Conceptualization of relationship quality in online B2B retail services

Vize, Roisin; Coughlan, Joseph; Ellis-Chadwick, Fiona and Kennedy, Aileen (2011). Conceptualization of relationship quality in online B2B retail services. In: EIRASS 2011, 15-18 Jul 2012, San Diego USA.


Increasingly, retailers are responding the challenges of trading in online environments by building strong collaborative relationships with customers, suppliers and service providers. Furthermore, Small and Medium-sized (SME) retailers are adopting third party web service providers to help leverage the technical expertise and knowledge needed for developing consumer-facing websites (Ray and Ray, 2006). However, in order to work together both parties rely heavily on making agreements that are dependent on high levels of trust and commitment (Morgan and Hunt, 1994).

However, there is a paucity of literature and theoretical frameworks for examining how such business relationships develop in an e-business context (Pavlou and Gefen, 2004). Extant studies have tended to focus on issues associated with hard operational and logistical factors in the supply chain and the tangible benefits of customer relationship management systems rather than focusing on the significance human factors such as relationship quality. Furthermore, the need for understanding how to build successful relationships, especially for SMEs operating in highly complex and challenging online trading environments is not only important for furthering academic research but also has significant practical and managerial implications..

This paper present a critical review of a dynamic and developing body of literature and it argues that whilst the literature is well developed in certain areas there are significant gaps especially from the retailer perspective in an e-business context. Furthermore, work from this perspective has tended to focus on scoping the field rather than focusing on softer organisational issues, which arguably is as important if not more so to the future development of online retailing. This analysis identifies a framework for future research. In particular, it has highlighted the importance of understanding the role and impact of softer human skills in the development of longer-term B2B relationships.

Finally, it is pertinent to acknowledge the limitations of the study: a literature review aims to set out the scope for a research study and in doing so it raises more questions than it answers. Furthermore, even though the literature has grown significantly during the last two decades the Internet literature is fragmented and in areas lacking in substantive theoretical grounding. Notwithstanding, this limitation this work has set out a clear and robust framework for further exploratory research, which can make a significant contribution to the business to business literature.

This paper presents a literature review, a conceptual model; a discussion of the justification for the key elements which make up the model and highlights the gaps in the literature and the contribution of the study

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