Forward integration is a form of vertical integration in which a company moves further in the direction of controlling the distribution of its products or services. Essentially, a company undertakes forward integration by acquiring or merging with business entities that were its customers, while still maintaining control over its initial business.
Understanding Forward Integration
The concept of forward integration is inherently related to the concept of the supply chain. In many industries, the major components of the supply chain include raw materials, intermediate goods, manufacturing, marketing and sales, and after-sales service. An example of forward integration is a situation when a manufacturer purchases its retailer to secure control over the distribution channels.
Forward integration is the opposite of backward integration, which is a strategy of acquiring the companies that were once the suppliers for the business seeking more integration.
Benefits of Forward Integration
Generally, forward integration allows companies to sustain profits while minimizing profit losses to intermediate entities. The strategy can be implemented for different reasons, including:
1. Increase the company’s market share
A company may increase its market share by implementing a forward integration strategy. Generally, the strategy eliminates various transaction and transportation costs. This subsequently results in a lower final price for the company’s product. Thus, a company can achieve greater market share through lower product prices.
2. Gain control over distribution channels
A company employs the strategy if it wishes to obtain control over distribution channels in its industry. Control is crucial for companies that operate in industries that lack qualified distributors or in situations where distributors charge significant costs. The control over distribution channels ensures the strategic independence of a company from third parties.
3. Competitive advantage
Successful implementation of the strategy may provide a company with a competitive advantage over its competitors. Lower costs and more control over industry distribution channels can become key factors in achieving a competitive advantage.
4. Create barriers to potential competitors
The integration of entities forward of the company’s production vertically strengthens its position in the industry and establishes obstacles for potential rivals. For example, if a company integrates a large industry retailer, probable competitors could face limited access to distribution channels.
Despite its benefits, forward integration can still involve certain risks to a company that wants to adopt the strategy. Some of the risks associated with the strategy include the following:
1. Bureaucratic inefficiencies
Merger and acquisition deals related to forward integration may create various inefficiencies as a result of the enlarged bureaucratic apparatus of the new business entity.
2. Failure to realize synergies between the companies
In the forward integration strategy, a company may fail to realize synergies between the involved entities. Improper implementation of the strategy can be one of the reasons for the unrealized synergy potential.
3. High costs
Mergers or acquisitions necessary for undertaking forward integration may require substantial funds to execute. A company must be certain that the benefits from the implementation of the strategy will exceed its costs.
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