Three Essays on Understanding the Performance Impact of Platform-based Function Repertoire Usage by E-Marketplace Sellers


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date13 Apr 2023


With the development of e-marketplace platforms over the years, sellers are facing increasingly fierce competition, prompting sellers to use platform-based functions (PBFs) as a strategic tool to compete. PBFs are embedded in or supported by transaction platforms, such as time-limited discounts, hyperlink advertisements, and zoom functions. Previous studies have shown great interest in examining the performance impact of PBFs used by e-marketplace sellers and the contingent role of salient business variables, such as seller reputation. Performance impacts of single PBFs and structural characteristics—volume, complexity, and heterogeneity—of the PBF repertoire are evident in the literature. Given the emergent business practices of e-marketplace sellers, however, our knowledge of how to leverage PBF repertoires to improve sales is still short in three important aspects, including how sellers can improve performance by (1) differentiating their PBF repertoires from that of rivals, (2) adapting PBF repertoires over time, and (3) configuring PBF repertoires.

The first of three studies making up this thesis research is, “Strategic group and non-conformity of PBF repertoire”, which develops a model by suggesting that a seller’s PBF repertoire affects sales performance through both competitive differentiation and legitimacy, relative to the group norm at the strategic group level. By integrating competitive repertoire theory, the competitive nonconformity literature, and strategic group theory, this study conceptualizes intragroup PBF repertoire nonconformity and examines its performance impact based on volume, complexity, and heterogeneity. It also examines differences in these PBF repertoire performance relationships across different strategic groups. The hypotheses are tested using a longitudinal dataset of e-marketplace sellers. Fresh insights on the performance impacts of intragroup PBF repertoire nonconformity and differences across strategic group are provided.

The second study, “Adaption of PBF repertoire and sale performance”, intends to untangle the influences of PBF repertoire variability (i.e., within-type and between-type) on sales performance in the e-marketplace. Extending the competitive dynamic literature on temporal changes in competitive repertoire to this context, the study conceptualizes within- and between-type changes in PBF usage and proposes a research model that incorporates the moderating role of platform ratings on sellers’ service. A 10-month longitudinal dataset of sellers in the Taobao apparel industry is employed to test the proposed research model. The findings suggest a nuanced understanding of PBF repertoire characteristics, wherein the within-type PBF repertoire variability is more beneficial for sellers with low service ratings, while a between-type PBF repertoire variability is recommended for sellers with high service ratings. The research contributions and practical implications are discussed.

The third essay, “Configuration of PBFs to achieve high sales”, takes a configurational perspective to identify appropriate PBF configurations that can achieve high sales performance for sellers with different product positions and reputations. A fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) of a longitudinal dataset of sellers in the largest e-marketplace yields interesting findings. The configuration results reveal recipes for PBF combinations for achieving high sales performance that vary across different levels of seller reputation and product positioning strategies. Configuration findings suggest that sellers should configure PBFs according to distinctive product strategies accompanied by seller reputation conditions, where the resulting PBF configurations play an essential and multifaceted role in achieving high sales performances. This study provides insights that have not been uncovered in previous e-marketplace research by the predominantly employed variance-based approach.

In summary, this thesis contributes to the existing literature and practice in several important ways. First, it extends competitive non-conformity and strategic group literature into the e-marketplace by focusing on the relative nature of PBF repertoire and uncovering the sub-group differences. Second, it enriches existing understandings of competitive repertoire by differentiating repertoire variability (i.e., within-type and between type) and documenting the moderation effects of service ratings. Third, it helps reconcile existing isolated perspectives and shows the underlying configuration mechanisms by identifying configuration recipes that can achieve high sales. It contributes to the emergent investigation of causal complexity in competitive strategy studies of e-marketplace sellers and provides specific causal recipes and holistic guidelines for sellers and platform operators. For example, sellers can learn how to leverage the benefits of PBF repertoires compared with organization peers, initiate internal temporal change, and configure multiple elements that impact e-marketplace performance.

    Research areas

  • Platform-based functions, e-marketplace, competitive repertoire, configurational approach, sales performance