Social bonds and supplier allocation of resources to business customers
Baxter, RA; Woodside, AG
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This paper addresses questions about the effect that social bonds between relationship partners have on the way in which a supplier allocates resources to its relationship with a buyer. Two key questions the paper addresses are the following. In business markets, does strength of social bonds that a supplier perceives with a specific customer influence the supplier’s allocations of financial, physical, time, and intangible resources to this customer relative to other customers? If social bonding does uniquely impact supplier allocation of resources to customers, does the impact vary by length of the supplier-customer relationship? The paper proposes and empirically examines three alternative theories (honeymoon, maturity, and imprinting theories) that indicate how suppliers’ perceptions of social bonds with customers influence the suppliers’ allocations of resources and also examines the proposition that social bonding contributes uniquely to supplier allocations. Honeymoon theory is the proposal that the positive influence of social bonding on supplier resource allocation is greatest in relatively new supplier-customer relationships versus long-term relationships. Maturity theory proposes the opposite—the positive influence of social bonding on supplier resources allocation is greatest in long-term versus new relationships. Imprinting theory proposes that no interaction occurs between the effects of social bonding and length of supplier-customer relationship on supplier resource allocations. The theoretical grounding for the study extends the IMP stream of research, using ideas including the concepts of relationship marketing theory and Homans’ framework for social behavior.