From its original association with fingers, via numerical representation, to the proliferation and integration of computers and associated technologies into various spheres of everyday life, digitalization has increasingly come to affect society at large. Accordingly, the consequences of digitalization for marketing and consumption are now receiving considerable scholarly attention. Examples include its long-term implications for consumption (Lehdonvirta 2012), consumer practices (Denegri-Knott & Molesworth 2010), market communication (Yadav & Pavlou 2013), channel integration (Verhoef et al. 2015), retailer-consumer interfaces (Hagberg et al 2016), consumer conceptions (Cova & Cova 2012; Belk 2014; Cluley & Brown 2015) and the blurring of boundaries between of consumption and production (Cova & Dalli 2009; Cochoy 2015).
To date, the question of how digitalization influences markets in a broader sense has not received the same kind of attention. To be sure, all markets are to some extent digitalized as they involve economized exchanges, which require the translation of values into some form of price (Simmel 2004 : 79–101; see also Hagberg & Kjellberg 2015). Besides such principal observations, there have been attempts to theorize the effects of contemporary, IT-related digitalization, for instance by simulating its role in improving market performance (Yang et al. 2007). Other studies have highlighted the likely effects on price formation of increasingly transparent supply and demand (Bakos 1997) and the effect of direct contacts between buyers and sellers (Alba et al. 1997). We question whether this kind of speculative theorizing focused on the realization of ideal markets accurately captures the market effects of digitalization. First, it fails to recognize the centrality of selling the digital as a “B2B2C” process (cf. Cochoy 2016) that involves the formation of markets for digital market devices alongside any changes the devices may have on existing markets. Second, it fails to recognize the variation in market forms that may emerge as a consequence of digitalization. Thus, we call for empirically based theorizing on the consequences of digitalization for markets.
More specifically, we call for studies that investigate the effects of digitalization in the context of mundane consumer markets. Castells’ (1996) prophecy that the main thrust of ‘the new economy’ would be confined to the fields of information technology and financial markets for some time yet, proved largely correct. Gradually, however, digitalization has started to seep into more and more areas of everyday life. This special issue takes particular interest in if and how the current wave of digitalization, which we associate with phenomena like digital stores, social media marketing, smartphone use, big data analysis etc. contribute to change how mundane markets work. If so, in what ways?
Our theoretical starting point is that markets are plastic phenomena (Nenonen et al. 2014); they can change/be changed, but can also retain their (new) form/function, at least for some time. From this vantage point, the far-reaching societal changes ushered by digitalization represents a possible engine also of market change. Here, the emergence of the sharing economy provides one example of how recent digitalization has rendered novel market forms possible by offering unprecedented possibilities for potential sellers and buyers to connect. Classic obstacles for economic exchange between strangers, like lack of personal knowledge of the counterpart or formal qualifications, are also seemingly overcome by digitalized proxies like reviews and ratings from previous counterparts.
Broadly, the digitalization of markets can be conceptualized as comprising transformation of three main aspects of markets. First, it changes the elements of markets, such as the actors, devices, objects and places that constitute the “stuff that markets are made of”. Examples include the hybridization of market actors (e.g., Ritzer & Jurgenson 2010; Belk 2014), digitalization of products (e.g. Magaudda 2011) and the creation of virtual market settings (e.g., Crewe 2013). Second, digitalization alters market processes, or developmental event sequences (Van de Ven 1992), by changing the activities that perform the market, e.g. exchanging, pricing, transacting, valuing, representing etc. (e.g., Callon et al. 2002; Hagberg & Kjellberg 2015; Zwick & Denegri-Knott 2009). Third, digitalization has implications for the overall forms that markets assume in terms of how market elements and processes are linked/organized. Such changes may give rise to novel market structures, orders, logics, governance modes and institutional arrangements (cf. Vargo & Lusch 2016) including how markets are related to other markets and to society at large. This third aspect also relates to current discussions about what markets are and about differences between types of markets (e.g., Aspers 2011; Mele et al. 2013; Geiger et al. 2012; Callon 2016; Nenonen et al. 2015). Ultimately, it raises questions about the emergence of ‘digital markets’ as something distinct from other types of markets.
For this special issue, we invite studies of market digitalization processes including the emergence of new market forms that digitalization gives rise to, as well as studies of how digitalization transforms existing markets. Possible areas of interest concerning such market-related digitalization include studies that focus specifically on the digitalization of certain aspects of a market (e.g. its elements, processes and forms) as well as studies that address more complex interrelations between different aspects of markets and how these are transformed due to digitalization.
Reference list avaliable on request.
Submitted papers must comply with the manuscript guidelines for Consumption Markets & Culture (http://www.tandfonline.com/gcmc) and should not exceed 10.000 words (references included).
Manuscripts should be submitted using the journal’s ScholarOne Manuscript site (https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/gcmc). Indicate that the manuscript is a candidate for a special issue and choose ”Digitalized Markets” in the list of available options.
The closing date for submission is: 15 December 2017.
Any queries should be directed to the guest editors.