Take Action

Home | Faculty & Research Overview | Research

Research Details

Rethinking Distribution: Adaptive Channels, Harvard Business Review

Abstract

No matter how much inventory a wholesaler carries, when a customer places a rush order, the essential item is often out of stock. No matter how many services a dealer provides, what a customer needs is often one that the dealer has never supplied. And no matter how hard a distributor tries to beef up its capabilities, when a customer has an emergency, the distributor often lacks the skills to respond. A number of companies are experimenting with ways to make their distribution channels more flexible and responsive. They have realized that by sharing resources in novel ways, they can take advantage of opportunities that they could not exploit alone. Business dynamics and emerging technologies make this new approach both essential and feasible. Tough competition is forcing managers to view their distribution channels as an untapped opportunity. The prevalence of strategic alliances has made managers more willing to explore new ways of working together. And developments in shared information systems and integrated logistics systems make such cooperative efforts more practicable. The potential benefits of such partnerships are enormous. As redundant pools of inventory and duplicate service operations are pared back, costs fall. Less business is lost because of stockouts and the inability to respond to emergencies. Moreover, participants capitalize on new business opportunities because they can offer a broader selection of products and services than they could on their own. They can also heighten customer satisfaction by augmenting their own capabilities with those of more proficient partners.

Type

Article

Author(s)

James A. Narus, James Anderson

Date Published

1996

Citations

Narus, A. James, and James Anderson. 1996. Rethinking Distribution: Adaptive Channels. Harvard Business Review. 74(4): 112-120.

KELLOGG INSIGHT

Explore leading research and ideas

Find articles, podcast episodes, and videos that spark ideas in lifelong learners, and inspire those looking to advance in their careers.
learn more

COURSE CATALOG

Review Courses & Schedules

Access information about specific courses and their schedules by viewing the interactive course scheduler tool.
LEARN MORE

DEGREE PROGRAMS

Discover the path to your goals

Whether you choose our Full-Time, Part-Time or Executive MBA program, you’ll enjoy the same unparalleled education, exceptional faculty and distinctive culture.
learn more

Take Action