Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

International Channels of Distribution: A Classification System for Analyzing Research Studies

Academic journal article Multinational Business Review

International Channels of Distribution: A Classification System for Analyzing Research Studies

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT:

This paper presents a systematic method for classifying research on international channels of distribution. It is used to examine 79 articles published during an 18-year period (1988-2005). Based on content analysis, each article is classified by its primary research framework. Two frameworks are identified: (1) structural - based on the economic and organizational aspects of international channels of distribution; and (2) behavioral - based on the exchange relationship between channel members from different national environments. This simple organizing system offers a comprehensive way to analyze scholarship that has emerged in the field. For managers, it can bring the theoretical and practical developments together in an understandable fashion as they seek to interpret and apply research findings. For scholars, it may bring focus to an increasingly complex area of international business and guide future research efforts.

INTRODUCTION

Distribution channels are among the most highly differentiated aspects of international marketing. Marketing channel decisions involve supply chain strategy at the policy level and channel management at the operations level. The complexity of these decisions is increased by widely different social, cultural, economic, and political patterns. While analysis of domestic channels and the concepts embodied in channel management theory may be applicable in an international setting, generalizations about international channels of distribution can be deceptive due to the extent of country-to-country differences (Stern and El-Ansary 1992). The literature on domestic channel practices does not provide sufficient answers for the conduct of activities across borders (Seifert and Ford 1989).

Given the strategic significance and complexity of distribution channels in international business, it is worthwhile to scrutinize prior scholarship in this important area. In an effort to consolidate our understanding and to move the research agenda forward, this paper considers:

* What issues have received attention (which ones should)?

* What approaches and methods are used?

* Is there a wholistic way to understand and categorize research efforts?

* What lessons and insights can be shared with practitioners?

Based on a review of the literature, a gap has been identified: there is no single classification system for understanding research efforts. Proposed is a comprehensive system for sorting research on international channels of distribution. This hierarchical taxonomy is employed to analyze 79 academic articles published during an 18-year period (1988-2005). Prior studies have generated a wealth of knowledge. In this paper, accumulated research is synthesized and it is hoped that this classification system will provide a basis for future research efforts and assist marketing managers as they seek to interpret and apply scholarly findings.

Analysis of Existing Research

A survey of recent literature (1988-2005) was undertaken to identify studies on international channels of distribution. An initial search was made using several electronic databases (e.g., Business Source Premier and ProQuest). Journals related to international marketing, international business, marketing, and marketing research were also reviewed in an attempt to make the search as complete as possible. The final selection of articles was based on content analysis. An article was selected if it focused on some aspect relevant to the development and/or maintenance of interorganizational channels of international distribution. A total of 79 articles were selected for inclusion in the present study. Although no claim is made that this was an exhaustive search, it provides evidence to support the view suggested by some scholars that there are a limited number of studies on international channels of distribution (Cabaniss 1991; Griffith and Ryans 1995; Rosson and Ford 1980; Samiee 1993; Seifert and Ford 1989). …

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