The Impact of Consumer Fairness Seeking on Distribution Channel Selection: Direct Selling vs. Agent Selling

Zelong Yi, Yulan Wang, Yun Liu, Ying Ju Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Consumers seek for not only base functionalities of products they buy but also fairness in transactions. In this work, we investigate how such fairness-seeking behavior affects a manufacturer's distribution channel structure selection. Specifically, the manufacturer can sell the product directly to consumers (named direct selling) or via a middleman retailer (named agent selling). The manufacturer then decides which distribution channel to adopt with an aim to maximize his profit. Under a newsvendor framework, the distribution channel structure endogenizes the procurement cost and thus impacts consumers’ fairness perception and willingness to pay. Interestingly, we show that it may be in the manufacturer's best interest to downward decentralize his distribution channel by adopting agent selling when consumers are extremely fairness-minded. However, when the consumer's fairness concern is weak, direct selling is preferred by the manufacturer. We further show that the above results qualitatively hold when we take into consideration the downstream competition, the dominance of the manufacturer in retail pricing and the heterogeneity of the consumers in their fairness seeking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1148-1167
Number of pages20
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • behavioral modelling
  • distribution channel
  • fairness seeking
  • operations-marketing interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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