The effect of distributors' relationship exploration on relationship quality under market uncertainty

Tracy Junfeng Zhang, Sin Yan Tse, Danny T Wang, Flora F. Gu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)
    12 Downloads (Pure)


    While relationship exploration, or seeking alternative exchange partners, is a ubiquitous marketing channel strategy when facing a volatile marketing environment, how this strategy affects a firm's incumbent relationship is unclear. Drawing upon resource dependency theory and the dynamic capabilities perspective, we argue that a distributor's relationship exploration does not destruct but rather improves the existing relationship by enhancing the focal distributor's dynamic capabilities (e.g., absorptive capability and innovative capability) that are essential in volatile environments. However, the ultimate influence of this strategy via dynamic capabilities is contingent upon the careful alignment of dynamic capabilities with market conditions. Using a sample of electronic component distributors in China, this study confirms the role of dynamic capabilities as underlying mechanisms in the influence of relationship exploration on relationship quality. Moreover, we find that market uncertainty varies the effects of dynamic capabilities differentially; it strengthens the effect of absorptive capability, while it weakens that of innovative capability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)344-355
    Number of pages12
    JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
    Early online date30 Dec 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Marketing

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Channel relationship exploration
    • Dynamic capabilities
    • Market uncertainty


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