The role of relationship quality and loyalty programs in building customer loyalty

Piotr Kwiatek, Zoe Morgan, Marsela Thanasi-Boçe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Despite the abundance of B2B loyalty programs (LPs), the research on their interplay with relationship marketing is scarce. The purpose of this paper is to investigate a LP (a relational practice) on a transactional business market to test if and how a B2B LP affects relationship outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: The study is based on dyadic research in a multi-theory framework. Data were collected from 200 small and medium enterprises that purchase office supplies from a company and merged with the company’s internal records.The formative-reflective measurement model is estimated using structural equation modeling – partial least squares (SEM-PLS). Findings: Relationship quality (RQ) directly affects sales and customer share of wallet. The effect is strengthened by customer activity in a LP. RQ results directly in a longer tenure and willingness to recommend only for members of a LP. Research limitations/implications: RQ is driven mainly by customer’s evaluation of prior experience with a supplier, while a LP is based on a forward-looking promise of a reward. The results of the study point to the level of customers’ activity in a LP as a boundary condition of the program’s efficacy. Practical implications: RQ affects both attitudinal and behavioral outcomes but through distinct mechanisms. Once a supplier is a preferred one, LP membership strengthens the attitudinal outcome of a relationship. The effect of RQ on company performance is magnified by the level of customer activity in a LP but not by the membership status. Originality/value: The theoretical framework integrates transaction costs, relational contract and relational exchange theories to investigate a LP on a transactional market. The study adds to the scant literature on LPs in business-to-business and provides evidence for similarities and differences in comparison to consumer research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1657
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • Customer loyalty
  • Loyalty program
  • Relationship quality


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