The development of successful business relationships relies greatly on interpersonal contacts. However, due to certain advantages of Internet communication, numbers of relationships start to relay increasingly on this impersonal way of communication. Therefore, there is a need to study what roles could and could not Internet communication serve for in business relationships. Although the increasing importance of Internet communication in business relationship is acknowledged in numbers of studies, there is no any wide investigation on its roles. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to explore the roles that Internet communication has in business relationships. The analysis of recent studies shows that the most emphasized role of Internet is information exchange role. Nevertheless, studies indicate as well on possibility of Internet having other roles such as social role and conflict reducing role. In addition, some negative roles of Internet, such as dependence creating role can be found. Still, more in depth studies on such roles are required.
The development of successful interorganizational relationships is very critical in business-tobusiness marketing and is mainly based in the quality and quantity of information exchange (Hakansson 1982). Also, numbers of other studies emphasize the importance of communication in business relationships (e. g. Dwyer et al 1987; Duncan & Moriarty 1998; Nind & Thomas 2001; Cheng 2001; Huhtinen & Virolainen 2002; Massie & Anderson 2003), pointing out that communication is necessary for developing strong relationships between buyers and suppliers.
Therefore, it can be said that elationships are impossible without communication and study of communication is fundamentally a study of relationships (Duncan & Moriarty 1998). Moreover, Kelly et al (2002) have found that great amount of problems in business relationships are communication related problems. Namely, industrial customers rely heavily and intensively on an accurate communication process (Borghini & Rinallo 2002). Furthermore, due to the organizations need for broadly shared information and high quality communication, communication is becoming an important mean to manage business relationships (Huhtinen & Virolainen 2001).
In addition, some studies have pointed out the need for the study of the impact of information technology (IT) on relationships, mentioning that IT may strengthen relationships but also that it might do just the opposite (e. g. Ritter & Gemunden 2003). Internet, as a product of the developments in IT, has changed the way we communicate and conduct business. That is, it has contributed to the development of better connections and communication among actors in relationships (Allen et al 1998 and Warkentin et al 2001).
Moreover, Osmonbekov et al (2002) emphasize that linking through the Internet is revolutionizing business-to-business communications and call attention to the impact of Internet on business relationships. Similarly, Boyle (2001) point out that the use of Internet is associated with higher overall communication between buyers and suppliers, higher information availability and reduced search costs. However, although the importance of Internet communication in business relationships is unquestionable, there is a lack of research that distinguishes and interprets roles that Internet communication has in business relationships.
Especially negative roles of Internet have not received enough attention. Geiger & Martin (1999) point at the need to study which role Internet can and cannot play in business relationships. Likewise, Leek at al (2002) highlight the need to study which functions different methods of communication serve. In this study, based on the three literature streams: interaction approach, relationship marketing and Internet marketing, I will explore the roles of Internet communication in business relationships.
The main research questions of the study are: What kind of roles, both positive and negative, of Internet communication can be found in literature? ; Does Internet communication have any of the roles that interpersonal contact has? ; Are there any different roles of Internet communication, compared to does of interpersonal contact? This paper is organized as follows. After the introduction, main characteristics of Internet communication and its influence on business relationships are explained.
Thereafter, roles of interpersonal contacts and possible roles of Internet communication are presented. Before conclusion, possible negative roles of Internet are discussed. Internet communication Business relationships are of great importance in industrial markets and this phenomenon has been studied extensively. Business relationship can be defined as an interdependent process of continuous interaction and exchange between at least two actors in a business network context (Holmlund 1997).
It emerges and develops out of interaction between interdependent industrial actors (Hakansson & Johansson 1987). Also, the importance and influence of communication in the effective operation of actors in business relationships has been greatly acknowledged, especially today, in the age of globalization and internationalization. During the last decade, the usage of Internet and information technology has also gained attention and numbers of studies have shown that Internet has contributed to the development of better connections and communication among actors in business relationships.