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Toward Further Understanding the Market-sensing Capability–Value Creation Relationship


  • Neeraj Bharadwaj,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to: Neeraj Bharadwaj, University of Tennessee, 323 Stokely Management Center, 916 Volunteer Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37996-0530. E-mail: Tel: 865-974-0610.

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  • Yuexiao Dong


Earlier writings have speculated that the components of customer focus may have differential effects on customer value. This research is responsive to this call as it identifies the behavioral and cultural components that underlie a market-sensing capability (i.e., customer focus), and undertakes a finer-grained examination of the impact of the routines through which customer focus is manifested. Specifically, this research investigates the market learning activities (ML) that can affect the depth of the understanding achieved regarding the buyer's requirements and usage context, and the customer-oriented practices (CO) that can affect the breadth of potential solutions generated to address those requirements. Given the possibility that some buyers may have more sophisticated needs, the role of a customer's performance standards is also considered as a moderating variable. Based on data collected from computer and electronics manufacturers via two separate surveys, the results support that a supplier's ML and CO, respectively, affect perceived customer value. The results also show that a customer's performance standards do not moderate the ML–customer value relationship. Regardless of whether the customer's performance standards (along the lines of product quality, defect rates, and on-time delivery) are high or low, the seller must be adept at discerning changes in the buying firm's requirements and operational realities. Thus, market learning practices are needed across all customers in order for the supplier to remain synchronized with market changes and deliver superior value to them. Additionally, the results support that the positive association between a seller's CO and perceived customer value is stronger when buyers have more demanding performance standards. The generation of a broader array of potential solutions that is commensurate with a more outward focus is likely to be needed to satisfy customers with more stringent requirements. The disaggregated approach taken in this research contributes to theory by (1) providing greater insight into the domain of the customer focus construct, (2) tracing the mechanisms through which customer focus is reified, and (3) evaluating the possibility that the components of customer focus may have differential effects on customer value. The main practical implication stems from the proposal that market sensing can serve as a core competence and thereby provide the foundation for differential advantage.