New Insights on Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships: Volume 26

Cover of New Insights on Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships

A Multi-Perspective Approach


Table of contents

(9 chapters)

Trust is a crucial element in business exchanges. Trust has been the subject of considerable research. Most prior studies are insensitive to context studies. However, the advent of the extended enterprise with the disintegration of production and innovation processes, the digitalization of interactions, and the increased competition in global markets, among other factors, fundamentally alter the contexts of buyer–supplier relationships. New enriched perspectives and adapted approaches of trust in B-to-B settings are necessary.

This volume addresses new issues showing evidence from advanced, emerging, and developing markets by applying different theoretical and methodological perspectives. The findings lead to identifying consistencies, richness, and distinctiveness of antecedents, processes, and consequences of trust in various B-to-B contexts. It provides suggestions for future research and new levers and guidance for managers to build successful business relationships.


This study investigates the antecedents and outcomes of cognitive trust during the expansion phase in buyer–supplier relationships. It takes a global approach and examines cultural nuances between developed nation and emerging market firms by including participants from the United States, China, and Brazil. The results demonstrate the importance of trust in building social capital and the central role which trust plays in shaping business relationships in all studied cultural contexts. There are similarities and differences across countries. Results support relationship marketing theory by demonstrating the importance of conflict resolution, communication frequency, and social bond in building buyer–supplier relationships in the United States, which in turn increase cooperation between partners. Results also indicate that in China, social bond plays a much greater role in building trust, which in turn increases cooperation only to the extent that it serves as a mechanism to secure committed relationships. In Brazil, results show that conflict resolution is the most important factor in building trust. It also mediates the relationship between communication frequency and trust, as well as drives cooperation positively. Overall, trust is found to influence exchange of confidential communication and increases commitment between partners in all three countries.


Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) involved in the production of natural essential oils can reduce market accessibility challenges by trading through electronic marketplaces (e-marketplaces). However, trust is a barrier that SMEs should overcome in order to successfully trade in e-marketplaces. The agricultural sector presents a unique challenge to the subject of trust and e-marketplaces. It is difficult for SMEs in the agricultural sector to provide the level of assurance of product quality that their buyers expect. Trust between buyers and sellers during the earliest stages of e-marketplace interaction can pave the way for future trust in a seller on an e-marketplace. Thus, this study uses the uncertainty reduction theory (URT) to investigate factors that could influence the initial trust and pave the way for future trust in a seller on e-marketplaces. This study assumes a qualitative research methodology in which a multiple-case study approach is adopted. The study focuses on SMEs that produce natural essential oils in South Africa. Open-ended interviews were conducted with companies involved in buying or selling natural essential oils in South Africa to determine the factors that influence their decision to buy or sell in an e-marketplace. Findings from data were used to inform the development of a model of trust in sellers of natural essential oils in e-marketplaces. The proposed model recommends trust factors that should be considered during the entry, personal, and exit phases of the URT. The model identifies common and unique trust factors that relate specifically to businesses trading natural essential oils on e-marketplaces. The study found that some SMEs face challenges in coming up with an effective model for selling agricultural produce on e-marketplaces. Hence, they often resort to face-to-face interaction when it comes to product inspection, especially when dealing with first-time buyers. However, this study presented measures put in place by other SMEs suggesting how such challenges could be addressed. Nevertheless, a lack of trust in technology remains a cause for concern to some SMEs selling natural essential oils.


The level of trust in a service provider is an important decision factor when buying industrial services. Especially, the outcome uncertainties of services, its individuality, and asymmetric information between buyer and seller are some reasons that the evaluation of trust is a key component in service trading. Consequently, searching of potential new suppliers involves examining providers’ trustworthiness. This paper focuses on the study of online trust signals used by buyers, to assess provider’s trustworthiness in the context of industrial services. The main research objective is to propose the basis for a digital tool, which helps buyers to assess provider’s trustworthiness by providing a “standardized trustworthiness signal description” and “trust functionalities.” A particular approach is used, wherein different methods are mixed such as a case study, expert interviews, and a quantitative method following the guideline of the design science paradigm. The aim is to propose a useful tool for trustworthiness assessment to enhance e-markets for industrial services.


