Professor Pavlou explains how swift guanxi can facilitate online transactions

Paul PavlouProfessor Paul Pavlou explains that “guanxi” is “a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship” which has received little attention in e-commerce theory and practice, perhaps due to impersonal nature of online markets that assume that no interpersonal relationships exist or are necessary for online transactions to take place. He proposes that computer-mediated-communication (CMC) technologies can mimic traditional interactive face-to-face communications and enable a form of guanxi in online contexts, what he and his colleagues call in this research swift guanxi – consumer’s perception of a swiftly-formed interpersonal relationship with a seller that consists of mutual understanding, reciprocal favors, and relationship harmony.

In the research, they develop a model that explains how a set of CMC technologies (instant messaging, message box, feedback system) facilitate repeat transactions with sellers by building swift guanxi by mimicking interactivity and presence with sellers. Longitudinal data from 338 buyers in TaoBao (, China’s leading online marketplace show that the effective use of CMC tools helps build swift guanxi by enhancing the consumer’s perceptions of interactivity and presence with sellers. In turn, swift guanxi predicts consumers’ actual repurchases from sellers on Taobao in the future, supporting the ability of IT-enabled CMC technologies to build guanxi and facilitate online transactions.

The research is forthcoming in Ou, Carol, Paul A. Pavlou, and Robert Davison (2013), “Swift Guanxi in Online Marketplaces: The Role of Computer-Mediated-Communication Technologies,” MIS Quarterly, (forthcoming).

Professor Pavlou was recently ranked number 1 in the world for research productivity, learn more…

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