The effect of distributors' relationship exploration on relationship quality under market uncertainty

Tracy J. Zhang, Sin Yan Tse, Danny T. Wang, Flora F. Gu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


While relationship exploration, or seeking alternative exchange partners, is a ubiquitous marketing channel strategy when facing a volatile marketing environment, how this strategy affects a firm's incumbent relationship is unclear. Drawing upon resource dependency theory and the dynamic capabilities perspective, we argue that a distributor's relationship exploration does not destruct but rather improves the existing relationship by enhancing the focal distributor's dynamic capabilities (e.g., absorptive capability and innovative capability) that are essential in volatile environments. However, the ultimate influence of this strategy via dynamic capabilities is contingent upon the careful alignment of dynamic capabilities with market conditions. Using a sample of electronic component distributors in China, this study confirms the role of dynamic capabilities as underlying mechanisms in the influence of relationship exploration on relationship quality. Moreover, we find that market uncertainty varies the effects of dynamic capabilities differentially; it strengthens the effect of absorptive capability, while it weakens that of innovative capability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-355
Number of pages12
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Channel relationship exploration
  • Dynamic capabilities
  • Market uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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