Digital Servitization


Crossing the Perspectives of Digitization and Service Transformation, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 21 Dec 2018



Call for Papers

Digital servitization: crossing the perspectives of digitization and service transformation

Deadline for submission: December 21st 2018

Industrial Marketing Management announces the call for papers for a special issue on “Digital servitization: crossing the perspectives of digitization and service transformation”.

Overview and Purpose of the special issue

Since its inception, in the mid ‘80s, servitization suggests to business and industrial marketing to leverage on what happens after the product’s sale (Vandermerwe and Rada, 1988; Oliva and Kallenberg, 2003; Lightfoot et al., 2013). However, organizational and strategic complexity of the transition to services has dramatically slowed down the pace of the transformation and only few selected manufacturers successfully transitioned to services (Gebauer et al., 2005; Windhal & Lakemond, 2010).

Nowadays, digitization (and in particular technologies like IOT, IIOT, Cloud platforms, Big Data, Smart Products and Services) is posing similar challenges to organizations (Ng and Wakenshaw, 2017). Connected products are transforming both business and consumer markets landscapes, making space for brand new data-based service-oriented business models (Porter and Heppelmann, 2014 and 2015).

For many manufacturers, this is definitely the time for defying established Business Models (BM) and dominant-logic. In the new landscape, companies that obtain comprehensive information on customer needs and use them to reshape their strategy may succeed in extending the service business. In fact, digitalization is pushing innovative firms to use services in order to create entirely new business models, finally migrating from the product-centric approaches to (digital) service-oriented ones (Adrodegari & Saccani, 2017; Ardolino et al. 2017; Rust & Huang, 2014) or creating value through pay-per-use or outcome-based solutions (Visnjic et al. 2017; Gebauer et al., 2017). In particular, field researches stress that is in the realm of “services supporting the client’s action” that smart products are going to act as “service innovation engines” and are going to request the attention and investments of companies in different industries in the forthcoming years (Arnold et al., 2016; Noventum, 2016).

Technologies like IOT may actually introduce a new breed of services. On the one hand, a series of innovative possibilities that involve mainly post-sale services are catching on, like IOT-based preventive maintenance services and IOT-based availability services. On the other hand, IOT-based process optimization services, IOT-based business optimization services and IOT-based business transformation services are gaining importance. Unfortunately, without a clear consciousness of the different implications on organizational, strategic and supply chain related aspects, digital initiatives will be disappointing and frustrating. In fact, some authors have underlined how B2B firms – expecially minor firms – recognize that the possibility of accessing richer sources of data specific to their customer (needs, interaction and other behavior) is greater than ever, but they lack a clear and defined strategy that encompasses the use of those data (Lilien, 2016; Paiola, 2017).

All this has several consequences.

Firstly, digitization doesn’t remove classical difficulties in approaching servitization, while putting a definite urgency on it. Changes to business model design can be subtlebut they can still yield important benefits to the innovator (Amit and Zott, 2012; Christensen & Raynor, 2003). For instance, when manufacturers are offering services that support the customer, the traditional practice of making profit by transactional sales of spare parts and product-related services are no longer order-winners (Windahl and Lakemond, 2010).

Moreover, digitization processes have affected and changed the value created by different parties in the offering: the modifications of Business Models affect firm interdependencies and power relationships in different sectors, especially regarding (Vendrell-Herrero et al., 2017): collaboration in the value system (relationships and partners); reconfiguration of internal capabilities (core competences); power, value and pricing models; revenue and cost structures.

In addition, those changes are particularly challenging for minor firms in financial, organizational and strategic terms (for a review see Gebauer et al. 2010): their limited resource-base and their market position allow them to deal with IoT-based innovation differently than large firms (Laudien and Daxbock, 2016). Previous studies have pinpointed that relevant critical points may arise in relation to the distance from the end-customers, the type and nature of distribution channels and the articulation of the value chain (Gebauer et al. 2010, 2012, 2013; Paiola et al., 2012, 2013; Paiola, 2017). Recent literature has underlined the importance of organizational capabilities in order to sustain advanced use-based service business models (Gebauer et al., 2017).

