Research Brief: Opportunities and dependencies of SMEs in the platform economy

This research brief focuses on B2B platforms and their strategies, potentials and success factors on the one hand and the obstacles and dependencies on the other.

With the increasing digitisation of all areas of life and sectors of the economy, companies' business models are also changing. This applies to large concerns as well as to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In recent years, business models based on digital technologies have become highly dynamic. While the B2C sector is largely satisfied and the market position of the corresponding platform companies is considered solid, there are currently no comparable players in the B2B sector.

The aim of this reseach brief is to identify the aspects critical to the success of SME involvement in the platform economy based on case studies. To this end, B2B platforms are first typified and differentiated from B2C platforms according to their characteristics. The characteristics are then used to develop relevant criteria for selecting case studies. Based on the selected case studies look at platform suitability and potential of an industry, product and company as well as the development of a platform strategy. Based on this, success factors and major obstacles, both for the foundation of a platform and the connection to an existing platform, are identified. Dependencies are addressed as a major obstacle for the partly restrained commitment of SMEs. The study concludes recommendations directed at decision-makers in politics and regulation, but also at SMEs.

The findings are based on desk research and telephone interviews with SMEs and experts.

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