Examining Online Chinese Buyer-Seller Relationships, Understanding E-Guanxi: An Abstract
Guanxi, defined as a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship, is a key component of buyer-seller transactions in China (Fan, 2002; Ou, Pavlou, & Davison, 2014). Guanxi facilitates positive business outcomes by lubricating business relationships with personal social connections. The unique role of guanxi in China’s social and business life is well known (Ou et al., 2014). The existing literature on guanxi has largely focused on the institutional governance and B2B aspect of this concept (Yang & Wang, 2011). However, guanxi may refer to buyer-seller relationships established during online exchange, i.e., e-guanxi. This process need not be the transaction itself; rather, it entails activities that enhance relationship building and rapport fostering. Although e-guanxi should differ from traditional offline guanxi due to the unique opportunities and constraints of online environments, i.e., the physical and temporal separation among online buyers and sellers precludes face-to-face social interaction and development of mutual affection, key elements of traditional guanxi (i.e., reciprocity, affection, and trust) could also pertain to the formation of e-guanxi (Yen, Barnes, & Wang 2011; Ou et al., 2014). If present, e-guanxi should function similarly to traditional offline guanxi; hence, it should facilitate positive marketing outcomes between e-buyers and e-sellers. Traditionally, guanxi has been crucial to customer satisfaction in offline contexts (Leung et al., 2005). As guanxi implies an affirmative ongoing relationship perceived positively by both parties to a buyer-seller dyad, the same effect should pertain in online environments. Extant literature also suggests guanxi can be improved or fostered through increased social interaction frequencies (Lee & Xu, 2001; Seligman, 1999; Yen et al., 2011). For example, in traditional offline contexts, meal gatherings and social events trigger communication among event attendees. Although face-to-face communication is unlikely to occur in online environments, computer-mediated communication technologies such as AliWangWang will likely facilitate that communication process and lead to e-guanxi formation (Ou et al., 2014).