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Online channel mode selection in a platform supply chain in the presence of consumer returns

Bing Yang (School of Economics and Trade, Anhui Finance and Trade Vocational College, Hefei, China)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 15 February 2023

Issue publication date: 5 April 2024




Motivated by the real-world practice that the boom of the online selling induces a higher product return as well, selecting which online channel mode indicates who takes ownership over the product and thus bears the loss of the product return. This paper aims to seek the optimal online channel modes for the two members in a platform supply chain in the presence of product returns.


This study aims to develop a platform supply chain that consists of one platform company and one supplier. Along with an offline distribution channel, the supplier can choose two alternative online selling modes (i.e. the reselling and agency modes) to sell its product through the online marketplace. This paper applies Stackelberg game to derive the equilibrium with different business scenarios and selects the optimal online channel modes for two parties, respectively. Moreover, this paper extends to a different supply chain with a reverse channel leadership and a different product return policy for testing the robustness.


Several interesting and important results are derived in this paper. Firstly, it is found that the relative pricing are largely relied on the costs of two channels. Secondly, the platform supply chain may benefit from a pure channel rather than the dual-channel when this channel enjoys a relatively low cost and/or a sufficiently high consumer preference. Then, the platform and the supplier act contradictorily when selecting their optimal online channel modes. To be specific, the platform motivates to choose the online reselling mode when both the commission rate and the slotting fee are relatively low, whereas the supplier is likely to select the online agency mode under this circumstance. Finally, a win-win situation in regards to the optimal online channel mode for two parties is achievable with numerical experiments.

Practical implications

Based on the analytical studies, the results derived in the authors’ work can provide managerial insights to assist the supplier and the platform company in determining the operational decision and selecting the optimal online channel mode to deal with consumer returns. In addition, appropriate commission rate along with slotting fee will make both parties achieve a win-win situation in determining their optimal online channel mode.


To the authors’ best knowledge, this paper makes the first move to determine the optimal online channel mode in the content of consumer returns and study how it is affected by different product return policies.



This paper is strongly supported by the outstanding young talents, general programs in colleges and universities of Anhui Province, 2022 (gxyq2022277).


Yang, B. (2024), "Online channel mode selection in a platform supply chain in the presence of consumer returns", Kybernetes, Vol. 53 No. 5, pp. 1740-1762.



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