• logistics service provider;
  • innovativeness;
  • relationship quality;
  • focus of innovation;
  • performance

Innovativeness is key to the success of logistics service providers (LSPs) and as LSPs often lack competencies for innovation internally, external relations as sources to acquire knowledge relevant for innovation are important. To the authors' knowledge, there is no research identifying the relevant knowledge sources for LSP innovativeness. Based on contingency theory, we develop a conceptual model on the relevance of different external relations in the context of the innovation focus of the LSP. Thus, we extend insights from previous studies that have only discussed the benefits of external knowledge acquisition in general and outline how to use existing business relations of an LSP to facilitate different types of innovation. The hypothesized model is tested based on survey data from 201 LSPs using structural equation modeling. The findings support the model and outline that better relationships with external service firms or other LSPs are not important for internal process improvements and innovations for existing customers, but very valuable for innovations targeting new customer business, while good relations to customers even show a slight tendency to hamper the development of innovations for new customer business. In addition, it is shown that innovativeness is a strong driver of LSP firm performance.