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Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to contribute to the knowledge of how relationship value, trust, commitment, satisfaction and loyalty intentions are defined and relate to each other. It explores these relationships in the business-to-business (B2B) context by analysing manufacturing companies regarding to their main supplier. Design/methodology/approach – After the literature review and several in-depth interviews, a method of empirical analysis consisting of quantitative intervention with an ad hoc survey using a structured questionnaire has been developed. Structural equations modeling is used to contrast the hypotheses on the links between the constructs analysed. Findings – Confirmatory factor analysis provided satisfactory results. With regard to the direct effects of the relationship value, the three relationships being considered were verified: relationship value has a positive influence on trust, commitment and satisfaction towards the supplier. Also, and as already contrasted in previous studies, trust has a direct, positive effect on commitment. In addition, and regarding to loyalty antecedents, data did not confirm that greater trust would increase loyalty but commitment did, leading to the conclusion that the effect of trust on loyalty is only indirect through the effect it has on commitment. Loyalty was also positively affected by satisfaction with the supplier. Research limitations/implications – Limitations of this paper open lines for future research. First, it considers that future research could include other variables affecting long-term relationships. Second, longitudinal studies could serve to enrich the results and illustrate the complexity of the direction in the links among the variables and take into account dynamics. Third, a customer's perspective in the perception of value has been adopted in this paper. Finally, relationship value has been operationalised as reflective and a formative approach could be adopted. Implications for managers are in line with the detected importance of satisfaction and commitment as key factors because of their impact on intention to continue and expand business with the supplier. Moreover, manufacturers should recognize the role of assessing and building relationship value with their partners as it has an impact – direct or indirect – on intentions to stay in the relationship. Originality/value – In comparison, far less research has been done in the area of relationship value. This paper emphasizes the role of perceived relationship value in relationship B2B marketing studies providing a model and contributing to relationship management.
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Industrial Management & Data Systems
The value of B2B relationships
Irene Gil-Saura Marta Frasquet-Deltoro Amparo Cervera-Taulet
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To cite this document:
Irene Gil-Saura Marta Frasquet-Deltoro Amparo Cervera-Taulet, (2009),"The value of B2B relationships",
Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 109 Iss 5 pp. 593 - 609
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Yun E. Zeng, H. Joseph Wen, David C. Yen, (2003),"Customer relationship management (CRM) in
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1 pp. 39-44 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09685220310463722
Judy Zolkiewski, Peter Turnbull, Wolfgang Ulaga, Andreas Eggert, (2006),"Relationship value and
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The value of B2B relationships
Irene Gil-Saura, Marta Frasquet-Deltoro and
Amparo Cervera-Taulet
Department of Marketing, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of the paper is to contribute to the knowledge of how relationship value, trust,
commitment, satisfaction and loyalty intentions are defined and relate to each other. It explores these
relationships in the business-to-business (B2B) context by analysing manufacturing companies regarding
to their main supplier.
Design/methodology/approach – After the literature review and several in-depth interviews, a
method of empirical analysis consisting of quantitative intervention with an ad hoc survey using a
structured questionnaire has been developed. Structural equations modeling is used to contrast the
hypotheses on the links between the constructs analysed.
Findings Confirmatory factor analysis provided satisfactory results. With regard to the direct
effects of the relationship value, the three relationships being considered were verified: relationship
value has a positive influence on trust, commitment and satisfaction towards the supplier. Also, and as
already contrasted in previous studies, trust has a direct, positive effect on commitment. In addition,
and regarding to loyalty antecedents, data did not confirm that greater trust would increase loyalty
but commitment did, leading to the conclusion that the effect of trust on loyalty is only indirect
through the effect it has on commitment. Loyalty was also positively affected by satisfaction with the
supplier.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations of this paper open lines for future research.
First, it considers that future research could include other variables affecting long-term relationships.
Second, longitudinal studies could serve to enrich the results and illustrate the complexity of the
direction in the links among the variables and take into account dynamics. Third, a customer’s
perspective in the perception of value has been adopted in this paper. Finally, relationship value has
been operationalised as reflective and a formative approach could be adopted. Implications for
managers are in line with the detected importance of satisfaction and commitment as key factors
because of their impact on intention to continue and expand business with the supplier. Moreover,
manufacturers should recognize the role of assessing and building relationship value with their
partners as it has an impact – direct or indirect on intentions to stay in the relationship.
Originality/value In comparison, far less research has been done in the area of relationship value.
This paper emphasizes the role of perceived relationship value in relationship B2B marketing studies
providing a model and contributing to relationship management.
Keywords Trust, Buyer-seller relationships, Partnership
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
In business-to-business (B2B) markets there is a significant trend over the last few decades
towards holding fewer and closer relationships (Ulaga and Eggert, 2006a). Manufacturers
reduce suppliers in search of efficiencies, risk sharing and value creation (Barry and
Terry, 2008). As Leonidou (2004) points out, establishing long-lasting relationships can
help supplier and customer to create higher value than can be mutually beneficial.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0263-5577.htm
The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology for financial support
for this work (I þD Plan Nacional Projects Ref.: SEJ2004-05988 and SEJ2007-66054/ECON).
The value of B2B
relationships
593
Received 27 October 2008
Revised 21 January 2009
Accepted 9 February 2009
Industrial Management & Data
Systems
Vol. 109 No. 5, 2009
pp. 593-609
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0263-5577
DOI 10.1108/02635570910957605
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At the same time, as Vargo and Lusch (2004) discuss, marketing thought is shifting
away from tangibles and toward intangibles, and from a transaction focus to
a relationship focus. The paper of inter-organisational relationships, as Young and
Wilkinson (1989) note, has jumped from emphasising concepts such as power, conflict
or opportunism, towards variables such as trust, commitment, long-term orientation,
and in general variables relating to sustained relationships (Anderson and Weitz, 1992;
Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Geyskens et al., 1999). Specifically, Morgan and Hunt (1994)
placed trust and commitment at the centre of their relationship marketing theory and
these two variables have subsequently been considered in many studies (Gilliland and
Bello, 2002) as key constructs for true marketing relationships.
