Relational Inertia: Explaining Habitual Group Purchase Decisions in Business Markets

Program Code: 
Description of Work: 


Current research into purchase decisions in business markets suggest that commitment and switching costs are the primary reasons for customer loyalty. This study suggests that a third category also exists. “Relational inertia” occurs when repeat purchases from one supplier are due to habit or conservatism. This study considers two perspectives. At the individual level, purchase decisions are one of many demands that individuals face. Drawing on bounded rationality theory and job demands theory, it is likely that individuals consent to repeat purchases due to excess cognitive load. At the firm level, relational inertia may result from cultural conservatism, decision avoidance from senior managers and the presence of specific firm processes that align to the supplier. The overall objective of this study is to September 2014 14 uncover the degree to which i) relational inertia is present in different purchase contexts (e.g. industry, product type, firm size, location) and, ii) to determine its relative effects on firm purchase decisions.

Description of Work:

  • An initial literature review
  • A qualitative phase involving interviews and/ or case studies
  • A quantitative phase involving survey development, administration, and analysis of results using structural modelling or regression-based techniques
  • Potentially an experimental design

Desirable Applicants:

To apply for this project, applications should meet the criteria for admission to a PhD at UNSW; have industry experience in business-to-business interactions and excellent writing skills.


Dr Daniel Prior (