Consumer sales promotions are usually the result of the decisions of two marketing channel parties, the manufacturer and the retailer. In making these decisions, each party normally follows its own interest: i.e. maximizes its own profit. Unfortunately, this results in a suboptimal outcome for the channel as a whole. Independent profit maximization by channel parties leads to a lack of channel coordination with the implication of leaving money on the table. This may well contribute to the notoriously low profitability of sales promotions. This paper first shows analytically why the suboptimality occurs, and then presents an empirical demonstration, using a unique dataset from an Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) project; ECR is a movement in which parties work together to optimize the distribution channel). In this dataset, actual profit is only a small fraction of potential profit, implying that there is a large degree of suboptimality. It is important that (1) channel parties are aware of this suboptimality; and (2) that they have tools to deal with it. Solutions to the channel coordination problem should ensure that the goals of the individual channel parties are aligned with the goals of the channel as a whole. The paper proposes one particular agreement for this purpose, called proportional discount sharing. Application to the ECR data shows a win-win result for both the manufacturer and the retailer. Recognition of the channel coordination problem by the manufacturer and the retailer is the necessary starting point for agreeing on a way of solving it in a win-win fashion.

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Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Wierenga, B., & Soethoudt, H. (2009). Sales promotions and channel coordination. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38(3), 383–397. doi:10.1007/s11747-009-0161-1