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Consumer-company collaboration in platform markets: paradoxes and their consequences

  • Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Time: 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Location: UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School

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Consumer-company collaboration in platform markets: paradoxes and their consequences.
Daiane Scaraboto and Eileen Fischer

Platform markets, in which platform-based firms offer resources to consumers that allow them to engage in exchanges with one another, have proliferated over the last decade (e.g. Thomas, Autio & Gann 2014). This proliferation has inevitably drawn the attention of marketing scholars to the practices of platform managers who attempt to influence the behavior of collaborators to ensure the profitability and sustainability of the platform (e.g. Giesler, Veresiu and Humphreys 2018; Perren and Kozinets 2018; Von Richthofen and Fischer forthcoming). Consumer researchers have also directed attention to the development of relationships between consumers who provide offerings and those who utilize them, often emphasizing communal qualities of the so-called sharing economy (e.g. Hellwig et al 2015). Thus far, however, less attention has been paid to consumers’ perspective on their relationships with the platform companies per se. In particular, we know little about how consumers who provide offerings via platforms navigate their ongoing relationships with the companies with which they have chosen to collaborate, especially when those relationships present challenges for consumers.

To address this gap in the literature, this paper draws on an inductive analysis of data reflecting the relational dynamics between consumers who use the services of the Etsy platform to sell products to other consumers. It answers two relevant research questions: (1) Under what conditions will consumers experience ambivalence in their relationship to companies with which they are collaborating and (2) What tactics to consumers use in response to their discontent?
In answering our first question, we find that platforms like Etsy precipitate at a range of paradoxes for consumers who collaborate with them, including identity paradoxes, plurality paradoxes, performing paradoxes and adaptation paradoxes.  In responding to these, collaborating consumers engage in a range of practices that runs the gamut from rationalizing, to reducing reliance, to “toying with the masters tools.” Our findings advance knowledge on how consumers may promote and protect their own interests when collaborating with more powerful market actors, particularly in the context of platform markets. They also complement prior literature on productive consumption and co-creation.

Eileen Fischer's bio:
Dr Fischer is a Professor of Marketing and the Anne & Max Tanenbaum Chair in Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at Schulich School of Business; she is also the Director of Schulich’s PhD Program. From 2014-2018 Dr Fischer acted as the Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, one of the top 3 marketing journals globally, having had previous senior editorial responsibilities in top entrepreneurial and marketing journals including Entrepreneurship Theory and Research. Dr Fischer is a prolific publisher in top academic journals across the fields of marketing, management and entrepreneurship. The global recognition her work has received is visible in numerous awards and visiting appointments as well as in more than 10,000 Google citations.    

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