Notwithstanding the importance of the variables of trust and commitment, Ulaga
and Eggert (2006a) state that relationship marketing models have mainly focused on
this type of “soft” variables, but have failed to include performance variables, such as
relationship value, which will be more useful for customers to evaluate supplier
performance. In fact, both from the customer’s and the supplier’s, point of view, it is
essential to know how to create and deliver value in the relationship, particularly as the
product itself may end up becoming a commodity (Eggert et al., 2006).
Following those trends, the construct “relationship value” has recently emerged as a
key variable in inter-organisational relationship models (Walter et al., 2001; Ulaga and
Eggert, 2002, 2006a; Ryssel et al., 2004). Yet, despite a growing body of research on
relationship value, as Payne and Holt (2001) point out, new conceptual developments
and studies are required to identify structures underpinning relationship value.
Particularly, Ulaga and Eggert (2006a, p. 313) point out that “relationship value must
be included as a key element in models that analyse the buyer-seller relationship in the
industrial context”.
The present paper attempts to narrow this research gap by empirically analysing
the interdependency between relationship value and the more extensively studied
variables of trust, commitment and satisfaction, and how they impact on loyalty
intentions. The conclusions of a piece of research like ours would be useful for firms to
ascertain the benefits of creating and delivering value in their relationships with key
suppliers.
To this end, the paper is structured in the following sections. First, the theoretical
model and its integrating variables are defined; second, the hypotheses are formulated
and justified; third, we describe the research methodology; fourth, the results are of the
estimation of the model are presented, and finally, we discuss the conclusions and
implications of the paper and suggest future research lines.
2. Theoretical framework
2.1 Relationship value
A review of the marketing literature shows that the notion of value is polysemous
(Gallarza and Gil, 2006). “Customer value” is used in a wide variety of contexts which
include for example, creating and delivering value to the customer, the value of
customers for the organisation, perceived value for the customer, etc. (Payne and
Holt, 2001). As Lindgreen and Wynstra (2005) point out, there has been only little
research examining value.
The most recent developments in the paper of customer value have adopted a
relational perspective and take a relationship marketing approach (Walter et al., 2001;
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Eggert et al., 2006). This has been described as “relationship value” (Payne and
Holt, 2001; Ulaga, 2003).
The line of research on relationship value has its origins in the first proposals by
Wilson and Jantrania (1995) and Ravald and Gro
¨nroos (1996). Anderson (1995)
characterizes the relationship between two companies as a set of “interwoven business
strands” wherein the strands represent a series of “exchange episodes”. Furthermore,
Ravald and Gro
¨nroos (1996, p. 29) differentiated between relationship value and
episode value given that “a relationship consists on episodes” and the relationship
itself might have a major effect on the total value perceived by the consumer who, in a
close relationship context, will probably shift the focus from evaluating separate
offerings – episodes – to evaluating the relationship as a whole. For Flint et al. (2002,
p. 103) in the B2B interaction the perception of value materializes in “judgements or
evaluations of what the customer perceives he has received from the seller”. In this
framework, relationship value in B2B is conceptualised as:
[...] the trade off between the multiple benefits and sacrifices of the supplier’s supply, as
perceived by the main deciders in the customer organization, taking into consideration the
offers from the available alternative suppliers in a specific use situation (Eggert and Ulaga,
2002, p. 110).
Thus, relationship value is a subjective, multidimensional construct conceived as a
trade-off between benefits and sacrifices where perceptions are relative (Ulaga, 2003)
and which evolves with time (Ulaga and Eggert, 2006a).
Eggert et al. (2006) found that service and personal interaction are the main
elements for providing value in the competitive industrial environments which exist at
present. In short, value generation is the main aim of relationships between the parties
to an exchange and must be considered as the basis for defining marketing strategies
(Lindgreen et al., 2006).
To sum up then, despite the demonstrated relevance, the concept is still in an initial
development phase, in terms of the conceptual perspective, the theoretical dimensions
of the concept, and the operational perspective due to the absence of a sufficiently
validated measurement, and in terms of management more work is required on the
importance of relationship value dimensions as a differentiation strategy (Ulaga and
Eggert, 2006b).
2.2 Trust
Relationship marketing seeks to build long-term relationships (relational exchanges),
trust being a “key mediating variable” (Morgan and Hunt, 1994), or a “necessary
ingredient” (Ganesan, 1994) for developing successful relationships; as Srinivasan
(2004) states, trust contributes to success in e-business relationships.
Trust according to Morgan and Hunt (1994, p. 23) exists when “one party has
confidence in an exchange partner’s reliability and integrity”, it has also been defined as:
[...] the firm’s belief that another company will perform actions that will result in positive
outcomes for the firm, as well as not take unexpected actions that would result in negative
outcomes for the firm (Anderson and Narus, 1990, p. 45).
There appears to be sufficient consensus in the literature that trust is a crucial concept
in relationships between companies (Ganesan, 1994; Wilson, 1995). The parties must be
vulnerable to a certain extent for trust to become operational, and there is usually
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vulnerability in the relationships between business buyers and sellers due to the high
degree of interdependency needed to achieve the desired results.
The literature on B2B relationships has produced a number of definitions of trust that
show some differences. A first issue is who is doing the trusting. A few definitions refer
to inter-personal trust, that is, trust in the contact person, however most studies adopt
the concept of inter-organizational trust (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Anderson and Narus,
1990). Blois (1999, p. 210) questioned that organizations could trust, as trust involves an
emotive component, and concluded that “inter-organizational trust is a short-hand for
two sets of individuals each of which is trusting the organization of which the others are
members”.
A second issue is the scope of the definitions, some of them equal trust to reliance as
they refer only to confidence in the fulfilment of a role or a promise, and others add an
emotive component such as expectations of good intentions. In this paper, we adopt the
latter approach, for which trust has two components: credibility or the extent to which
one party thinks the other is competent to fulfil its duty, and benevolence, which is the
belief in the good intentions of one party towards the other (Ganesan, 1994; Kumar
et al., 1995).
2.3 Commitment
Commitment is, together with trust, a key mediating variable for relationship
marketing (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Palmatier et al., 2007). Organizational commitment
is one of the oldest and most studied variables in the literature of organizational
relationships. Commitment relates to the belief by a partner that the relationship is so
important as to warrant maximum efforts at maintaining it. This idea of the relevance
of the relationship and the willingness to continue in it is also present in the definition
of Moorman et al. (1992, p. 316): “an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship”.
