A good distribution strategy will identify the best sales channels for your firm and tell you how to exploit them. It can open up new opportunities, fuel growth and dramatically boost your takings and profits.
The following factors influence the choice of distribution channels by a business.
An important market factor is "buyer behaviour"; how do buyer's want to purchase the product? Do they prefer to buy from retailers, locally, via mail order or perhaps over the Internet? Another important factor is buyer needs for product information, installation and servicing. Which channels are best served to provide the customer with the information they need before buying? Does the product need specific technical assistance either to install or service a product? Intermediaries are often best placed to provide servicing rather than the original producer - for example in the case of motor cars.
A key question is whether the producer have the resources to perform the functions of the channel? For example a producer may not have the resources to recruit, train and equip a sales team. If so, the only option may be to use agents and/or other distributors.
Producers may also feel that they do not possess the customer-based skills to distribute their products. Many channel intermediaries focus heavily on the customer interface as a way of creating competitive advantage and cementing the relationship with their supplying producers.
Another factor is the extent to which producers want to maintain control over how, to whom and at what price a product is sold. If a manufacturer sells via a retailer, they effective lose control over the final consumer price, since the retailer sets the price and any relevant discounts or promotional offers. Similarly, there is no guarantee for a producer that their product/(s) are actually been stocked by the retailer. Direct distribution gives a producer much more control over these issues.
Large complex products are often supplied direct to customers (e.g. complex medical equipment sold to hospitals). By contrast perishable products (such as frozen food, meat, bread) require relatively short distribution channels - ideally suited to using intermediaries such as retailers.