Flows in marketing channels - Marketing Management

Channel functions and flows in Marketing

When we discuss marketing flows, there will be times when the word ‘function’ could be used, but here we refer to marketing ‘flows’ in channels as a better method of describing movement. In this way, we can show that various intermediaries that make up a marketing channel are connected by several distinguishable types of flow, summarized, which depicts eight universal flows. The figure shows that physical possession, ownership and promotion are typically forward flows from producer to consumer. Each of these moves is ‘down’ the channel; a manufacturer promotes the product to a wholesaler, who in turn promotes it to a retailer, and so on. Negotiation, financing and risking flows move in both directions, whereas ordering and payment are backward flows. Financing is the most important of these flows; at any one time, when stocks are being held by one member of the channel, financing is in operation. When a wholesaler takes ownership and physical possession of a portion of the output of a manufacturer, the wholesaler is essentially financing the manufacturer.

This notion is apparent if the costs of stock are considered. Stock held in stores as dormant stock is ‘dead money’, but if this is freed via a wholesaler, this ‘dead money’ is available for reinvestment. The furniture industry exemplifies the flow. Traditional furniture retailers operating on a sold-order basis do not participate in the backward financing flow. However, ‘warehouse type’ furniture retailers participate in this flow directly, and receive benefits from manufacturers in the form of lower prices and preferential treatment. This backward flow of financing is not solely associated with stockholding, another example being prepayment for merchandise.

The problem is that in the event of any downturn in sales the warehouse type retailer with large sums of money tied up in stock is very vulnerable to cash flow and liquidity problems. To underline this, blaming the downturn in the UK housing market in July 2009, the UK’s second largest carpet retailer, Allied Carpets, called in the receiver.

Marketing flows in channels

Marketing flows in channels

Forward flow of financing is more common. All terms of sale, with the exception of cash on delivery and prepayment, may be viewed as elements of the forward flow of financing. In addition to these flows there is information flow. Typically, information regarding product attributes is passed ‘down’ the channel, often with the dominant channel member having greater influence on this function. Marketing information is passed ‘back’ up the channels. In addition, information flows horizontally, i.e. with intermediaries operating at the same level, such as fibre manufacturers, communicating for mutual benefit.


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