Moreover, Anderson and Weitz (1992, p. 191) understand that the essence of
commitment in any type of relationships (interorganizational, intraorganizational and
interpersonal) is stability and sacrifice, and on this base they define commitment as
“the desire to develop a stable relationship, a willingness to make short-term sacrifices
to maintain the relationship, and a confidence in the stability of the relationship”.
Therefore, commitment goes beyond an evaluation of the current benefits and costs
of a relationship; it implies a long-term orientation towards the relationship. The desire
to maintain the relationship is based, according to Morgan and Hunt (1994) and
Gilliland and Bello (2002) on the fact that members in the channel that are mutually
committed identify commitment as key to achieving valuable outcomes.
2.4 Satisfaction
The literature in a B2B context takes as a starting point the conceptualization of
satisfaction in business-to-consumer (B2C) environment (Lamb et al., 2004), where the
efforts to clarify, conceptualise, and measure these construct have been very intense
(Chumpitaz and Paparoidamis, 2004).
Satisfaction has been studied with a dual process-result focus and is defined by
some authors (Hunt, 1977) as a process of evaluating or measuring a purchase
experience where expectations are compared with the result. Other authors relate
satisfaction to process result, in other words to the response or state of the customer
considering consumption of the product.
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Analysis of the most recent contributions shows a certain convergence towards
understanding satisfaction as a phenomenon linked to cognitive judgements and
affective responses. Thus, as the cognitive component represents a mental process of
evaluation of an experience in which a series of comparison variables intervene,
the affective component is shown through certain feelings which are generated as a
result of the evaluation. Satisfaction can also be interpreted from the point of view of a
specific transaction or from an accumulative perspective. In the business to business
context, the second is the relevant approach, since according to Ganesan (1994)
and Anderson and Narus (1984, p. 66, 1990, p. 45), in their effort to model
manufacturer-distributor relationships satisfaction with the relationship is “a positive
affective state resulting from the appraisal of all aspects of a firm’s working relationship
with another firm” or following Chumpitaz and Pap aroidamis (2004, p. 237) “is an overall
evaluation of the total purchase, use and relationships experience with a product or
service over time, as expressed by members of the buying decision centre”.
This definition provided the basis for conceptualising and measuring the construct in
the present paper and has been widely used in the paper of B2B relationships
(Geyskens et al., 1999; Eggert and Ulaga, 2002; Rauyruen and Miller, 2007; Lewin and
Johnston, 2008).
2.5 Loyalty
The literature coincides in pointing loyalty as the “sine qua non of an effective business
strategy” (Heskett, 2002, p. 355). Customer loyalty has proven to have a relevant
impact on firm performance, and is considered to be a source of competitive advantage
(Woodruff, 1997). Research on business relationships has shown that loyal customers
tend (more than unloyal customers) to take cooperative actions that will result in
mutual benefits for both parties and will increase competitiveness and reduce
transaction costs.
In a pioneering work, Wind (1970) analysed a set of variables linked with loyalty in
B2B. However, as Lam et al. (2004), Sirdeshmukh et al. (2002), Oliver (1999) and
Parasuraman and Grewal (2000) point out, there is still a scarce amount of attempts
trying to conceptualise loyalty and to research its antecedents.
Research into loyalty has developed from a perspective either of effective, manifest
behaviour which implies repeat purchase/consumption or from the perspective of
attitude (Dick and Basu, 1994). These two perspectives can be reconciled through the
definition offered by Gremler and Brown (1996, p. 173):
[...] loyalty is the degree to which a customer exhibits repeat purchasing behavior from a
service provider, possesses a positive attitudinal disposition toward the provider, and
considers using only this provider when a need for this service arises.
These different forms of loyalty have been retained in the literature through different
measurements. Behaviourally, some typical measurements used are repurchase rate,
purchase behaviour in a period of time and so on. Measurements closest to the affective
perspective use measures based on intention to frequent a supplier, continue with
the relationship, or recommend the supplier (Zeithaml et al., 1996). This last approach
to the measurement of loyalty has been significantly accepted and is retained in our
paper.
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3. Relationship value in the framework of B2B relationships hypothesis
Figure 1 shows our model of relationship marketing in a B2B context which we wish to
verify through a set of hypotheses developed below. This model follows the
commitment-trust perspective (a prevalent one according to Palmatier et al., 2007).
In fact, most research has conceptualised that relationship marketing improves loyalty
and firm performance through relational mediators, such as trust, commitment and
relationship satisfaction (Lindgreen and Wynstra, 2005; Palmatier et al., 2006).
As antecedent to our relational mediators we choose the construct of relationship value
(a customer-focused antecedent, according to Palmatier et al., 2006), following the
research by Ulaga and Eggert (2006a). In particular, Eggert and Ulaga (2002)
considered it necessary to include commitment and trust in the perceived
value-satisfaction-loyalty sequence proposing this as a future line of research.
The relationship sequence proposed is based on the reasoned action theory
(Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975), and grounded in the idea that affective variables mediate
the relationship between cognitive and conative variables. Hence, the fact that the
construct “relationship value” is considered to be an antecedent to commitment, trust
and satisfaction – affective variables – which in turn affect the conative aspect of
loyalty. Although this sequence may be subject of discussion, there has been an
extended theoretical debate around the topics of value, satisfaction and loyalty, that
have also been empirically contrasted. Generally, the link of value as an antecedent of
satisfaction provides a wide consensus, leading to loyalty as a final outcome
(Woodruff, 1997; Parasuraman, 1997; McDougall and Levesque, 2000; Eggert and
Ulaga, 2002; Caruana and Fenech, 2005; Eakuru and Kamariah, 2008).
3.1 Relationship value, trust and commitment
There is no wide empirical evidence to support the association between relationship
value and trust (Singh and Sirdeshmukh, 2000) on the one hand, and relationship value
and commitment on the other and in addition, the direction of both associations has
been changing. Thus, Ryssel et al. (2004) consider the effect of trust and commitment
on relationship value, Huntley (2006) establishes that both commitment and trust are
antecedents to relationship quality, while Golicic and Mentzer (2006) establish that
commitment and trust are dimensions of the relationship magnitude which acts as an
antecedent of relationship value. In contrast, Ulaga and Eggert (2006a) consider the
inverse in their relationship model, finding that value is significantly and positively
related to both variables. For their part, Harris and Goode (2004) concluded that
perceived value is associated with trust and establish value as the antecedent.
