Digital Marketing and B2B Relationships


Special issue of European Journal of Marketing; Deadline 15 Feb 2019

Digital marketing and business-to-business relationships

Digitalization is sweeping the world of business (Hofacker et al. 2016; Kannan, 2017), and B2B firms like IBM, Oracle, SAP, Cisco, and Intel are among the driving force behind the digital revolution. To illustrate, in 2015 online sales accounted for 7.4% of overall retail sales in the U.S. (Phillips, 2015), and this share is growing rapidly. The use of digital technologies for buyer-supplier exchanges is also fast becoming commonplace. These fundamental changes in the global business landscape are testimonials to the impact of digitalization. Further, corporations such as Google, Amazon, Alibaba, and Ebay, have emerged as key global players and have altered traditional business paradigms in both consumer and business markets. Many of these giants and many other large corporations run very large B2B operations, although what is seen on the surface typically appears to be consumer focused. Considering these changes, it is plausible that the next frontier in the digital growth is in B2B marketing (Wang et al., 2017).

In turn, B2B exchanges constitute a large share of the economic activity that takes place within the marketing domain. Business relationships between buyers and suppliers exhibit sophisticated and varied characteristics as they include activities that range from the routine supply of raw materials/basic components to collaborative R&D and new product development and strategic alliances. They are also typically viewed as more relational, i.e., involved, continuous, and interactive than business-to-consumer relationships (Brown et al. 2016). However, in the digital age, B2B relationships have changed and are evolving to new forms (Obal & Lancioni, 2013; Song et al., 2007). Digital technologies enable decoupling B2B relationships across familiarity, time, place, and consequentiality. Such decoupling can further complicate B2B relationships that are already organic, sophisticated, and multifaceted (Harari, 2014) and can have relational and performance consequences that cannot be fully understood drawing on the extant body of literature. Digital technologies can also act as integrative mechanisms between organizations (Golgeci & Gligor 2017), leading to a strengthening of relationships which also needs to be understood better. On the other hand, digitalization, through reverse auctions for example, can lead to a reversion to transactional orientation (Pillai & Sharma 2003). Accordingly, there is a pressing need for research in the marketing field to better understand the implications of digitalization for B2B marketers. Furthermore, most research on digital marketing is consumer focused (Nicolla & Teresa, 2016; Obal & Lancioni, 2013). Little is known about the role of digitalization in the nature and consequences of B2B relationships.

Recent research has sought to examine the dark side of B2B relationships (Abosag, Yen & Barnes 2016; Pillai et al. 2017). The role of digitalization in the emergence, sustenance or resolution of dark side effects in organizations needs to be studied. This is an area that has received scarce attention.

The purpose of this prospective special issue, therefore, is to gather comprehensive insights into the role of digital marketing evolution in the nature and consequences of B2B relationships. It seeks to advance the overview of the changing nature of B2B relationships in the prevailing digital age. Our call acknowledges that despite increasing prevalence of digital marketing in B2B domains, its application is replete with challenges and its returns are not ensured (Lee et al., 2016). Accordingly, further research needs to be conducted to explore the link between digital marketing and B2B relationships.

This special issue welcomes scholars to submit their empirical and theoretical papers at the interface of digital marketing and B2B relationships. We are open to a diverse set of rigorous quantitative and qualitative research as well as conceptual development and/or reviews on the topic. Nonetheless, we expect high-quality submissions to make a strong contribution to the growing conversation on the digital marketing-B2B relationships interface. Potential questions include but not limited to the following:

  • What are the distinct characteristics of B2B relationships managed through digital technologies?
  • How does trust evolve in online domains?
  • How do communication and exchange processes between business partners take place in digital platforms?
  • What capabilities do B2B firms need to succeed in digital-based relationships?
  • How does the use of digital platforms influence personal relationships in B2B dyads?
  • What role does digitalization play in the power dynamics between buyers and suppliers?
  • How is relationship quality understood, developed, and maintained in digital B2B relationships?
  • Are digital marketing strategies developed for B2B relationships different from conventional marketing strategies?
  • What is the role of online business networks in information flow in B2B relationships?
  • How is value created and appropriated in B2B digital platforms?
  • How do emergent digital technologies influence collaboration, coordination, and integration in B2B relationships?
  • What role does digitalization play in the emergence and sustenance of dark side effects in B2B relationships?
  • How can digitalization help contain the dark side effects of B2B relationships?
  • How do emergent digital technologies impact B2B relationships within supply chains and the management of those supply chains?
  • What are some of the challenges (and solutions) that increasing digitalization is posing to B2B relationships?

The co-editors of the special issue are:

The deadline for submission is February 15, 2019.

Submission guidelines

Prior to submission please visit the journal author guidelines on the home page at and submit online following the instructions provided. Please ensure you select this special issue from the drop down menu during the submission process.


Abosag, I., Yen, D. A., & Barnes, B. R. (2016). What is dark about the dark-side of business relationships?. Industrial Marketing Management, 55, 5-9.

Brown, J. R., Weaven, S. K., Dant, R. P., & Crosno, J. L. (2016). Boosting the effectiveness of channel governance options: The moderationing role of relational norms. European Journal of Marketing, 50(1/2), 29-57.

Golgeci, I., & Gligor, D. M. (2017). The interplay between key marketing and supply chain management capabilities: the role of integrative mechanisms. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 32(3), 472-483.

Harari, Y. N. (2014), Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Harvill Secker, London, UK.

Hofacker, C. F., Ruyter, K. d., Lurie, N., Manchanda, P. & Donaldson, J. (2016), "Gamification and Mobile Marketing Effectiveness," Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 34, pp. 25-36.

Kannan, P.K. (2017), "Digital marketing: A framework, review and research agenda", International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp.22-45.

Quinn, L., Dibb, S., Simkin, L., Canhoto, A., & Analogbei, M. (2016), "Troubled waters: The transformation of marketing in a digital world", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 50 No. 12, pp. 2103-2133.

Nicolla, C. & Teresa, D. (2016), "Young consumer-brand relationship building potential using digital marketing", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 50 No. 11, pp. 1993-2017.

Obal, M. & Lancioni, R. A. (2013), "Maximizing buyer–supplier relationships in the digital era: Concept and research agenda", Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 42 No. 6, pp. 851-854.

Phillips, E. (2015). Retailers scale up online sales distribution networks. The Wall Street Journal November 17, 2015. Accessed from

Pillai, K. G., Hodgkinson, G. P., Kalyanaram, G., & Nair, S. R. (2017). The negative effects of social capital in organizations: A review and extension. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19(1), 97-124.

Pillai, K. G., & Sharma, A. (2003). Mature relationships: Why does relational orientation turn into transaction orientation?. Industrial Marketing Management, 32(8), 643-651.

Song, M., Berends, H., Van der Bij, H., & Weggeman, M. (2007), "The effect of it and co-location on knowledge dissemination", Journal of Product Innovation Management, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 52-68.

Wang, W.L., Malthouse, E.C., Calder, B., & Uzunoglu, E., (2017), "B2B content marketing for professional services: In-person versus digital contacts", Industrial Marketing Management.