Strategic upfront marketing channel integration as an entry barrier
This paper investigates an organizational design problem concerning whether duopolistic firms competing in a product market should vertically integrate or separate their marketing channels in a dynamic noncooperative game setting. Previous operational research models have shown that the separation of the marketing channel with the adoption of a two-part tariff contract is the dominant strategy compared with integration for each firm if the two firms face retail price competition, and thereby constitutes the subgame perfect Nash equilibrium (SPNE). Contrary to this previous insight, this paper demonstrates that if exogenous parameters that characterize fixed costs, product substitutability, and a demand function fall into a specific region, marketing channel integration dominates the separation strategy when one of the two firms is the incumbent firm while the other is a potential entrant. In other words, the well-known result in the price-setting game can be reversed when we take entry threats into consideration. Specifically, we show that upfront vertical integration of the marketing channel enables the incumbent to deter the entry of the potential competitor and to monopolize the market in the SPNE. This result has operational implications for a firm confronting the threat of potential rivals entering the market, in that the firm can use this apparently inferior strategy as a commitment device, which creates a virtual entry barrier.
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