ICRM2016 > Theme

Relationships - Quo Vadis?

In previsous ICRM events, delegates discussed what could be learnt from the past and they identified the major topics and challenges that the future of relationship marketing holds for scholars and practitioners. In keeping with its history as an ongoing forum for creating new knowledge and a venue for challenging existing marketing theory and practices, the 24th ICRM in Toulouse in September 2016 will move relationship marketing forward and stimulate debate among academics and business practitioners.


Through discussing “Digitally Empowered Relationships – A Blessing or Curse for Relationship Marketing” we shift the focus from intimate, face-to-face relationships to interactions and relationships that are empowered and amplified by the advances in technology. Marketers today are shifting an increasing proportion of their budgets to online environments with three main aims:

  • To communicate to their (potential, existing, or former) customers via the multitude of online advertising spaces,
  • To communicate with their customers via interactive online channels,
  • To listen to what the Internet community is saying about their brands, products, and services.

The development of the Internet and Information and Communication Technologies has profoundly altered how people communicate, shop, and consume. They now encompass multiple life domains: individuals can meet the love of their life on Meetic or flirt with people nearby over Tinder; share events and experiences through pictures on Pinterest; rate doctors on ZocDoc, professors on RateMyProfessor, their employers on Glassdoor, their hotels on Tripadvisor, and their Restaurants on Yelp. They can retrieve former school mates, exchange instantly with existing friends, and meet new people all thanks to social networks such as Facebook.

Furthermore, this development empowers individuals in their role as actors in the marketplace and in their relationships with producers and sellers: online reviews by peers help them make the right decisions and to avoid bad service providers; price comparison sites make it possible to choose the cheapest competitor or to negotiate with salespersons in-store; and the interactive nature of online conversations and co-creation platforms enable marketers to build and deepen relationships through ongoing and instantaneous interactions with their current and prospective customers.

In consequence, the digital empowerment of relationships between individuals and between service providers, brands, and customers affects not only purely digital relationships; mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets now highly impact how both offline and online relationships are formed, shaped, maintained, and - sometimes even - terminated. In academic literature, it has often been claimed that advances in technologies would potentially initiate a major shift of power from companies to consumers in two ways:  a transfer of power to the customer by the company to co-produce or to co-create, or the seizure and execution of power over companies as individuals team up online. Ideally, the digital environment should empower individuals and marketers to build sustainable and beneficial relationships.

However, marketers’ attempts to stimulate peer-to-peer recommendations of their brands through word-of- mouth - or viral marketing - campaigns have been complicated due to the increasing skepticism of customers towards marketing-related information. Further, campaigns and messages that are designed to trigger viral effects are not just passed along, but shaped, reframed, and remixed by customers in ways which might not have been previously imagined by marketers.

The digital empowerment of individuals leads to a need to reinvent relationships where online and offline worlds are highly intertwined and boundaries between the channels erode. In an A2A (actor-to-actor) economy that sets aside distinctions of B2C, B2B, C2C, C2B, and many others, relationship marketing faces multiple challenges and needs to team up with various functions  such as IT and Supply Chain Management to build sustainable relationships with their stakeholders.

In 2016, we will examine topics related to the digital empowerment of relationships and its major implications for relationship marketing management and research. We especially welcome submissions that shed light on the issues from interdisciplinary perspectives. In addition to this broad spectrum of topics, for its 24th Edition, the committee welcomes all papers that:

  • Represent the scholars’ best and unpublished research,
  • Challenge current thinking,
  • Could foster and shape future relationship marketing practice and research,
  • Discuss the various themes of relationship marketing.



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