Two essays on interfirm relationship management

  • Sin Yan Tse

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Marketing channel research has relied on a variety of theoretical perspectives to understand interfirm relationship management and governance processes between a buyer and a seller, such as a supplier and a distributor. However, conclusions arising from different theoretical perspectives sometimes can be controversial. For example, both the economic approach and the sociological approach that conventionally dominate extant marketing channel research encourage firms to commit to existing relationships. Seeking new partners increases transaction costs, and therefore can harm incumbent relationship loyalty, leading to potential exchange hazards. On the other hand, however, network theory and the resource-based view suggest that exploring new relationships can help firms gain new knowledge and capabilities that contribute to superior firm performance and competitiveness. Therefore, how marketing channel firms balance the seemingly contradictory strategies - committing to the incumbent relationship (i.e. relationship exploitation strategy) while also exploring new relationships (i.e. relationship exploration strategy) is the central theme of the thesis. By focusing on the distributor firms, the thesis investigates the issue by two essays. The first essay examines how a distributor's relationship exploration strategy and relationship exploitation strategy influence its opportunism. The research provides different boundary conditions for how to manage relationship exploration strategy and relationship exploitation strategy, including two types of uncertainties (environment uncertainty and performance ambiguity), and two types of network factors (network density and network centrality). One of the interesting findings in the first essay is that while relationship exploitation reduces opportunism as predicted, relationship exploration exerts no significant main effect. This finding demonstrates that relationship exploration strategy is not the opposite of relationship exploitation strategy; rather, it is a conceptually independent construct. The nature of relationship exploration and its effect on incumbent relationship is the subject of the second essay. A theoretical framework was thereby developed to examine how a distributor's relationship exploration strategy can enhance its own dynamic capabilities, which in turn can promote the dyadic relationship quality between the distributor and its incumbent supplier. In sum, relationship exploration is not necessarily destructive. If firms are able to develop their own dynamic capabilities in forms of absorptive capacity and innovative capability, exploring new relationships can be a constructive co-development strategy beneficial for sustaining long-term continuity in the channel dyads.

    Date of Award2 Sept 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJunfeng ZHANG (Supervisor)

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Marketing
    • Relationship marketing

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