Figure 1.
Structural model
Relationship
value
Trust
Satisfaction
Loyalty
Commitment
H1
H2
H4
H3
H5
H6
H7
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Likewise, Pura (2005) introduces commitment between perceived value and
behavioural intention. For Morgan and Hunt (1994) relationship benefits are
antecedents to commitment, although when contrasted empirically they did not find
a significant relationship between the two constructs. Finally, Sirdeshmukh et al. (2002)
look for proof of the associations between trust and value and conclude that these links
are not clear and that further research is needed to evaluate the nature of the
relationships between these variables. In view of all this, we understand that
confirmation of these relationships in the sphere of our research scenario would be
useful. This has led us to posit as the first working hypotheses:
H1. The greater the perception of relationship value, the greater the trust in the
supplier.
H2. The greater the perception of relationship value, the greater the commitment
to the supplier.
3.2 Relationship value and satisfaction
There is significant proof that high levels of perceived value lead to greater satisfaction
(Lin et al., 2005). In the context of relationship value, Eggert and Ulaga (2002) and Ulaga
and Eggert (2006a) also found said evidence with significant relationships between
value and satisfaction, as the model which included satisfaction as a mediator variable
between value and intentions gave the best results. Hence, satisfaction’s important role
in our proposal as consequence construct. This provides our next hypothesis:
H3. The greater the relationship value, the greater the satisfaction with the
supplier.
3.3 Trust and commitment
Trust and commitment are not independent concepts, they are interrelated. The
existence of a direct positive link from trust to commitment has been widely justified in
the literature. Most studies have configured trust as a major determinant of
commitment (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Geyskens et al., 1999), however, a few authors
have considered trust and commitment to be the main dimensions of a higher order
construct named “relationship quality” representing the overall assessment of the
relationship (Kumar et al., 1995). Research on relationship quality is quite recent, and
although trust and commitment are often included in the construct, the different
studies have not systematically examined the measure of the construct and have
proposed different dimensions (Lindgreen and Wynstra, 2005).
As trust is considered an effective and desirable attribute in long-term relationships
between organizations (Young and Wilkinson, 1989), when an organisation perceives
that there is trust in a relationship; it will want to commit to it. Consequently, a high
level of commitment will contribute to stabilise the relationship. Moreover, according
to Morgan and Hunt (1994), as commitment implies vulnerability, organisations will
only seek partners they can trust. Therefore, it is unlikely that one of the parties in a
relationship can be committed to the other without a basis of trust in the relationship,
and this is the basis for our next hypothesis:
H4. The greater the trust in the supplier, the greater the commitment to the
supplier.
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3.4 Trust and loyalty
In their relationship model, Ulaga and Eggert (2006a) consider an association between
trust and loyalty, although their results showed no statistically significant
relationship. Similarly, Ball et al. (2006) consider trust as an antecedent to loyalty,
at the same level as satisfaction, as do Floh and Treiblmaier (2006). For Harris and
Goode (2004) trust and satisfaction influence loyalty. The above leads us to formulate
the next working hypothesis:
H5. The greater the trust in the supplier, the more loyalty there is towards the
supplier.
3.5 Commitment and loyalty
The relationship between commitment and loyalty has also been considered by Ulaga
and Eggert (2006a) detecting a significant and positive association. Likewise, for Pura
(2005) and Shabbir et al. (2007) commitment appears as an antecedent to loyalty.
Different authors distinguish an affective component in commitment as against a more
normative or rational one. For Bergman (2006) it is precisely the affective component
which is linked to loyalty. Our next hypothesis rests on this reasoning:
H6. The greater the commitment to the supplier, the more loyalty there is towards
the supplier.
3.6 Satisfaction and loyalty
Finally, the association between satisfaction and loyalty has been analysed in several
works (Chumpitaz and Paparoidamis, 2004; Shabbir et al., 2007; Ball et al., 2006; Gil et al.,
2008). Ulaga and Eggert (2006a) consider the relationship between satisfaction and loyalty,
where loyalty is the intention to increase business with the supplier, and find a significant
and positive relationship. This allows us to formulate our final working hypothesis:
H7. The more satisfaction in the relationship with the supplier, the more loyalty
there is towards the supplier.
Thus, the hypothesised model in Figure 1 is based on several previous studies, with the
central point being the idea that relationship value is capable of increasing.
4. Research methodology
4.1 Sampling framework
Our basic line of research is directed at analysing commitment, trust and value which
are established in a B2B relationship and their influence on the satisfaction-loyalty
consequences chain. To study the proposed causal relationships and respond to the
research objectives, we decided to analyse manufacturing companies and observe how
they define those variables in their relationship with their main supplier on the basis of
interviewees’ perceptions. We focused on companies in three self-governing regions in
Spain (Valencia, Catalonia and Madrid) and the starting point was 2006 data from Dun
and Bradstreet. We had a total of 503 companies as population for our survey.
Then we undertook a qualitative study interviewing in depth several firms that,
together with the literature review, helped to design the structured questionnaire. For
the pre-test of the questionnaire, we randomly selected 30 firms that were phoned to
ask for their cooperation. Of those 30 firms, 15 agreed to participate. An examination of
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the 15 questionnaires answered revealed that virtually all the items had been well
understood by the respondents, and that a diverse range of responses had been given
to most items. Next the companies were contacted by phone to make an appointment to
administer the questionnaire personally to the responsible of operations/logistics in the
organization (i.e. key informants to discuss their firms’ relationships with their primary
supplier). The final proposal was an ad hoc questionnaire which permitted data
collection by field work from January to March 2007, achieving 276 valid
questionnaires (Table I). The response ratio of 54.9 per cent was similar to previous
studies in the field and was considered satisfactory.
Data were analysed with the statistical packages SPSS version 14 and EQS 6.1.
Table II shows the basic statistics for the different indicators for the variables being
researched.
4.2 Measurements
The literature review provided the basis for using multi-item scales as shown in
Table II. All the constructs were measured with items previously used in the literature.
In some cases the items were modified to adapt them to our research context. In all
cases five-point Likert scales were used.
Thus, a multi-item scale covering four aspects, adapted from Anderson and
Weitz (1992) and Morgan and Hunt (1994), made it possible to define the construct
commitment, while trust was defined using six indicators adapted from the scales
proposed by Ganesan (1994), Morgan and Hunt (1994) and Kumar et al. (1995).
