13 megapixel cameras with dual flitsers in the back as well as the front this phone will cater to even the most advanced self indulged selfie lunatic. However one thing the good folks at HTC have done correctly is making it a good phone in conjunction with the selfie camera. The phone sports a full HD (1920-1080p) screen, 16GB internal storage, optional micro-sd card expansion, Snapdragon 801-soc processor, all in all a nice set of hardware for a relatively low price (€499 at the time of writing this). This phone raises an interesting question namely, is this the future of product differentiation? Catering to one specific customer segment based on a specific preference while still including all the features and hardware that appeals to the ‘fat’ part of the tail (the masses). This, in my opinion is a very interesting development especially if we consider what is discussed in the video. Will this advanced product versioning truly make us, the consumers happier? Or will there be a turning point in which we all as a collective will hope for less?


3 responses to “Fat Tail Product Placement, So Many Choices!?”

  1. 348308c says :

    Due to the fact that consumers are getting more informed about products and their purchase decisions, the long tail will evaluate even further. The long tail and the extreme differentiation, hyper differentiation, we are currently facing are the mere result of increasing informedness among customers. Via the internet and other available sources, potential customers can get information about all the possible versions and characteristics of products. Customers are informed about all the possibilities and will therefore adjust their wishes to this information. Of course this will not be the case for pure commodity goods, where the lowest prices matters, but for your example of the HTC Desire eye this is the case. As predicted this hyper differentiation will continue on even more markets and will lead to an abundance of product choices. This is the part where The paradox of choice comes in, where too much choice will make customers indecisive, which is a natural (human) reaction on the exposure to too much choice. For a lot of, predominantly luxury, goods the customer wants a product that best fits their needs and is willing to pay more for a product which comes closest to the desired product. This is where the hyper differentiation has started. But for a lot of daily, commodity, products it is definitely not desirable to have all these options. So therefore hyper differentiation will never go “all the way” due to the fact that there is simply no demand for this kind of differentiation. For the goods where (hyper) differentiation is desirable, like smartphones, there will most likely be a limit on the differentiation due to the fact that there is a maximum of differentiation possible before the customer does not impose any extra value on the differentiation. When the advanced versioning goes too far for the current customer, companies will notice this on the demand and will limit the differentiation. Back to basic is not an option anymore due to the increasing availability of information on the internet. But when too much differentiation makes customers unhappy and they do hope for less, companies just need to take a step back and limit their future differentiation.

  2. luutwillen says :

    First of all it think it’s an interesting question. I think it’s current accelerating technology based influences who creates this problem. Not the problem of too many choices, but more a lack of knowledge and clear understanding of new technology innovations

    I would like to share my thoughts about why this question also arises. I think that due to the digital transformation, which went so fast , lot’s of people couldn’t follow what is exactly happening.
    If i tell my grandma that i will learn her how to use a mobile app to buy consumer goods from a local supermarket she’ll say: “no that’s not necessary”. The reason why ? I think because it’s even to difficult for her to use a mobile phone.
    The same goes for my dad. When i told him 3 years ago to buy an Iphone, he said : ” Why? I only need a phone for calling and texting, i don’t want to receive emails or play games.” Now he also owns an Iphone, uses different applications and send emails.
    The point that i want to make clear is, I think that a lot of things at first scares people because they are not used to it, but when they’re used to it, most of the time they like it! The one thing that it is important, it should serve customers needs or even create new customers needs.
    And i think that a lot of future products are beyond our imagination, but they will serve our needs in first place, if not just don’t buy these products, as simple as that. For me it is not a problem if the product has more functionalities then i think are needed.
    But i would rather ask the question, if it is feasible, even for us, to keep track of nowadays innovations and what is going to happen if we don’t?

  3. 346132ke says :

    I have also seen the video and I find it very interesting that the speaker clearly says that all these choices we have nowadays make us, the customers less happy because we can’t make the perfect choice. I don’t think the huge number of choices is the end of the game. The speaker is clearly giving up on this world and just wants to go back to the days we lived in. I also see people adapting to this new environment and moving forward. I can find myself better in the second group.
    Actually there would be a lot more dissatisfaction and depression than there is if everyone had expectations of perfection. Only perfectionist think something can be perfect, most of us know everything we create, purchase, or own could be better, but we are satisfied with what we have.
    But the question also is when did having the best of anything make us happy anyway? The number of choices is irrelevant. Even if there were only 2 choices, there is no guarantee that having the best will make us happier, if the other choice was already “good enough”.
    And I agree on the comment above that a lot of things scare us at first, but eventually will benefit us and we actually enjoy using it in the end. For example my parents both using a smartphone nowadays even though they didn’t seem to ‘’need’’ it. They seem happier actually using it.
    The best thing we can do as customers is to stop worrying about whether we made the “right choice” or picked the “best product”. We have to work out what we need, and what we want, and find a product that fills that need or want and then move on. It’s not that difficult. We will be enjoying our new product or life choice for years while the speaker in this video is still way back there trying to figure out which is the best product, and moaning about how things were better when he was a kid.

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