The role of market intelligence in enhancing regional buyer-supplier relationships in agri-food SMEs

Grace Carson, Alice Gilmour, Geoff Simmons, Christina O'Connor, Gillian Moran

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


In an increasingly competitive retail landscape, blighted by cost inflation, shifting supermarket strategies and evolving buying structures, small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more vulnerable than ever to the hazards of retailer processes, such as range rationalisation and product de-listing. Recent research reveals that the longevity of buyer-supplier relationships no longer assures security of retail product listings, rather, the best means of managing channels is through an espousal of market focus (Golgeci et al., 2021).This is of particular concern to regional SMEs, who lack access and expertise to deploy formal market intelligence (MI) and often rely on the familiarity and colloquial nature of their retail buyer relationship to ensure financial stability (Malagueño et al., 2019).

There is limited empirical research that explores buyer-supplier relationships from a regional perspective, highlighting the nuances in regional buyer behaviour and the resources SMEs require to support their permanence in retail supermarket sector. Drawing on extant Resource-based View (RBV) literature, our study explores the role of MI in enhancing regional SME channel management capabilities and the buyer supplier relationship. To facilitate this, a longitudinal case-based study of seven agri-food SMEs was conducted to monitor the development of channel management capabilities pre, during and post MI provision. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with seven supermarket retail buyers. Interview transcripts were thematically analysed using QSR NVivo 12 to identify pertinent themes in the datasets.

Post-MI provision, we observed an increase in SME retail contract acquisitions, lucrative price promotional changes, and improved sales performance. Thus, we suggest that the adoption of digitally driven, MI resources provide regional SMEs with a pathway to leverage their power through improved channel management capabilities. This is based upon the condition of an increased learning orientation, driving supplier preparedness, confidence in communication and increased value-add. In modifying behaviours, suppliers facilitated their buyers and enhanced the buying experience. Our research contributes to the channel and marketing capabilities literature by providing new insight into how MI and recent worldwide environmental forces have altered the longstanding buyer-supplier power asymmetry. It answers calls by Morgan (2012) to explore how market intelligence resources are utilised to enhance SME capabilities. Consequently, we contribute to the limited body of literature pertaining to MI usage in SMEs and assess the effectiveness of MI as a marketing resource in the SME context (Kozlenkova et al., 2014). This responds to theoretical criticism of the RBV that little is known about how firm resources are isolated and transformed into impactful capabilities (Corredoira & McDermott, 2020).

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2023
EventAcademy of Marketing Science Annual Conference 2023 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 17 May 202319 May 2023


ConferenceAcademy of Marketing Science Annual Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

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