Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Determinants of Importer Commitment in International Exchange: An Agenda for Future Research

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Organization

Determinants of Importer Commitment in International Exchange: An Agenda for Future Research

Article excerpt


Commitment has received great attention in the inter-organisational relationship literature but there is widespread debate and contention on what constitutes its key determinants, specifically in an import supplier context. Furthermore, inconsistencies in empirical findings of the buyer-seller relationship studies limit the theoretical development and use of internationalization theories in management practice. Yet this area warrants attention as it may assist in enabling the integration of the spectrum of importer commitment in the importer-exporter relationship. Essentially, this paper integrates and synthesises over eighty conceptual and empirical studies on commitment in the buyer-seller relationship from different contexts including grounding on internationalisation process theory, resource based theory of the firm and transaction costs economics. Conceptual arguments are assessed and empirical findings are evaluated across studies with the aim of developing a framework. With the support of three basic theories and extant literature, ten antecedents of importer commitment are identified. The causal direct and some indirect relationships are specified. Seventeen propositions are offered to guide future research efforts in this important field.

Keywords: determinants of commitment, importer commitment, importer behaviour, internationalisation process


While some scholars (e.g. Karlsen, Silseth, Benito & Welch 2003) in the current era of globalisation explore the internationalisation process (IP) in the importer-exporter relationship, the international business literature per se mostly emphasises outward operations, showing little interest in importer behavior (Chetty & Eriksson 2002; Ghymn & Jacobs 1993; Kim & Oh 2002). Interestingly, the IP model (Johanson & Vahlne 1977) emphasises the export side; as Solberg and Durrieu (2006: 61) observe, 'commitment is necessary for the firm to build the network of distribution and information channels indispensable to engage in the export learning process'. However, pioneers of the IP model recently acknowledged the need for an extension of their IP model in explaining importers' relationship commitment behavior (Johanson & Vahlne 2006).

In the importer-exporter relationship an importer's commitment to the foreign supplier is important from two perspectives. Firstly, from the exporters' perspective, importers facilitate the exporters' internationalisation process by providing access to foreign markets on a continuing basis. Secondly, from the importers' perspective, relationships with an exporter allow the importer to gain a competitive advantage in the target market through access to foreign supply markets. Comprehending the factors of importer commitment may offer a means of understanding how to gain this advantage. Skarmeas, Katsikeas and Schlegelmilch (2002) argue that 'importing firms, by bonding with overseas suppliers, are induced to remain in the relationship, be supportive, differentiate themselves from competitors, and produce feelings of affiliation and esprit de corps' (p.760). Importers as a consuming counterpart play a significant role of equalising demand and supply in the international market. Accordingly, the spectrum of importer behaviour is equally important as it is a complementary part of exporter behaviour.

In defining international business in exchange terms, Toyne (1989) argues the need for recognizing both sides of the exchange because the process is 'relation-driven' and the behavior of the exchange parties may vary due to differences in their perspectives. Liang and Parkhe (1997) also argue strongly in favor of 'refocusing attention on the interlocking decisions of parties to the dyad' (p.521), and for the evolution of research on importer behavior in a manner that merges theories of exporter behavior and advances the development of international exchange theory. Despite these repeated calls, the import side remains largely unexplored in international exchange theory (Karlsen et al. …

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