This paper shows that the effect of different distribution channel structures on product quality depends on the type of consumer heterogeneity and its distribution in a market. When consumer heterogeneity is uniformly distributed either vertically on willingness to pay or horizontally on transaction costs, a manufacturer may provide the same or lower product quality in a decentralized channel than in a centralized channel. In contrast, when consumer heterogeneity follows a more general distribution on willingness to pay, under certain conditions, the manufacturer may provide higher product quality in a decentralized channel than in a centralized channel. Decentralization also may lead to a higher product quality if consumer heterogeneity is uniformly distributed both vertically and horizontally, but not if consumer heterogeneity is uniformly distributed vertically on each of two product-quality attributes. Additionally, competition at the retail level may amplify these findings.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Strategy and Management
- Management Science and Operations Research