What Distribution Does that Logistics Does Not
2006 (English)In: Conference on Recent Advances in Retailing and Services Science,2006, 2006Conference paper (Other academic)
In the 1950s and 1960s, distribution emerged as an important theoretical field. The influential distribution theories introduced by e.g. Alderson provided the foundation of marketing theories. Some authors even denoted distribution chains marketing channels.
Over the decades, distribution has lost its role as a core theory in marketing thinking, and the attention paid to distribution in marketing textbooks and business studies, e.g. MBA programs, has diminished. Instead, logistics has emerged as an important field primarily dealing with cost-efficiency in the physical distribution of goods. Logistics theorists study distribution systems with the aim to optimize flows and minimize costs under a given set of conditions, thus applying a rather narrow framework which does not take the broader marketing perspective into account.
Part of the explanation why distribution has lost its authority is the compartmentalization of research in the field of distribution. Rather than focusing on distribution from the perspective of strategic management or the customer, a lot of research has been conducted on specific fields such as channel conflict, relationships between channel members, and franchising.
Today, managers and business consultants talk a lot about logistics, but they rarely talk about distribution alone. Distribution is rather seen as one of a set of marketing variables - typically pricing, promotion, package and distribution - that need to be elaborated, thus reflecting a perspective with the 4 Ps not being the core of marketing thinking. The article proposes some explanations to this focus shift, e.g. managers prefering to deal with issues that entail cost-efficiency calculations to more vague trade-offs between strategic criteria in a distribution system.
The article makes clear that distribution is an essential area for any business firm by referring to numerous changes in the market and society since the early distribution theories emerged, half a decade ago. Particularly consumer industries with customers basing their purchase decisions on emotional criteria need to emphasize distribution. By comparing the scope of distribution and logistics, respectively, the article emphasizes the integrative and strategic role of distribution. Finally, a framework for integrating the current thinking about distribution is proposed, reflecting an endeavour to reposition distribution as theoretical field.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
distribution, logistics, consumer behaviour, distribution strategies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-34670Local ID: 22470OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-34670DiVA: diva2:255518