Balsiger, P., Jammet, T., Cianferoni, N., & Surdez, M. (2022). Coping with digital market re-organization: How the hotel industry strategically responds to digital platform power. Competition & Change. https://doi.org/10.1177/10245294211055612
How do organizations in a sector where powerful platforms have emerged cope with the new constraints and opportunities that platforms induce? A growing number of studies highlight the power of digital platforms to re-organize markets and thereby create new forms of dependence. But there are also indications that organizations are capable of countering platform power especially by demanding their regulation. This paper expands this view to investigate also strategies at the organizational level. It draws on the algorithmic game studies of strategic responses to environmental changes to study how organizations strategically respond to the rise of digital platforms. To show organizations’ capacities to cope with the new digital market environment, we use a qualitative case study of the Swiss hotel sector and its reactions to so-called online travel agencies, based on interviews with hotel managers and professional representatives. We distinguish between three types of hotels—small family-run, luxury, and chain hotels, and identify three types of strategic responses: bypassing, optimizing, and mitigating. Contrary to a platform power perspective, we find some evidence for organizations’ capacity to keep platforms at bay, by limiting dependence through mitigation, and platforms’ reach through bypassing. Hotels also learn to “play the algorithmic game” and take advantage of platforms’ technological affordances, but such strategies seem to accommodate platform power rather than countering it. Finally, we find that hotels with fewer resources (small family-run hotels) are less equipped to counter platform power, suggesting that platforms risk fostering existing hierarchies and segmentation in markets.