Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Developing Interpersonal Influence in Retail Purchasing Networks: An Exploratory Analysis of Tie Quantity, Tie Strength, and Tie Type

Academic journal article International Journal of Marketing Studies

Developing Interpersonal Influence in Retail Purchasing Networks: An Exploratory Analysis of Tie Quantity, Tie Strength, and Tie Type

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study examines the impact of relationship characteristics existing between buyers and other members of a retail purchasing network. The number of ties and the strength of the ties buyers maintain with others in the network are examined to identify how they impact buyers' interpersonal influence over others. Buyers' tie quantity and tie strength are examined for different constituencies within the purchasing network to assess the differential impact of these relational factors on buyers' interpersonal influence. The study finds that buyers' tie quantity is a significant predictor of influence in both buyer and seller sub-networks, whereas buyers' tie strength is only a significant factor in the seller sub-network. Further, independently examining the sub-networks that form organically around buyer and seller roles in the overall purchasing network leads to differential outcomes when compared to evaluating the entire network in which buyer and seller sub-networks are not differentiated. Collectively, the findings from this study reveal important conceptual, methodological, and substantive implications for marketing researchers and practitioners interested in purchasing network contexts.

Keywords: purchasing relationships, interpersonal influence, tie quantity, tie strength, social capital, social networks

1. Introduction

Many business activities important to retail firms involve employees interacting with others in interpersonal networks. For retailers, purchasing agents frequently interact with suppliers to acquire product information and to order merchandise. In addition, retail buyers also interact with other buyers, such as those who hold similar positions at other firms, to obtain information. These interactions with suppliers and other buyers provide access to important knowledge, which helps to enhance a buyer's interpersonal influence (Dawes, Lee, & Dowling, 1998; Gilly etal., 1998; Seevers, Skinner, & Dahlstrom, 2010).

Developing and maintaining interpersonal influence is an important factor for individuals in organizational settings, particularly because interpersonal influence has been documented to impact performance across a variety of contexts (Cialdini, 2000; Sparrowe, Liden, Wayne, & Kraimer, 2001; Westphal & Stern, 2006). Further, interpersonal influence has been documented to impact performance in retail purchasing settings specifically (Crosby, Evans, & Cowles, 1990; Macintosh & Lockshin, 1997; Seevers et al., 2010).

Given the impact of interpersonal influence on outcomes important to firms and their employees, buyers frequently wish to develop and enhance their influence with others in order to improve their performance. Enhancing interpersonal influence inherently requires buyers to invest in relationships with others. These strategic investments into relationships typically take place as buyers strive to increase the number of unique contacts they develop with others (i.e., relational investments in tie quantity) or as buyers strive to strengthen the relationships they currently maintain with others (i.e., relational investments in tie strength). As might be expected, the time needed to build new relationships and to enhance existing relationships is limited in purchasing contexts, requiring buyers to make difficult trade-offs regarding how they invest their time and efforts.

In addition to the decision regarding how to invest resources into relationships, buyers must also consider with whom those resources should be invested. Retail buyers wishing to invest in such relationships must decide how much time to allocate toward developing relationships with different individuals fulfilling various roles in the purchasing network. For buyers, this decision oftentimes involves deciding how much time to allocate toward building relationships with sales representatives and how much time to dedicate to cultivating relationships with fellow buyers in the network (i. …

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