Finally, digitally-charged products (Fleisch et al., 2014) are merging the trends of digitalization and servitization, unveiling unexplored potential for manufacturing firms (Kindstro¨m and Kowalkowski, 2014; Lerch and Gotsch, 2015; Coreynen et al., 2017; Kamp and Parry, 2017). The provision of digital services has become a sub-stream of servitization and an incipient literature is focusing on the role of digital technologies in servitization under the label “digital servitization” (Vendrell-Herrero and Wilson, 2016).

Little research work has been done to date in order to fully understand the impact of digitization on servitization in manufacturing: the overall objective of this special issue is to provide a comprehensive collection of cutting-edge theories and research on the challenges of servitization in face of businesses digitization. With this aim, classic servitization issues can be crossed with emerging themes and topics, and several potential areas for future research emerge, like: supply chain and ecosystems’ relationships in servitization; entrepreneurship and start-ups related to servitized businesses; digital servitization and new competences; service technologies and applications (platforms, Internet of Services and Service 4.0); new and old peculiarities of servitization for SMEs; business model transformation and innovation related to digital servitization; territorial servitization; the role of external knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) in servitization.

On that basis, specific topics may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How digital technologies enable manufacturing companies servitization
  • How technology sustains the development of new (after-sales) services and product-service systems
  • How modifications of Business Models affect firm interdependencies and power relationships in the ecosystems
  • How servitization affects financial performances and pricing models
  • What is the impact of digitalization on the servitization paradox
  • What classical servitization constraints are being mostly affected by digitalization
  • How digital services affect Revenue and cost structures
  • Service business models change in evolutionary and innovative levels
  • To what extent use-oriented and ownership-oriented business models can co-exist in a firm’s strategy
  • To what extend the servitization research stream is being affected by digital transformation literature
  • How do servitization transition patterns change with digitalization
  • How can firms manage the transition from traditional service activities (transactional sales of spare parts and product-related services) to new use-based relational services
  • How cultural factors impact on digital servitization patterns, as for regards industry’s dominant-logic
  • How service culture and related issues are conditioning digital servitization processes
  • How the distance from the end-user firms may affect digital servitization
  • How digitalization processes affect reconfiguration of service internal capabilities
  • How digitalization processes affect reconfiguration of service external capabilities
  • How capability gaps affect the need to orchestrate ecosystems of partners
  • What are the financial, organizational and strategic challenges for minor firms in digital servitization
  • How Service Business Models affect collaborations in the ecosystem
  • How the extant culture of distribution channels can affect digital servitization
  • How the extant articulation of the value chain can affect digital servitization
  • How digital servitization triggers change depending on industries and position in the supply chain
  • How is supply chain “strategic” positioning getting relevance with digital servitization
  • How competition moves from firm’s level to ecosystem’s levels with digitalization
  • How “Horizontalisation” (the need to build competences to be able to service also competitors’ products) is relevant in digital servitization
  • What are the main business models building blocks involved in digital servitization
  • What are the new KPIs measurement in operations management for digital services
  • How relations with final user-firms and downstream moves change with digital servitization
  • How new information from the customers can be leveraged in order to innovate the service offering
  • How manufacturing firms can manage the increased risk related to use-based service business models
  • How use-based business models are changing contractual compensation measurement and pricing strategies in industrial culture
  • How use-based contractual relations with customers are changing the nature and timescale of market relationships
  • How technologies are merging the trends of digitalization and servitization from a theoretical point of view
  • How the need to continue to perform well in the current business and simultaneously conducing the experimentation of new BM is managed by firms
  • How firms are approaching the need of new professional competences inherent in activities such as big data analysis
  • How firms can leverage on local entrepreneurship and start-ups in order to exploit digital servitization
  • What is the role of regional and territorial services firms offer in manufacturing digital servitization

We will give preference to empirical papers—both qualitative and quantitative—although theoretical papers that examine fundamental issues in, or offer comprehensive frameworks of, value in business and industrial marketing also are welcomed. As Industrial Marketing Management is widely read by an academic and business audience, all submissions should include implications for practitioners.

Preparation and submission of paper and review process

Papers submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or presently be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions should be about 6,000-8,000 words in length. Copies should be uploaded on Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the EVISE system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on Digital servitization: theoretical, empirical, and business issues. For guidelines, visit

Papers not complying with the notes for contributors (cf. homepage) or poorly written will be desk rejected. Suitable papers will be subjected to a double-blind review; hence, authors must not identify themselves in the body of their paper. (Please do not submit a Word file with “track changes” active or a PDF file.)

Please address all questions to the guest editors:


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