Relationship value was measured following the proposal by Ulaga and Eggert (2006a)
and Eggert et al. (2006). Loyalty was evaluated in the direction of behavioural intention
on the basis of the scale proposed by Pura (2005) adapted in turn from the proposal,
among others, by Zeithaml et al. (1996), retaining favourable intentions. Finally,
satisfaction was evaluated on a single item scale.
5. Results
The hypotheses are verified using the structural equations models technique, following
the two step procedure recommended by Anderson and Gerbing (1988). This procedure
involves first analysing the quality of the construct measurements, by estimating
the measurement model or confirmatory factor analysis, and second estimating the
structural or theoretical model which will provide information on the relationships
between the constructs object of the hypotheses in this paper.
We used statistical software EQS 6.1 selecting the maximum likelihood estimation
method.
Sector Valencia region Catalonia Madrid Number of companies %
1 Food 20 19 18 57 20.6
2 Electricity/electronics 14 22 25 61 22.1
3 Textile/leather/footwear 14 13 23 50 18.1
4 Graphic arts/paper/cardboard 8 15 21 44 15.9
5 Wood/furniture 26 5 5 36 13
6 Automotive 9 9 10 28 10.1
Total 91 83 102 276 100
Table I.
Sample distribution by
economic sector
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5.1 Analysis of the measurement model
Measurement scale reliability can be confirmed (Table III) by the values of
the respective Cronbach’s
a
statistics, above 0.9 for the four factors. Also, the
composite reliability index and the average variance extracted index exhibit acceptable
values.
Confirmatory factor analysis was used to check construct validity, analysing the
solidity of the measurement model as a whole allowing us to check scale convergent
and discriminant validity for relationship value, trust, commitment and loyalty.
First, we verified measurement model fit according to several fit indexes.
In particular, the non normalised fit indexes, which have less tendency to offer biased
results in small samples (Bentler and Wu, 1993), take values over 0.95 reflecting an
acceptable model fit (Table III).
To analyse convergent validity, that is, that the scale items are strongly and
significantly related, we checked that the factor loads are significant and substantial
(they are over 0.7 on average).
Constructs and indicators Mean SD
Minimum
value
Maximum
value
Relationship value (RV)
RV
1
The main supplier adds more value to the relationship as
a whole 3.877 0.888 1.00 5.00
RV
2
We gain more in our relationship with the main supplier 3.971 0.868 1.00 5.00
RV
3
The relationship with the main supplier is more valuable 3.953 0.896 1.00 5.00
RV
4
The main supplier creates more value for us when we
compare all the costs and benefits of the relationship 3.960 0.832 1.00 5.00
Trust (TRU)
TRU
1
This supplier is sincere and honest 4.204 0.765 1.00 5.00
TRU
2
This supplier keeps his promises 4.236 0.734 1.00 5.00
TRU
3
This supplier informs us honestly of any problem
which might affect us 4.168 0.792 1.00 5.00
TRU
4
This supplier is concerned about our interests 4.039 0.828 1.00 5.00
TRU
5
The information this supplier gives is reliable 4.254 0.716 1.00 5.00
TRU
6
This supplier is an expert in the products we sell 4.223 0.793 1.00 5.00
Commitment (COM)
COM
1
We are very commited to this relationship 3.889 0.950 1.00 5.00
COM
2
We are very faithful to this supplier 3.921 0.951 1.00 5.00
COM
3
My company tries to keep this a long-term relationship 4.065 0.870 1.00 5.00
COM
4
This relationship is worth making the maximum effort
to preserve it 3.986 0.893 1.00 5.00
Satisfaction (SAT)
SAT
1
In general, we are satisfied with the relationship with
this supplier 4.190 0.649 2.00 5.00
Loyalty behavioural intention (LO)
LO
1
I intend to continue buying this supplier’s products in the
future 4.129 0.817 1.00 5.00
LO
2
The next time I need the same type of product I shall
purchase it from the same supplier 4.189 0.750 1.00 5.00
LO
3
I shall continue buying products from this supplier more
frequently in the future 3.885 0.870 2.00 5.00
LO
4
I will probably buy products from this supplier again 4.337 0.703 2.00 5.00
Table II.
Description of the
research variables and
basic statistics
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After confirming convergent validity we proceeded to check discriminant validity, that is,
that the scales do not measure constructs other than those intended. This was done by
observing the correlations between constructs (Table IV), noting the highest which could
indicate that the indicators for a scale also serve to measure another construct.
The correlation between commitment and loyalty is equal to 0.781 and so, in addition to the
confidence interval and variance extracted tests, the
x
2
difference test was also applied.
The three tests confirm discriminant validity for the loyalty and commitment scales.
5.2 Structural model analysis
The causal relationships considered in the model in Figure 1 were simultaneously
analysed using the structural equation systems technique. The model was estimated
using the indicators or original observed variables as input variables.
Construct Indicators
Standard
loadings
(SE) t-value
Cronbach’s
a
Composite
reliability
Average
variance
extracted
Relationship value RV
1
0.915 (0.043) 18.853 0.951 0.952 0.834
RV
2
0.925 (0.042) 19.215
RV
3
0.941 (0.043) 19.823
RV
4
0.870 (0.042) 17.337
Trust TRU
1
0.858 (0.040) 16.948 0.943 0.948 0.741
TRU
2
0.899 (0.036) 18.302
TRU
3
0.922 (0.037) 19.119
TRU
4
0.860 (0.042) 16.988
TRU
5
0.903 (0.035) 18.442
TRU
6
0.755 (0.043) 13.960
Commitment COM
1
0.877 (0.048) 17.634 0.952 0.956 0.846
COM
2
0.882 (0.048) 17.773
COM
3
0.953 (0.042) 20.364
COM
4
0.965 (0.042) 20.797
Loyalty LO
1
0.911 (0.041) 18.478 0.903 0.910 0.717
LO
2
0.906 (0.038) 18.316
LO
3
0.763 (0.048) 14.045
LO
4
0.798 (0.038) 14.998
Notes:
x
2
¼292.31; g.l ¼129; CFI ¼0.907; IFI ¼0.908; Bentler-Bonet NNFI ¼0.960;
RMSEA ¼0.071
Table III.
