Coopetitive Buyer–Supplier Relationship: An Investigation of Bargaining Power, Relational Context, and Investment Strategies


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This study proposes an analytical approach combined with a behavioral experiment for a joint examination of the competitive and cooperative (i.e., coopetitive) relationship between a buyer and a supplier. Specifically, the article considers the scenario in which the buyer and the supplier invest in strategic capabilities to increase their relative bargaining power. The article examines how dynamic investments in strategic assets are influenced by the locus of bargaining power and by the underlying context (synergistic vs. adversarial) of the interfirm relationship. The dynamic evolution of bargaining power is also examined. A dynamic game model is considered to examine the evolution of investment strategies in critical resources and to investigate the issues of bargaining power in a buyer–supplier dyad. Equilibrium expressions for the investment strategies of the buyer and the supplier are presented and their implications for buyer–supplier relationships are examined. The behavioral experiment complements the analytical model and examines the correspondence between optimal behavior suggested by the analytical model and the boundedly rational behavior of decision makers in an experimental context. The results from the model and behavioral experiments suggest that the strategies are a function of the risk-adjusted returns obtained from investments. The experiment shows that, in a synergistic relational context when the buyer maintains bargaining power, the investment shifts of the buyer and the supplier accord well with theoretical predictions. In an adversarial relational context, the results of the experimental study do not correspond well with that predicted by the theoretical model. The implications of the results are discussed and directions for future research are presented.