Kauppakorkeakoulun julkaisuportaali
Aalto-yliopiston kauppakorkeakoulun gradujen tiedot nyt Aaltodocissa: Aaltodoc-julkaisuarkisto
Kauppakorkeakoulu | Markkinoinnin laitos | Markkinointi | 2016
Tutkielman numero: 14706
The role of digital channels in initiation of business relationships from the customer perspective
Tekijä: Koval, Daria
Otsikko: The role of digital channels in initiation of business relationships from the customer perspective
Vuosi: 2016  Kieli: eng
Laitos: Markkinoinnin laitos
Aine: Markkinointi
Asiasanat: markkinointi; business-to-business; suhdemarkkinointi
Sivumäärä: 113
Avainsanat: digital channels, business relationships, relationship initiation, customer perspective, business-to-business
Lack of theoretical conceptualization of a customer perspective on business relationship initiation and a phenomenon of growing significance of digital channels in business-to-business context have contributed to establishing the research idea for this thesis. Relationship marketing is an underlying theory in this research. Various business relationship development models provide a basis for summarizing the existing theoretical perspectives on the relationship evolvement. Furthermore, digital channels, their use in business-to-business context and in the relationship initiation in particular are discussed. A proposed theoretical framework for researching the role of digital channels in business relationship initiation finalizes the literature review of this thesis.

The case company is a Finnish textile service provider, which is strongly oriented at offering customer-specific service solutions co-created together with the customers. The case company recognized the missing potential in the implementation of digital channels in initiating customer relationships in Russia. The empirical part focused on testing the proposed theoretical model and conceptualizing the customers' perspectives on the phases of relationship evolvement and the presence of digital channels in them. Ten semi-structured interviews with potential and existing customers of the case company in Russia were carried out during March-June 2016.

The key findings indicate that customers perceived the relationship to evolve through five phases: awareness, first contact, offer request or placement, final decision and co-operation. Awareness was mainly created by websites, social media, online reviews and newsletters; online service systems and mobile applications triggered attraction; websites also played a role in building trust towards the case company and suppliers in general. Overall, the digital channels were a significant part of both interaction and customer decision-making process. The digital channels influenced the relationship initiation by allowing access to open information sources, a high degree of interactivity in information presentation and time-saving advantages. These findings are further summarized into managerial implications for the case company, which provide guidelines for strategic implementation of the relevant digital channels.
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