Journal Articles

The Value of Losing Control: Competition in Markets for Complements

2010, Naval Research Logistics

H. Pun, Hans Sebastian Heese


When selling complementary products, manufacturers can often benefit from considering the resulting cross-market interdependencies. Although using independent retailers makes it difficult to internalize these positive externalities, the ensuing double marginalization can mitigate within-market competition. We use standard game theoretic analysis to determine optimal distribution channel strategies (through independent retailers or integrated) for competing manufacturers who participate in markets for complements. Our results suggest that a firm’s optimal channel choice is highly dependent on its competitive positioning. A firm with a competitive advantage in terms of product characteristics (customer preferences) or production capabilities (cost) might benefit from selling through company-controlled stores, allowing coordinated pricing across the two markets, whereas a less competitive firm might be better off using independent channel intermediaries to mitigate price competition. We consider two scenarios depending on whether the two firms make their distribution channel decisions sequentially or simultaneously. Although firms are unlikely to make such decisions at exactly the same instant, the simultaneous model also serves as a proxy for the scenario where firms decide sequentially, but where they cannot observe each other’s strategic channel choices. For the sequential case, we find that the sequence of entry can have tremendous impact on the two firms’ profits; whereas in some cases, the first mover can achieve substantially higher profits, we find that when the two markets are of sufficiently different size and only loosely related, a firm with a competitive advantage might be better off as a follower. Interestingly, our results suggest that, when the markets are of rather similar size, both firms are better off if they enter the industry sequentially. In those cases, the first entrant has incentive to reveal its planned channel strategies, and the follower has incentive to seek out and consider this information.


Pun, H. and H. S. Heese (2010), “The Value of Losing Control: Competition in Markets for Complements,” Naval Research Logistics, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 188-210.

Kelley School of Business

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