Manufacturers frequently offer myriad variations of a branded product. In many cases, manufacturers have tens to hundreds of models. Seiko wrist watches, for example, may come with different bands, chimes, and special features. The authors call these variations branded variants and suggest that manufacturers offer branded variants for the benefit of their most direct customers—retailers. With branded variants, a consumer must remember, evaluate, and process a wider variety of product features to make comparisons across variants and retail outlets. The authors suggest that as branded variants increase, some consumers experience an increased cost of shopping for a branded product across retail stores. Consequently, fewer consumers shop across retail stores. This reduced shopping translates into reduced competition across retail stores, which encourages (1) more retailers to carry a branded product and (2) retailers to supply that branded product with more retail service support. The authors use data from three retailers across 14 product categories to demonstrate that a branded product with more variants often has greater retail availability and higher levels of retail service.
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© 1996 American Marketing Association.