Resource heterogeneity and its effects on interaction and integration in customer-supplier relationships

Thursday, 13 August 2015 - Håkan Håkansson, Morten Høie Abrahamsen


In this paper we will study the phenomenon of customer–supplier interaction and integration from a resource perspective. In economic terms, a fish may be seen as a more or less homogeneous resource. If the herring is seen as a homogeneous resource, a market should be the best way to handle the selling and buying. However, if the herring is seen as heterogeneous resource, a more extensive type of interaction is needed. One interesting aspect with herring is that different business actors apparently see this resource in different ways. Thus, we will have a mixed situation, creating possible difficulties for the actors involved. Our starting point for this study is Germany, one of the most important export markets for Norwegian herring. Today, Norwegian legislation hinders the possibility of vertical integration and cooperation at the supply side of the network. However, the industry sees opportunities for growth and integration on the marketing side. To examine this issue, our study uses a qualitative design methodology, incorporating personal in-depth interviews with selected respondents in Norway and Germany. Secondary data is also used. To analyse the data, we introduce five interaction and integration patterns termed (1) pure exchange – no integration, (2) limited interaction and integration, (3) extensive interaction and developed integration and (4) indirect interaction and structural integration, and (5) full integration. Our paper is an investigation of the link between the resource heterogeneity and the patterns of customer–supplier integration. Our findings suggest that there is a link between how the actors perceive herring as a resource and how they interact with counterparts. We find that the actors who see the resource as homogeneous have limited interaction and little or no integration, whereas the actors who see the resource as heterogeneous have a much more extensive interaction and closer ties.

Abrahamsen, Morten H. and Håkan Håkansson. 2015. «Resource heterogeneity and its effects on interaction and integration in customer-supplier relationships.” IMP Journal, 9(1):5-25

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