I come from a small country – nobody want’s my money

The long tail of countries

Iceland has only 300,000 inhabitants. None of the “big guys” on the internet gives a damn about us. Yahoo! doesn’t care about us, neither does MSN. Google at least serves us a translated interface, but by using it we loose access to Google News, Google Maps, Google Video and a few other services that are central to many web citizens’ lives.

iTunes for Iceland – don’t think so. Amazon doesn’t have a translated interface, let alone a tailored store – but at least they accept my credit card and ship stuff over: I’m an avid customer of theirs.

In the last month I’ve gone to great lenghts to order stuff online from two companies: Radioshack and Corel.

Radioshack didn’t want my money. They won’t ship outside the US and even when I had that covered they don’t accept non-US creditcards. Luckily I have good friends in the States that helped me out.

At least that order was for hardware. Corel didn’t have any excuse. When fullfilling an order they list about 8 countries in Europe, and then an option called: “Rest of Europe”. I filled in the details – the site didn’t accept my address. Tried again – no luck. Finally I called them (btw. there is no email address or web form on their site to contact them) and explained my problem. “Oh, yeah – your country is not supported for online transactions – I can take your order on the phone.” So I spelled my details – including my name, address and email – which is hard enough for most non-Icelanders to pronounce, let alone spell over the phone. They didn’t get it right the first time. Charged my creditcard though. Called them again. Receipt came through – but not the license key. Will call them again tomorrow – hopefully that will do it.

Best of all: What I’m ordering in Corel’s case is PaintShopPro X – the downloaded version. They could have allowed me to service myself without me ever speaking to anyone – by now half of their profit from selling me the product is gone down the drain to pay the support staff that took – and corrected, and will correct again – my order.

You don’t have to be as small as Iceland to be ignored online. Denmark (population 5.4 million), Sweden (9 million), The Netherlands (16 million) are often in the same situation – some “international” companies hardly touch France (60 million) or Germany (82 million) because it’s not worth their while. As an example, the search wars between MSN, Yahoo! and Google mainly evolve around the English speaking market and China these days.

Now here’s some news for you guys: 1/4 of your best potential customers live in countries with less than 40 million inhabitants!

The chart below plots the population of the 50 countries in the world with highest GDP per capita, ordered by population:

(click for larger image)

It turns out that countries have a long tail too. “Nah – let’s just rule out these 300 million of the world’s best consumers – they’re not worth the trouble” 😉

Actually – out of the 6.5 billion people in the entire world, about 23% live in the long tail: That’s 1.5 billion people.

Sure enough, there are translations to be made, legal issues to be sorted out and local partners to be signed. But if Google makes say 5 billion (guesstimate) out of their expected 10 billion dollar revenues this year from the US, how can they ignore corresponding 150 million dollar revenues in Sweden? Or even the 5 million dollar revenues in Iceland?

The numbers for iTunes are about 10x smaller – it’s still a lot of money in the long tail markets. Come on guys – you can do it, you might even find someone to make the initial investment for you – and they’d probably already have better connections than you’d make in a year.

If resources are the problem – team up. People stumble over each other for smaller opportunities than these.


  1. Við hverju má búast – þegar í ljós kemur að vesturheimsbúar vita ekki einu sinni hvar þeir búa ef marka má þekkingu þeirra á landabréfum…

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