Confirmatory factor
analysis results
Correlation matrix
Construct Mean SD 1 2 3 4
1. Relationship value 15.77 3.26 0.913 0.571 0.499 0.434
2. Trust 25.11 4.09 [0.481 0.661] 0.861 0.578 0.521
3. Commitment 15.85 3.43 [0.399 0.599] [0.490 0.666] 0.920 0.781
4. Loyalty 16.543 2.77 [0.334 0.534] [0.465 0.577] [0.725 0.837] 0.847
Note:
x
2
test for commitment and loyalty:
x
2
¼284.21, g.l ¼1
Table IV.
Data for the discriminant
validity analysis
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Model fit was acceptable as the fit indexes shown at the bottom of Figure 2 exceed the
recommended values. Therefore, we can proceed to interpret the estimated parameters
which lead us to accept or reject the hypotheses being considered.
With regard to the first part of the model on the direct effects of relationship value,
the three relationships being considered in H1-H3 are verified. The results of model
estimation confirm, as our first hypothesis stated, that when a partner perceives
greater value in the relationship his trust in the other partner will be increased. Also
H2 is accepted, as the estimated parameter linking relationship value with
commitment is positive and significant, indicating that the manufacturer will be
more committed towards the supplier when the value perceived in the relationship
augments. Finally, a more valuable relationship also redounds to greater satisfaction
with the supplier, as the estimated parameter of value 0.481 is statistically significant,
thus confirming H3.
H4 is accepted and corroborates the relation, already contrasted in many other
previous studies, between the constructs trust and commitment, therefore, the
perception that a partner is trustworthy increases the level of commitment to him.
The second part of the model refers to loyalty antecedents. H5 considered that
greater trust in the supplier would increase loyalty towards him, but the data do not
confirm this hypothesis as the parameter is negative, albeit non-significant. Trust is an
affective variable that does not directly influence the intention to stay with the
supplier. However, as indicated in H6, commitment to the supplier does have a positive
influence on loyalty towards him. Thus, the effect of trust on loyalty is only indirect
through the effect it has on commitment. Loyalty is also positively fed by greater
satisfaction with the relationship with the supplier, thus H7 can be accepted.
6. Conclusions and further research
There is a trend among manufacturers to reduce the number of suppliers to a group of
key, valued ones, with whom they wish to maintain true relationships, not mere
transactions. Understanding what makes B2B relationships lasting and stable is one of
the main areas of academic interest in the study of organizational relations (Chumpitaz
and Paparoidamis, 2007). This work contributes to the literature in at least three
significant points. First, from a theoretical perspective, the study integrates the
Figure 2.
Structural model with
standardized estimates
(and t-values)
Relationship
value
Trust
Satisfaction
Loyalty
Commitment
0.580*
(9.563)
0.257*
(3.830)
0.481*
(8.261)
0.428*
(6.161)
0.062*
(–1.121)
0.706*
(11.403)
0.309*
(6.779)
Notes: Model statistics: *significant at p < 0.05; c2 = 398.484; g.l. = 146; CFI = 0.950; IFI = 0.950;
Bentler-Bonet NNFI = 0.941; AGFI = 0.824; RMSEA = 0.083
IMDS
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constructs of relationship value, commitment, trust, satisfaction and loyalty in a model
investigating cause-effect links among them, which responds to a research gap noted in
the literature (Ulaga and Eggert, 2006a; Ryssel et al., 2004), being relationship value
quite a new variable in this field. Second, our work emphasizes the role of relationship
value in building strong relationship with suppliers. Our empirical study demonstrates
the benefits of augmenting the perceived value of relationships. Relationship value
emerges as a critical variable that contributes to generate trust, commitment and
satisfaction with the relationship, and those variables have proved to mediate in
predicting loyalty. Third, the findings of the present paper confirm the direct
significant effect of commitment and satisfaction on increasing loyalty, as proved in
several previous studies. Also, our results corroborate the absence of a significant
direct effect of an affective variable such as trust on behavioural intentions such as
loyalty. Previous studies, such as Ulaga and Eggert (2006a), Shabbir et al. (2007) and
Tian et al. (2008) could not either confirm this relationship, but only an indirect effect of
trust on loyalty through commitment.
The present paper has a number of implications for managers. Our research shows
managers that satisfaction and commitment are key factors because of their impact on
intention to continue and expand business with the supplier. In this sense, the supplier
should first of all create value for the customer cognitive variable. When the
relationship is considered valuable, it generates satisfaction and commitment, affective
variables that lead to favourable behavioural intentions. Thus, manufacturers should
recognize the role of assessing and building relationship value with their partners, as it
has an impact, direct or indirect, on intentions to stay in the relationship. Both
customer and supplier would benefit from having sustained relationships as they
enhance sales and profits, and also they contribute to increased communication, and
opportunities for innovation and growth.
The results of this research should be interpreted bearing in mind some limitations
which constitute research opportunities. First, we consider that future research could
include other variables in the proposed model. Thus, from the relationship marketing
perspective, it is useful to establish long-term exchanges. On these lines, in addition to
the importance of trust and commitment in this type of exchange established by
Morgan and Hunt (1994) and Ganesan (1994), among others, the role of additional
variables could be investigated such as dependency, reputation, environment
variables, etc. which may influence the configuration and level of the long-term
orientation. This long-term orientation is indicated by Ryssel et al. (2004) to justify
business investment in information and communication technologies.
Our research also assumes, in line with the proposal by Ulaga and Eggert (2006a) in
a cross-section study, that cognitive perceptions of value interact with feelings of
satisfaction, trust and commitment and finally lead towards behavioural intentions to
maintain and intensify the purchase relationship, we consider that longitudinal studies
could serve to enrich the results and illustrate the complexity of the direction in the
links among the variables and take into account dynamics.
On the other hand, in this paper we have adopted a customer’s perspective in the
perception of value. A vendor’s perspective can be different and potential gaps between
both parties value perception would be captured by analysing this perspective in
future investigations. The reader should also acknowledge that the perception of the
constructs in our model may be culturally biased, therefore the results could
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be different in a different cultural context. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see if
the results would be the same in service oriented firms, rather than manufacturing
firms.
Finally, the relationship value construct has been operationalised as reflective.
However, a formative approach could be adopted following Ulaga and Eggert (2006b).
This approach would make it possible to discover the different components in
relationship sacrifices-benefits and their specific influence on the constructs considered.
