Conceptual Shift, Not Paradigm Shift

Stewart Adam

Fontech Pty Ltd Working Paper

Vol 3/1. January 2003

Commercial relationships are of wide practical interest and empirical study, having formed the backbone of commerce and industry since 3,500 BCE (before the Christian era) (Moore and Lewis 2000). Relationships between businesses (Morgan and Hunt 1994), between businesses and end customers (Gronroos 1994), as well as between customers (Martin 1996) are of continuing scientific interest. In the present era of addressability (Blattberg and Deighton 1991), largely due to digital technologies such as the database, public and private networks, and data collection and distribution via TCP/IP interface tools such as the World Wide Web (Web), the practical interest in relationships and management of expectations from these relationships and the relationships themselves continues (Adam 2002). Moreover, this scientific interest extends across a number of inter-related business disciplines (e.g., business information systems, law, marketing and management).

Much is made of so-called new paradigms when referring to customer relationships in the marketing discipline (Gronroos 1994) and in the study of business information systems when referring to e-Commerce (Turban et al. 2002); the transaction element of online or electronic business (Adam and Deans 2000). However, whether referring to such aspects as customer addressability (Blattberg and Deighton 1991), interactivity, ‘share of customer’ (Peppers and Rogers 1995) and supposed differences in the marketing of ‘almost pure services’ over ‘almost pure goods’ (Kotler et al. 2003, p. 254) some aspects are more salient than others. Among the diverse views of marketing are notions that marketing is concerned with single exchange transactions to the exclusion of ongoing exchanges – and to the exclusion of the attendant development of relationships in spheres such as business-to-business marketing and high involvement personal services. The opposite is also professed by some marketing scientists, notably those advocating a complete ‘paradigm shift’ from a focus on single transactional exchanges to relationships (Gummesson 1997). The third position taken is where both single exchange and relationship paradigms can co-exist (Dwyer et al. 1987). In line with this ‘third way’, the view is expressed herein that three spectra can be used to portray this position, as presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Marketing Exchange Transaction Spectra

The model suggests that rather than dwell on a paradigm shift in marketing focus, marketing scientists might consider a conceptual shift that accommodates the co-existence the various points of view already discussed. The model also raises the question as to how generaliseable this position might be. That is, does the model only apply to subscriber markets, or can it be extended to repertoire markets as some researchers suggest (Garbarino and Johnson 1999)?


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