When thinking about the type of marketing decisions faced by retailers, it is easy to get drawn into fairly obvious decisions, such as what products need to be carried, what types of promotion are required to build customer traffic and what pricing approaches should be used that will be acceptable to the consumer market. Often overlooked, however, are important decisions related to distribution. For instance, issues related to product movement, such as how inventory is stored in the backroom or in a warehouse, or what methods are used to transport products to retail stores or to ship directly to consumers.

Over the last two weeks or so there have been several developments that are bringing the business of fantasy sports into question. For those not familiar with fantasy sports, it is a form of gaming in which performance statistics from athletes in professional sporting events are used as the competitve measure.  One example of fantasy sports involves friends and family members create a fantasy league, where they each select athletes from a real professional sports league, such at the National Football League (NFL), to form their own team. Teams then compete in season-long, head-to-head matches and the winner is determined based on  athletes' sports performance statistics in a real professsional event (e.g., NFL game). Many of these leagues are so-called “cash leagues,” where participation requires paying a fee to play and at the end of the season the top winners earn money. While fantasy started as a friends-and-family activity, it has now grown into a big-time business with major brands, such as ESPN and Yahoo, offering products to help fantasy players and to assist with league management.

The ability to fully understand how their customers feel about products and services is the hallmark of successful marketing organizations. To get to this point often means marketers need control over nearly all factors that will eventually impact customers’ satisfaction with their purchase. But “nearly all factors” means there are some the marketer cannot control. For instance, many external factors are outside of marketers’ control.

Certainly marketers do control the products they develop and the promotions they create, but they have less control on other marketing decisions. For instance, most companies selling consumer goods in retail stores cannot control how retailers price the product or where the product is placed in the stores.