Digital Servitization as Business Model Innovation: an explorative study on the role of absorptive capacity


  • Chiara Ancillai Dipartimento di Management, Università Politecnica delle Marche
  • Federica Pascucci


Industry 4.0; digital servitization; business model innovation; absorptive capacity; single case study; fashion industry


Purpose of the paper: The study explores the role of absorptive capacity as a driving factor of digital servitization in the fashion industry.

Methodology: A single case study based on semi-structured interviews with key informants.

Findings: The business model innovation process towards digital servitization started in the value proposition to affect the value creation and value capture dimensions. Significant changes exist in product development, human resources competencies as well as business relationships with customers and suppliers. The firm’s absorptive capacity represents the missing link between Industry 4.0 technologies and digital servitization.

Research limits: A single case study does not allow for statistical generalization. A multiple case study approach would help in enhancing external validity. Besides, increasing the number of interviews and collecting data from other actors (e.g. customers, suppliers, etc.) would allow a broader view.

Practical implications: Developing absorptive capacity might help manufacturing firms in capitalizing the investment in digital technology to develop servitization strategies. The acquisition and assimilation of external knowledge, together with the prior available knowledge, support the provision of value-added services which allow the firm to appropriate value by enhancing its bargaining power and expanding its market.

Originality of the paper: The study contributes to the digital servitization literature by providing empirical evidence on its driving factors. Also, it contributes to the knowledge management literature which calls for studies on absorptive capacity and business model innovation and to the literature on absorptive capacity by investigating a manufacturing firm outside technology-intensive contexts.


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