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Explain in what respects the channels of distribution for industrial products are
different from the channels of distribution for consumer products.

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Formatted wrote:Explain in what respects the channels of distribution for industrial products are
different from the channels of distribution for consumer products.

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SET 1/ Q.2 Explain in what respects the channels of distribution for industrial products ...

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Explain in what respects the channels of distribution for industrial products are different from the channels of distribution for consumer products..

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Q.2 Explain in what respects the channels of distribution for industrial products are different from the channels of distribution for consumer products.

Answer: A distribution channel is the method a company uses to get their products into the marketplace for consumer use.

The two types of distribution channels are indirect and direct.
The indirect channel is used by companies who do not sell their goods directly to consumers. Distributors, wholesalers and retailers are the indirect channels.

A direct distribution channel is where a company sells their products direct to consumers. Selling agents and Internet sales are two types of direct distribution channels.

Market balance:
It is essential that different firms in the same business not attempt to compete on exactly the same variables. If they do, competition will invariably degenerate into price—there is nothing else that would differentiate the firms. Thus, for example, in the retail food market, there are low price supermarkets such as Food 4 Less that provide few if any services, intermediate level markets like Ralph’s, and high-end markets such as Vons’ Pavillion that charge high prices and claim to carry superior merchandise and offer exceptional service

Risk: In general, firms that attempt riskier ventures—and their stockholders—expect a higher rate of return. Risks can come in many forms, including immediate loss of profit due to lower sales and long term damage to the brand because of a poor product being released or because of distribution through a channel perceived to carry low quality merchandise.

Brand level objectives: Ultimately, brand level profit centers are expected to contribute to the overall maximization of the firm’s profits. However, when a firm holds several different brands, different marketing and distribution plans may be required for each. Several variables come into play in maximizing value. Profits can be maximized in the short run, or an investment can be made into future earnings. Product profit can be measured in several ways. If you sell a computer that cost $950 to make for $1,000, you are making only a 5% gross profit. However, selling a product that cost $5 to make for $10 will result in a much higher percentage profit, but a much lower absolute margin. A decision that is essential at the brand level is positioning. Options here may range from a high quality, premium product to a lower priced value product. Note here that the same answer will not be appropriate for all firms in the same market since this will result in market imbalance—there should be some firms perceiving each strategy, with others being intermediate.

Distribution issues come into play heavily in deciding brand level strategy. In order to secure a more exclusive brand label, for example, it is usually necessary to sacrifice volume—it would do no good, for Mercedes-Benz to create a large number of low priced automobiles. Some firms can be very profitable going for quantity where economies of scale come into play and smaller margins on a large number of units add up—e.g., McDonald’s survives on much smaller margins than upscale restaurants, but may make larger profits because of volume. Some firms choose to engage in a niching strategy where they forsake most customers to focus on a small segment where less competition exists (e.g., clothing for very tall people).

In order to maintain one’s brand image, it may be essential that retailers and other channel members provide certain services, such as warranty repairs, providing information to customers, and carrying a large assortment of accessories. Since not all retailers are willing to provide these services, insisting on them will likely reduce the intensity of distribution given to the product.

Product line objectives: Firms make money on the totality of products and services that they sell, and sometimes, profit can be maximized by settling for small margins on some, making up on others. For example, both manufacturers and retailers currently tend to sell inkjet printers at low prices, hoping to make up by selling high margin replacement cartridges. Here again, it may be important for the manufacturer that the retailer carry as much of the product line as possible.

Objectives: A firm’s distribution objectives will ultimately be highly related—some will enhance each other while others will compete. For example, as we have discussed, more exclusive and higher service distribution will generally entail less intensity and lesser reach. Cost has to be traded off against speed of delivery and intensity (it is much more expensive to have a product available in convenience stores than in supermarkets, for example).

Narrow vs. wide reach: The extent to which a firm should seek narrow (exclusive) vs. wide (intense) distribution depends on a number of factors. One issue is the consumer’s likelihood of switching and willingness to search. For example, most consumers will switch soft drink brands rather than walking from a vending machine to a convenience store several blocks away, so intensity of distribution is essential here. However, for sewing machines, consumers will expect to travel at least to a department or discount store, and premium brands may have more credibility if they are carried only in full service specialty stores.

Retailers involved in a more exclusive distribution arrangement are likely to be more “loyal”—i.e., they will tend to

Recommend the product to the customer and thus sell large quantities;

Carry larger inventories and selections;

Provide more services

Thus, for example, Compaq in its early history instituted a policy that all computers must be purchased through a dealer. On the surface, Compaq passed up the opportunity to sell large numbers of computers directly to large firms without sharing the profits with dealers. On the other hand, dealers were more likely to recommend Compaq since they knew that consumers would be buying these from dealers. When customers came in asking for IBMs, the dealers were more likely to indicate that if they really wanted those, they could have them—“But first, let’s show you how you will get much better value with a Compaq.”

