Control and governance theories recognize that exchange partners are subject to two general forms of control, the unilateral authority of one firm and bilateral expectations extending from their social bond. In this way, a supplier both exerts unilateral, authority-based controls and is subject to socially-based, bilateral controls as it attempts to manage its brand successfully through reseller channels. Such control is being challenged by suppliers’ growing relative dependence on increasingly dominant resellers in many industries. Yet the impact of supplier relative dependence on the efficacy of control-based governance in the supplier’s channel is not well understood. To address this gap, we specify and test a control model moderated by relative dependence involving the conceptualization and measurement of governance at the level of specific control processes: incenting, monitoring, and enforcing. Our empirical findings show relative dependence undercuts the effectiveness of certain unilateral and bilateral control processes while enhancing the effectiveness of others, largely supporting our dual suppositions that each control process operates through a specialized behavioral mechanism and that these underlying mechanisms are differentially impacted by relative dependence. We offer implications of these findings for managers and identify our contributions to channel theory and research.
- distribution channels