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Corresponding author
Irene Gil-Saura can be contacted at: irene.gil@uv.es
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Downloaded by UNIVERSITAT DE VALENCIA At 04:22 14 November 2014 (PT)
... Even more so, this relational view accords a critical role to the customer within SCI, that is, customer integration (Martinelli and Tunisini, 2019). Explicitly, in the current hypercompetitive markets, business within a supply chain needs to be relationship-oriented and requires mutual commitment to succeed (Gil-Saura et al., 2009;Høgevold et al., 2020;Viio and Grönroos, 2014). This topic turns out to be a new issue in the SCI literature, but does firms' relationship commitment really influence the firm's SCP? ...
... In this context, Ellram (1995) mentioned that relationship commitment is a mutual relationship between firms over an extended period of time, which follows the concept of reciprocal commitment and sharing. Firms should commit to long-term relationships with customers, rather than embracing a transaction short-term approach (Berry et al., 1983;Dwyer et al., 1987;Gil-Saura et al., 2009;Gronroos, 1990;Morgan and Hunt, 1994;Sheth and Parvatiyar, 1995). Indeed, Berry et al. (1991) established that mutual commitment is the main basis for relationships. ...
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Purpose This study aims to show how to improve supply chain performance through the relationship between firms and their customers. In doing so, this study examines the impact of a firm’s relationship commitment and customer integration on supply chain performance. The aim is to detail a way to increase supply chain performance through the relationship between companies and their customers. Design/methodology/approach The empirical analysis was based on a survey on 205 corporate-Egypt multi-industry businesses including manufacturing, retailing, wholesaling and shipping services firms. Data collection was through a questionnaire survey distributed to 1,264 senior managers with responsibilities in the field of supply chain, logistics, purchasing, marketing and operations and with a 16% response rate. A conceptual model was designed, and hypotheses were analysed with covariance-based structural equation modelling. Findings This study makes a significant contribution to the supply chain management (SCM) literature by examining the influence of firms’ relationship commitment on supply chain performance in the supply chain management context by means of the disaggregation of customer integration into two dimensions: integration with customer (IWC) and integration by customer (IBC). The findings indicate that firms’ relationship commitment does not relate directly to supply chain performance, but rather indirectly through integration both with and by customers. Research limitations/implications This paper outlines a conceptual model in which firms’ relationship commitment relates indirectly to supply chain performance. The model also sheds light on the fact that IWCs precedes IBCs in supply chains. This finding suggests that firms should focus on customer integration to improve supply chain performance. Practical implications This study offers a particularly refined understanding of the reasons behind and situations in which supply chain integration (SCI) enables firms to gain superior supply chain performance. In fact, firms focusing on customer integration may improve their supply chain performance, thus enhancing the value of the supply chain. Originality/value This study contributes to the literature by considering a relational view of the SCI-Performance path. In particular, by disaggregating customer integration into IWCs and IBCs, this paper verifies customer integration acting as a mediator between relationship commitment and supply chain performance in supply chains.
... The three key dimensions of RQ moderate both these relationships and the business's various outcomes, such as customer loyalty (Gil-Saura et al., 2009), actual sales and recommendation intentions. This mediation particularly affects service quality and business loyalty. ...
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Purpose-In the past few decades, relationship management (RM) theory and RM strategies in business-to-business (B2B) contexts have evolved tremendously, driven by constant innovation. Hence, the purpose of this study is to understand the trends and evolution of RM and relationship quality (RQ) in B2B contexts and empirical insights on RM and RQ in B2B, which in turn would provide insights into trends and future research directions. Design/methodology/approach-Grounded on the industrial marketing and purchasing group, this study adopts a critical systematic literature review to provide a comprehensive analysis of the past, current and future trends in empirical research insights of RM and RQ in B2B markets. Findings-This study provides some novel insights into RM in B2B context by using a multidimensional approach to RM and RQ and analyzing prior marketing research from three perspectives: the evolution of RM and RQ in B2B context; prior empirical research; and practical business insights. Overall, these perspectives inform the development of an evolving side of RQ in B2B contexts, leading to some predictions regarding the future of RM in B2B markets. Practical implications-The exploratory results of this study shed light on the key factors that drive RQ and the importance of RM in B2B markets in the digital age where customers still long for human interaction regardless of the prevalence of advanced technology. Originality/value-In the wake of advanced technologies and particularly, B2B companies had to turn to virtual platforms and embrace digital transformation to establish and manage their customer relationships. Yet, managing relationships via digital channels has its own challenges for both B2B practitioners and scholars. This indicates that there is still a huge need for attuned RM strategies that align with the changing environments-mainly driven by technological advancement-in B2B markets.
... There have been shifts in B2B relationships over the past few decades with a preference for fewer and closer long-term relations that go beyond the historic transactional nature of the interaction (Gil-Saura et al., 2009). Trust and commitment are critical to maintaining B2B relations, especially during times of disruption and uncertainty (Cortez and Johnston, 2020). ...
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Purpose-The purpose of this study is to empirically investigate the dark side of business-to-business (B2B) relationships in traditional business practices worldwide that rely on strong networks. Design/methodology/approach-This study applies a questionnaire survey to collect data from buyers in 224 Kuwaiti firms and uses the partial least squares structural equation model for data analysis. Findings-Drawing on the social exchange theory, we test the relationships between B2B wasta, relationship satisfaction, innovation, and efficiency. The findings show that despite the belief that wasta brings long-term benefits when applied in B2B relationships, it negatively impacts the firm's efficiency. Originality-The study contributes to the existing literature on B2B relationships by identifying important issues related to the multifaceted nature of B2B wasta relationships. The study confirms the importance of relational and innovation benefits over economic consequences based on elements of social exchange theory (SET), which extends our current understanding of the application of SET in B2B wasta relationships.
... Finally, most conceptualizations of CPRV regard a cost-benefits ratio compared to the competition, whereas the affective comparison process in satisfaction formation assesses relevant outcomes against the perceiver's own expectations. Some B2B scholars regard customer satisfaction as one central part of a higher order, multidimensional "relationship quality" construct, often together with trust and commitment (Barry et al., 2008;Ulaga and Eggert, 2006a), whereas others treat them as related, but distinct concepts (Gil-Saura et al., 2009). In this meta-analysis, we follow the latter viewpoint. ...
