Moving beyond the Build-or-Join Decision: A Multiple Case Study on Multi-Platform Strategies of Incumbent Firms

Sebastian Hermes, Rebekka Guhl, Maximilian Schreieck, Jörg Weking, and Helmut Krcmar (2020) – 54th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences

Abstract

Companies that operate digital platforms are growing rapidly. Theoretical and empirical research has largely explored digital platforms in the context of digital-native companies. Only a small set of research explores how incumbent firms transition into the platform economy. However, this stream of research has studied incumbents under the assumption that they can either build a platform or join an existing platform. In contrast, the results of our multiple case study demonstrate that incumbents pursue multiple platform strategies simultaneously and that their strategic options range from building and joining a platform over investing in and acquiring a platform to using white-label platforms. The white-label strategy uses the platform technology of a white-label platform owner to match the users of the incumbent with the complementors of the white-label platform. Based on the results, which further illustrate the motivations to pursue each strategy, we discuss strategic differences between asset-heavy and asset-light incumbents.

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