The concept of guanxi (i.e., a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship) has received little attention in the literature on online marketplaces, perhaps due to their impersonal nature. However, we propose that computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies can mimic traditional interactive face-to-face communications, thus enabling a form of guanxi in online marketplaces. Extending the literature on traditional guanxi, we herein introduce the concept of swift guanxi, conceptualized as the buyer’s perception of a swiftly formed interpersonal relationship with a seller, which consists of mutual understanding, reciprocal favors, and relationship harmony.
Integrating theories of CMC and guanxi, we develop a model that explains how a set of CMC tools (i.e., instant messaging, message box, feedback system) facilitate repeat transactions with sellers by building swift guanxi and trust through interactivity and presence (social presence and telepresence) with sellers. Longitudinal data from 338 buyers in TaoBao, China’s leading online marketplace, support our structural model, showing that the buyers’ effective use of CMC tools enable swift guanxi and trust by enhancing the buyers’ perceptions of interactivity and presence. In turn, swift guanxi and trust predict buyers’ repurchase intentions and their actual repurchases from sellers. We discuss the implications of swift guanxi in online marketplaces with the aid of CMC technologies.