What Is Horizontal Conflict? (With Tips for Resolving Conflict)

Horizontal conflicts usually arise between organizations within the same channel level, which can lead to conflict in other areas of the marketing channel. For example, a horizontal conflict may occur when two companies within similar territories begin to sell products or services that are alike.
  • Lead & deal conflicts – fighting over the same customers or sales opportunities.
  • Distrusting partners – not respecting the rules of the program.
  • Competition overpricing – undercutting other resellers by offering lower prices than agreed upon with the developer of the program.

Vertical conflict in marketing refers to disagreements that arise between businesses that collaborate to offer consumers a single product. For instance, a company selling potatoes might clash with a supermarket that carries the vegetable. A horizontal conflict is when there is a disagreement between two businesses that could potentially collaborate directly or indirectly. For instance, a bookstore might have a coffee shop inside the bookstore that is owned by a different company.

In the coffee and bookstore example, depending on the choices made by one of the stores, both businesses may come into conflict. For instance, the bookstore might be upset if a second coffee shop opens up nearby with nicer decor and more affordable coffee, as this could drive customers away from the bookstore. The different enterprises have goals that conflict.

When a company requests that a retailer carry a product in vertical marketing, the retailer may be reluctant because the retailer can only carry so many products, and carrying the wrong products could make the retailer unsuccessful. Additionally, different retailers’ customers may favor one kind of product over another. The business selling the goods to the merchant must persuade him or her that they will be profitable.

Contractual vertical marketing systems enable collaboration and relationship building between independent businesses to improve marketability. For instance, a graphic design company and a copywriting team might collaborate to offer other clients services for writing sales letters. However, disagreements over who has creative control over which project elements and how much each agency is paid could lead to conflicts.

One company that has the financial resources necessary to dominate in a conflict with other companies occasionally appears in marketing channels, whether vertical or horizontal. For instance, the sole manufacturer of a well-liked product may have significant influence over the merchants who sell the product. However, because it frequently depends on other businesses in the channel, the dominant business typically considers the self-interest of other businesses.

Businesses that use horizontal marketing typically specialize in a variety of goods and services. Conflict can arise when companies that specialize in the same goods and services compete for the same clients. Some businesses form marketing channels specifically to avoid conflict. Instead of going head-to-head, two businesses might carve out distinct niches and then market to and from one another. Businesses become more productive when conflict is resolved because they use fewer resources to compete with one another. However, a monopoly results when one company completely controls a certain niche. As a result, the company may have less incentive to lower prices and improve products, which could harm consumers.

Types of Channel Conflict – Horizontal conflict, Vertical conflict, Multichannel Conflict

What is horizontal conflict?

A disagreement between two or more organizations inside of a marketing channel is referred to as a horizontal conflict. A product can move from the manufacturer to the consumer through a marketing channel. Marketing channels have different levels, which typically separate like this:

Horizontal conflicts typically occur between organizations at the same level of the marketing channel, and they can result in conflict in other areas of the channel. For instance, a horizontal conflict may arise when two businesses start offering similar goods or services in the same regions. The price for consumers may change as a result of competition between two retail businesses for the same good.

What is channel conflict?

When two or more members of a sales distribution chain, or channel, disagree, there is a channel conflict. Channel conflicts can cause delays in production and company growth. It’s advantageous to know how to handle and prevent these conflicts because they can sometimes lead to partnerships ending. Vertical and horizontal conflicts are two prevalent types of channel conflict.

Differences between horizontal and vertical conflict in markets

Here are a few examples of how horizontal and vertical conflicts in markets differ:


A vertical conflict happens between two consecutive channels as opposed to a horizontal conflict occurring within the same level of the channel. For instance, a conflict may arise between two marketing firms that are running similar advertisements in a horizontal conflict. In contrast, if a distributor doesn’t deliver a product by the deadline set by a retail store, there may be a vertical challenge between two levels, such as a retailer and a distributor.


In a vertical channel, each channel is owned and managed by a single party. Intermediaries with long-standing, mutually beneficial business partnerships are among the horizontal channels, however. The nature of disagreements between intermediaries in a horizontal channel can be very different from those in a vertical channel because they all have equal power. In particular, how these conflicts are resolved by intermediaries varies because in a vertical channel, the intermediary with more power can dictate the solution, whereas in a horizontal conflict, they must reach a mutually acceptable agreement.


Professionals can frequently resolve vertical conflicts quickly and with little impact on the entire process because one company typically owns the vertical marketing channels. Because each channel member must work to find a resolution, horizontal conflicts can have more difficult resolutions. If one channel participant refuses to cooperate with another, the business relationship may end, and the item being produced by the marketing channel may produce more slowly as a result.

Tips for resolving horizontal conflict

Consider using these suggestions to settle any horizontal disputes that may occur in your marketing channel:

Develop a plan

Create a strategy for handling horizontal conflict when establishing your marketing channels. The protection of stockholder interests and occasionally turning conflicts into opportunities can both be achieved by having a strategy to deal with horizontal conflict in your marketing channel. For instance, you might discover that the market is oversaturated with that product if your business faces criticism from a nearby business for creating a similar product. This may inspire you to create a strategy for launching a novel product with little rivalry.

Consider private labeling

Consider using a private labeling strategy in order to expand your business safely and prevent channel conflicts. Through private labeling, retailers can order a specific product from a manufacturer and use it to establish their own brand. Because private labeling offers custom packaging and a direct distribution line from the manufacturer to the retail store, this ensures that other marketing channels cannot produce the same product as you.

Create a standard price for your product

A common cause for horizontal conflict is product pricing. The channel members may disagree if one distributor offers your product to retail stores at a lower price than another distributor. A standard price for your product reduces the possibility of pricing problems, competition, and can give consumers stability. This is so that your product can be sold at the same price to every retailer in your channel.

Build a better contract between channel members

Try to create a contract that gives you a lot of control over who can sell your product and how other channel members can sell it. You can prevent channel disputes by having a solid contract that contractually obliges other channel participants to respect your wishes regarding your production. If you want to draft and negotiate a contract that gives you a reasonable amount of control over your product, think about hiring a lawyer or other expert.

Establish multiple channels

Creating multiple channels entails collaborating with more than one retailer or distributor to get your product in front of customers. This can lessen the possibility of horizontal conflict and enable the growth of your company as you discover new avenues for product sales. You could, for instance, use a private manufacturer to make your product, two sizable retailers to sell it, and your company’s official online store all at the same time. Here are some additional advantages of having multiple channels in addition to preventing channel conflicts:


What is horizontal channel conflict example?

Conflict between horizontal channels occurs at the same level in a single distribution channel. An illustration of this is when two retailers that are affiliated with the same manufacturer differ in terms of their promotional plans or geographic coverage.

What is a difference between vertical and horizontal conflict?

A vertical conflict in a channel is when two different member types come into conflict with one another. In contrast, a horizontal conflict is when two organizations of the same type are at odds with one another.

What is a vertical channel conflict?

When a manufacturer’s action disturbs the supply chain, vertical conflict results. For instance, switching to direct mail and advertising to consumers directly would result in a vertical channel conflict for a manufacturer whose products are typically distributed through retail.

What are two types of channel conflict?

We define 3 types of channel conflicts:
  • Vertical Channel Conflict:
  • Horizontal Channel Conflict:
  • Multiple Channel Conflict:
  • Chain Reaction – Brand and Product Lose Value:
  • Sales Stagnation:
  • Price battling can weaken the distribution channel.

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