A functional relationship is a long-term market exchange characterized by loyalty (Weitz, Castleberry, and Tanner, 2005). This type of relationship portrays the buyer purchasing a product out of routine or pattern. In a functional relationship, previous purchases will often influence later purchases. Typically, the buyer will continue to purchase from their selected seller as long as the price and the product stay relatively consistent to the original transaction. Buyers often illustrate this loyalty for several reasons. One reason a buyer remains loyal is simply convenience. It is easier for the buyer to avoid the arduous task of searching and negotiating for a product every time a recurring purchase needs to be made, especially when they are likely to come to the same conclusion and buy again from the previous supplier.
For example: A buyer for a school is in charge of purchasing all items that will be necessary for the cafeteria to function. Assume the school in question is a small elementary school with only about one hundred students. The buyer must purchase snacks, candy, meat, and drinks, just to name a few. This particular buyer uses a wholesaler to purchase all necessary items. This wholesaler has no desire to establish a partnership with the school; it merely wishes to sell as many items as possible. Similarly, the success of this relationship will not make or break the school’s success as an educational institution. This affiliation is established out of convenience. However, if the vendor begins to have poor service or inflated prices, the purchaser will simply choose a comparable wholesaler with little anxiety.
With a functional relationship, both parties are interested in their own profits, therefore, price is usually the most important factor in the decision making process. The relationship established between the buyer and seller is not permanent. Buyers will often change suppliers to try and get the best possible deal; however, when deciding on a supplier other factors are often weighed into the equation such as quality, reliability, trust, and commitment.