Distribution opportunities: Distribution provides a number of opportunities for the marketer that may normally be associated with other elements of the marketing mix. For example, for a cost, the firm can promote its objective by such activities as in-store demonstrations/samples and special placement (for which the retailer is often paid). Placement is also an opportunity for promotion—e.g., airlines know that they, as “prestige accounts,” can get very good deals from soft drink makers who are eager to have their products offered on the airlines. Similarly, it may be useful to give away, or sell at low prices, certain premiums (e.g., T-shirts or cups with the corporate logo.) It may even be possible to have advertisements printed on the retailer’s bags (e.g., “Got milk?”)

Other opportunities involve “parallel” distribution (e.g., having products sold both through conventional channels and through the Internet or factory outlet stores). Partnerships and joint promotions may involve distribution (e.g., Burger King sells clearly branded Hershey pies).

Deciding on a strategy. In view of the need for markets to be balanced, the same distribution strategy is unlikely to be successful for each firm. The question, then, is exactly which strategy should one use? It may not be obvious whether higher margins in a selective distribution setting will compensate for smaller unit sales. Here, various research tools are useful. In focus groups, it is possible to assess what consumers are looking for an which attributes are more important. Scanner data, indicating how frequently various products are purchased and items whose sales correlate with each other may suggest the best placement strategies. It may also, to the extent ethically possible, be useful to observe consumers in the field using products and making purchase decisions. Here, one can observe factors such as (1) how much time is devoted to selecting a product in a given category, (2) how many products are compared, (3) what different kinds of products are compared or are substitutes (e.g., frozen yogurt vs. cookies in a mall), (4) what are “complementing” products that may cue the purchase of others if placed nearby. Channel members—both wholesalers and retailers—may have valuable information, but their comments should be viewed with suspicion as they have their own agendas and may distort information.

Direct Marketing

We consider direct marketing early in the term as a “contrast” situation against which later channels can be compared. In general, you cannot save money by “eliminating the middleman” because intermediaries specialize in performing certain tasks that they can perform more cheaply than the manufacturer. Most grocery products are most efficiently sold to the consumer through retail stores that take a modest mark-up—it would not make sense for manufacturers to ship their grocery products in small quantities directly to consumers.

Intermediaries perform tasks such as

Moving the goods efficiently (e.g., large quantities are moved from factories or warehouses to retail stores);

Breaking bulk (manufacturers sell to a modest number of wholesalers in large quantities—quantities are then gradually broken down as they make their way toward the consumer);

Consolidating goods (retail stores carry a wide assortment of goods from different manufacturers—e.g., supermarkets span from toilet paper to catsup); and

Adding services (e.g., demonstrations and repairs).

Direct marketers come in a variety of forms, but their categorization is somewhat arbitrary. The main thing to consider here is each firm’s functions and intentions. Some firms sell directly to consumers with the express purpose of eliminating retailers that supposedly add cost (e.g., Dell Computer). Others are in the business not so much to save on costs, but rather to reach groups of consumes that are not easily reached through the stores. Others—e.g., online travel agents or check printers—provide heavily customized services where the user can perform much of the services. Telemarketers operate by making the promotion in integral part of the process—you are explained the benefits of the program in an advertisement or infomercial and you then order directly in response to the promotion. Finally, some firms combine these roles—e.g., Geico is a customizer, but also claims, in principle, to cut out intermediaries.

There are certain circumstances when direct marketing may be more useful—e.g., when absolute margins are very large (e.g., computers) or when a large inventory may be needed (e.g., computer CDs) or when the customer base is widely dispersed (e.g., bee keepers).

Direct marketing offers exceptional opportunities for segmentation because marketers can buy lists of consumer names, addresses, and phone-numbers that indicate their specific interests. For example, if we want to target auto enthusiasts, we can buy lists of subscribers to auto magazines and people who have bought auto supplies through the mail. We can also buy lists of people who have particular auto makes registered.

No one list will contain all the consumers we want, and in recent years technology has made it possible, through the “merge-purge” process, to combine lists. For example, to reach the above-mentioned auto-enthusiasts, we buy lists of subscribers to several different car magazines, lists of buyers from the Hot Wheels and Wiring catalog, and registrations of Porsche automobiles in several states. We then combine these lists (the merge part). However, there will obviously be some overlap between the different lists—some people subscribe to more than one magazine, for example. The purge process, in turn, identifies and takes out as many duplicates as possible. This is not as simple task as it may sound up front. For example, the address “123 Main Street, Apartment 45” can be written several ways—e.g., 123 Main St., #123, or 123-45 Main Str. Similarly, John J. Jones could also be written as J. J. Jones, or it could be misspelled Jon J. Jonnes. Software thus “standardizes” addresses (e.g., all street addresses would be converted into the format “123 Main St #45” and even uses phonetic analysis to identify a likely alternative spelling of the same name.

Response rates for “good” lists—lists that represent a logical reason why consumer would be interested in a product—are typically quite low, hovering around 2-3%. Simply picking a consumer out of the phone-book would yield even lower responses—much less than one percent. Keep in mind that a relevant comparison here is to conventional advertising. The response rate to an ad placed in the newspaper or on television is usually well below one percent (frequently more like one-tenth of one percent). (More than one percent of people who see an ad for Coca Cola on TV will buy the product, but most of these people would have bought Coke anyway, so the marginal response is low).

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