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Factors That Affect a Product’s Intensity of Distribution

19 January, 2016 - 17:13

Firms that choose an intensive distribution strategy try to sell their products in as many outlets as possible. Intensive distribution strategies are often used for convenience offerings—products customers purchase on the spot without much shopping around. Soft drinks and newspapers are an example. You see them sold in all kinds of different places. Redbox, which rents DVDs out of vending machines, has made headway using a distribution strategy that’s more intensive than Blockbuster’s: the machines are located in fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and other places people go frequently.

Figure 8.8  Because installing a vending machine is less expensive than opening a retail outlet, redbox has been able to locate its DVD vending machines in more places than Blockbuster can its stores. 

By contrast, selective distribution involves selling products at select outlets in specific locations. For instance, Sony TVs can be purchased at a number of outlets such as Circuit City, Best Buy, or Walmart, but the same models are generally not sold at all the outlets. By selling different models with different features and price points at different outlets, a manufacturer can appeal to different target markets.

Exclusive distribution involves selling products through one or very few outlets. For instance, supermodel Cindy Crawford’s line of furniture is sold exclusively at the furniture company Rooms To Go. Designer Michael Graves has a line of products sold exclusively at Target. To purchase those items you need to go to one of those retailers. TV series are distributed exclusively. A company that produces a TV series will sign an exclusive deal with a network like ABC, CBS, or Showtime, and the series will initially appear only on that network. Later, reruns of the shows are often distributed selectively to other networks.

To control the image of their products and the prices at which they are sold, the makers of upscale products often prefer to distribute their products more exclusively. Expensive perfumes and designer purses are an example. During the economic downturn, the makers of some of these products were disappointed to see retailers had slashed the products’ prices, “cheapening” their prestigious brands.

Distributing a product exclusively to a limited number of organizations under strict terms can help prevent a company’s brand from deteriorating, or losing value. It can also prevent products from being sold cheaply in gray markets. A gray market is a market in which a producer hasn’t authorized its products to be sold. 1


Selecting the best marketing channel is critical because it can mean the success or failure of your product. The type of customer you’re selling to will have an impact on the channel you select. In fact, this should be your prime consideration. The type of product, your organization’s capabilities versus those of other channel members, the way competing products are marketed, and changes in the business environment and technology can also affect your marketing channel decisions. Various factors affect a company’s decisions about the intensity of a product’s distribution. An intensive distribution strategy involves selling a product in as many outlets as possible. Selective distribution involves selling a product at select outlets in specific locations. Exclusive distribution involves selling a product through one or very few outlets.


  1. Why are good channel decisions critical to a product’s success?
  2. Name the factors that affect channel-selection decisions.
  3. Which kinds of products are more likely to be distributed using exclusive marketing strategies?