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Pre-Tail, E-Tail, to Retail: The New Commerce Pipeline

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The new commerce pipeline The new commerce pipeline

There are two trends happening concurrently in online commerce, one on the demand side and another on the supply. Together, they are remaking the commerce pipeline. Today it’s pre-tail, then e-tail, then retail.

On the demand side, consumers demand increasingly customized and unique products and services. This is the “Rise of Me-Commerce.” Access to the Internet and the suite of platforms and marketplaces is nearly ubiquitous in developed markets, and after universal access people desire individuality. People no longer can gain differentiation by saying, “I bought this online,” or even, “I found this on Amazon.” Consumers demonstrate individuality through long-tail “me-commerce,” buying goods from a fragmented, but customized group of producers.

Concurrently, there is a trend on the supply side of the equation. Product development costs have come down, democratizing the ability of more and more people to become entrepreneurs, and more people to create goods, and provide services to broader audiences. For a time this applied to software and apps, and now it’s beginning to move into consumer hardware. More of us can be inventors and salesmen, and we need to risk less and less as we test demand, raise funds, and manufacture products.

Tomorrow’s Willy Loman won’t carry a briefcase, but he may tote a 3D printer. 3D printing is the most peripheral, and perhaps most avant-garde, in the extension of long-tail, truly individualized unique production.

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