The business environment of the 1990s has seen a shift in firms’ emphasis away from recruiting new customers, towards nurturing and retaining those that they currently have. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effects on profitability of pursuing what has become known generically as “relationship marketing”. Discussion of relationship marketing has suffered from a failure to position the concept, resulting in interpretations ranging from short‐term sales incentives to a core business philosophy. Explores these multiple dimensions of relationship marketing, and challenges the emerging conventional wisdom that relational exchange between buyers and sellers should be the norm which all businesses aim for. Although relationship marketing may be very attractive for many products and markets, its adoption may be inappropriate in others. Parties to an exchange may have diverging views on commitment to each other and may not welcome the possibility of having their chances for opportunism restricted. In some sensitive markets, the cost of loyalty schemes may exceed the revenue benefits of repeated levels of business at profitable prices. Finally, the overenthusiastic development of buyer‐seller relationships can have anti‐ competitive implications, which are evident in some Eastern countries.
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