This paper examines how inter-organizational and interpersonal trust are created and how these trust levels can be balanced to create positive outcomes in high-involvement customer–supplier relationships. Using a theoretical analysis and conceptual development, we propose a framework highlighting different drivers and moderators of the two trust levels. The integrative framework emphasizes the antecedents of interpersonal and inter-organizational trust (competence, honesty, and benevolence vs transparency and foreseeing conflicts) and the role of relational signaling as a moderator to catalyze the “leap of faith,” as well as the articulation of trust-level bases and outcomes. The paper contributes to the discussion on trust levels’ drivers and the need to use relational signaling in order to create and maintain effective trust at the interpersonal and inter-organizational levels. Unlike most of the existing literature, we argue that interpersonal trust does not necessarily develop into the fold of inter-organizational trust. Studying the antecedents and consequences of trust in the context of high-involvement relationships adds new insights to the understanding of customer–supplier relationships.


In the agri-food industries, particular importance is given to distribution. Indeed, maintaining good relationships with distributors is a necessity for industries seeking sound marketing performance. In this context, Moroccan agri-food companies recognize the importance of developing customer loyalty. They focus on maintaining good relationships based on trust with their distributors. Considerable research has investigated trust in business-to-business (B-to-B) relationships; however, research in the agri-food industry needs further investigation. Indeed, some past research studied the effect of benevolence on loyalty (Chen, 2008; Rampl, Eberhardt, Schütte & Kenning, 2012) but they ignored studying the effect on two types of loyalty – attitudinal and behavioral – in agri-food industries.

The paper here contributes to the literature in a number of meaningful ways. First, we explore loyalty strategies used by agri-food industries to maintain distributors. This enables us to better understand how trust can boost agri-food B-to-B relationships and distributor’s loyalty. We also investigate exactly the trust dimension (benevolence; credibility) that affects more loyalty in the agri-food industry. A better understanding of the trust dimension should provide practical guidelines as to how to facilitate loyalty in B-to-B relationships. In addition, we test the two dimensions of loyalty and the importance of the attitudinal one. Using structural equation modeling to analyze data, our findings confirm the importance of benevolence in relationships between Moroccan agri-food industries and their distributors. Indeed, the results explain that the development of customer loyalty is influenced by the development of benevolence in relationships with distributors, especially on attitudinal loyalty.


Firm’s operating contexts and asymmetric perspectives of success versus failure outcomes are two essential features typically absent in research on firms’ implemented strategies. The study here describes and provides examples of formal case-based models (i.e., constructing algorithms) of firms implemented strategies within several of 81 potential context (task environments) configurations – large vs small, service vs production orientation, low vs high competitive intensity, low vs high technological turbulence, and ambiguous settings for each. The study applies the tenets of complexity theory (e.g., equifinality, causal asymmetry, and single causal insufficiency). The study proposes a meso-theory and empirical testing position for solving “the crucial problem in strategic management” (Powell, Lovallo, & Fox, 2011, p. 1370) – firm heterogeneity – why firms adopt different strategies and structures, why heterogeneity persists, and why competitors perform differently. A workable solution is to identify/describe implemented executive capability strategies that identify firms in alternative specific task environments which are consistently accurate in predicting success (or failure) of all firms for specific implemented capabilities/context configuration. The study shows how researchers can perform “statistical sameness testing” and avoid the telling weaknesses and “corrupt practices” of symmetric tests such as multiple regression analysis (Hubbard, 2015) including null hypothesis significance testing. The study includes testing the research issues using survey responses of 405 CEO and chief marketing officers in 405 Hungarian firms. The study describes algorithms indicating success cases (firms) as well as failure cases via deductive, inductive, and abductive fuzzy-set logic of capabilities in context solutions.

Cover of New Insights on Trust in Business-to-Business Relationships
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Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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