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Purpose Research on customer-perceived relationship value (CPRV) in business-to-business (B2B) markets has flourished over the past two decades. This paper aims to meta-analytically take stock of this research stream. It creates a comprehensive overview of the theoretical bases of CPRV research and establishes CPRV in its nomological network. The latter includes relationship benefits and sacrifices, offer quality, trust, switching costs, satisfaction, commitment, loyalty and salience of alternatives. Meaningful boundary conditions of the links to and from CPRV emerge from this research. Design/methodology/approach To locate suitable primary studies for inclusion in this meta-analysis, a comprehensive literature search was performed. Selection criteria ensured that only suitable B2B samples were included. Meta-analytical random and mixed-effects models were performed on a sample of k = 83 independent data sets from 94 primary publications, with a total n = 22,305. Findings All constructs are strongly related to CPRV in the expected direction, except for switching costs and salience of alternatives with a moderate relationship and relationship sacrifices with a non-significant mean association. Firm type (manufacturing, non-manufacturing), key informant role (purchaser, non-purchaser), supplier offering type (goods, services) and measurement approach (reflective, formative) function as boundary conditions in the moderation analysis. Originality/value This study is one of the very rare meta-analyses that draws exclusively from B2B marketing primary studies. It summarizes and solidifies the current theoretical and empirical knowledge on CPRV in business markets. The novel inclusion of boundary conditions offers additional insight over primary studies and makes for interesting new research directions.
... Finally, most conceptualizations of CPRV regard a cost-benefits ratio compared to the competition, whereas the affective comparison process in satisfaction formation assesses relevant outcomes against the perceiver's own expectations. Some B2B scholars regard customer satisfaction as one central part of a higher order, multidimensional "relationship quality" construct, often together with trust and commitment (Barry et al., 2008;Ulaga and Eggert, 2006a), whereas others treat them as related, but distinct concepts (Gil-Saura et al., 2009). In this meta-analysis, we follow the latter viewpoint. ...
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Purpose-Research on customer-perceived relationship value (CPRV) in business-to-business (B2B) markets has flourished over the past two decades. This paper aims to meta-analytically take stock of this research stream. It creates a comprehensive overview of the theoretical bases of CPRV research and establishes CPRV in its nomological network. The latter includes relationship benefits and sacrifices, offer quality, trust, switching costs, satisfaction, commitment, loyalty and salience of alternatives. Meaningful boundary conditions of the links to and from CPRV emerge from this research. Design/methodology/approach-To locate suitable primary studies for inclusion in this meta-analysis, a comprehensive literature search was performed. Selection criteria ensured that only suitable B2B samples were included. Meta-analytical random and mixed-effects models were performed on a sample of k = 83 independent data sets from 94 primary publications, with a total n = 22,305. Findings-All constructs are strongly related to CPRV in the expected direction, except for switching costs and salience of alternatives with a moderate relationship and relationship sacrifices with a non-significant mean association. Firm type (manufacturing, non-manufacturing), key informant role (purchaser, non-purchaser), supplier offering type (goods, services) and measurement approach (reflective, formative) function as boundary conditions in the moderation analysis. Originality/value-This study is one of the very rare meta-analyses that draws exclusively from B2B marketing primary studies. It summarizes and solidifies the current theoretical and empirical knowledge on CPRV in business markets. The novel inclusion of boundary conditions offers additional insight over primary studies and makes for interesting new research directions.
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Purpose In the past few decades, relationship management (RM) theory and RM strategies in business-to-business (B2B) contexts have evolved tremendously, driven by constant innovation. Hence, the purpose of this study is to understand the trends and evolution of RM and relationship quality (RQ) in B2B contexts and empirical insights on RM and RQ in B2B, which in turn would provide insights into trends and future research directions. Design/methodology/approach Grounded on the industrial marketing and purchasing group, this study adopts a critical systematic literature review to provide a comprehensive analysis of the past, current and future trends in empirical research insights of RM and RQ in B2B markets. Findings This study provides some novel insights into RM in B2B context by using a multidimensional approach to RM and RQ and analyzing prior marketing research from three perspectives: the evolution of RM and RQ in B2B context; prior empirical research; and practical business insights. Overall, these perspectives inform the development of an evolving side of RQ in B2B contexts, leading to some predictions regarding the future of RM in B2B markets. Practical implications The exploratory results of this study shed light on the key factors that drive RQ and the importance of RM in B2B markets in the digital age where customers still long for human interaction regardless of the prevalence of advanced technology. Originality/value In the wake of advanced technologies and particularly, B2B companies had to turn to virtual platforms and embrace digital transformation to establish and manage their customer relationships. Yet, managing relationships via digital channels has its own challenges for both B2B practitioners and scholars. This indicates that there is still a huge need for attuned RM strategies that align with the changing environments – mainly driven by technological advancement – in B2B markets.
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Purpose Business-to-business (B2B) relations will become more prevalent in many areas such as delivery services, based on current trends supporting e-commerce proliferation. In addition, hyperlocal e-commerce, which focuses on customers in a small geographic region, relies heavily on another business to handle the supply chain. Emerging trends in business to business to customer (B2B2C) experiences provide retailers with opportunities to develop strategies for better customer service. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to develop a scale for measuring business customer experience in the B2B2C aggregator business model. Design/methodology/approach Using the psychometric scale development procedure, the researchers devised a 29-item, six-dimensional scale measuring business customer experience with the help of two cross-sectional studies. Restaurant managers who rely on delivery partners to serve their customers were surveyed twice. The authors validated a scale for assessing business customer experience using exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling. Findings Based on fit criteria, a higher-order formative structure was best suited to the scale. The dimensions identified were shared vision, interaction experience, end-customer focus, relationship experience, service experience and outcome focus. According to the study, business customer experience is more objective and utilitarian than existing paradigms on customer experience. Research limitations/implications Theoretically, this research helps to understand the underpinnings behind the formation of business customer experience and attempt to bring transformative service research focus in the B2B2C trilogy as better experiences predict the well-being of members of the business centre in the B2B. Practical implications Practically, this research helps businesses to revisit their strategies for a better relationship with business partners for jointly offering an improved experience to the end customers. Originality/value This study explains a pioneer attempt to develop a scale for business customer experience in the context of B2B2C aggregator business models.
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