Physical Availability


Physical Availability is one of two market-based assets (along with Mental Availability) that is vital for brand growth and which underpins the financial performance of a business.

Physical availability is the quality and the quantity of distribution points where a product or brand can be bought.

Physical availability means making a brand as easy to notice and buy as possible, for as many consumers as possible, across as wide a range of potential buying situations as possible.

It is split into three dimensions: presence, relevance and prominence.

Key Findings

  • The key marketing task is to make a brand easy to buy. This requires building physical availability, along with mental availability.
  • Decades of research into the patterns in buying behaviour and marketing metrics has led to the conclusion that brands compete for custom primarily in terms of physical, along with mental, availability.
  • Brands that are easier to buy, for more people in more occasions, get bought more often.
  • Differences in physical availability and consumers’ screening-out behaviour largely explains the vast and continuing market share differences that exist between even highly similar brands.
  • Physical availability is more than just retail penetration, but is also presence in store. It includes hours of availability and ease of facilitating the purchase.
  • Physical availability does not just mean “available to purchase if a consumer is sufficiently motivated to seek out the product and do so”. It means being readily available; always. Whenever and wherever a consumer may have the need.
  • The effects of distribution gains (in supermarkets) are far more pronounced in newer, smaller brands than in larger, established brands.

Presence – be present wherever products are bought
Involves decisions on where to place the brand, such as channel and retailer choice

  • multiple channel shopping is normal (regardless of the country). As more channel options become available, people add to the repertoire rather than totally substitute one channel for another.
  • Consumer choice for retailers largely mirrors the patterns of buying behaviour:
    • buyers have repertoires of retailers and are rarely 100% loyal to one retailer, channel or store
    • the relationship between penetration and loyalty to retailers reflects a double jeopardy pattern
    • competition across retailers for shoppers follows the duplication of purchase law, i.e. retailers compete in line with the size of the competitor, sharing more shoppers with more popular retailers and fewer shoppers with the less popular retailers
Relevance – be relevant for whenever products may be used
Involves decisions about the portfolio options
  • Buyers are not 100% loyal to price points but select from a range of what is available
Prominence – be prominent wherever products are sought
Involves decisions about making the brand easily found in shopping environments
  • Shopping behaviour is quick in both traditional and online environments. Distinctive Brand Assets can help your brand to be seen in a cluttered shopping environment.

Best Practice

Building physical availability requires breadth and depth of distribution in space and time.

Without Physical Availability, investments in Mental Availability are largely wasted.

Secondary display and eye-level shelf placement are measures of quality of physical availability. Weighted distribution, the number of facings a brand has on shelf and the number of buying points are metrics for quantity.

Presence – Be present wherever products are bought

Are you where you should be? How well do you cover places and times where category buying happens?

  • Coverage means reaching people in different locations. The accessibility of an outlet plays a more important role than its type.
  • Covering multiple retailers and channels builds physical availability as shoppers rarely shop at one outlet.
  • Do not only look at traditional outlets for your brand, consider the brand’s availability via e-commerce as this is a very fast-growing distribution channel.
  • Service brands need to distinguish between channels that sell and channels that service customers when assessing their brand’s physical availability.

Prominence – Be prominent wherever products are sought.

Are you easily found in shopping environments?

Be easy to find in all shopping environments. Whether that is within an outlet, on shelf or online

Distinctive Assets deal with clutter by helping brands stand out and be quickly found.

Use DAs everywhere and consistently; linking in-store with out of store. Check that your brand is distinctive (but not odd).

Avoid fragmenting your brand identity when launching variants.

Portfolio – Be relevant for whenever products may be used.

Are you buyable?

Managing your Portfolio is about creating a relevant product range across the category’s many buying occasions, balancing range with costs to prioritise options. Overcome any potential barriers to purchase.

Create a map of category variants to check the brand is buyable for most of the situations that any category buyer encounters.

Have options that cover all key price options, such as budget and premium options.